Generals' Comeback Attempt Falls Short
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 23, 2014, 23:26
DJ Martinez reached base all five times against Edenton, going 3-for-3 with 2 RBIs.
PETERSBURG — It would have been easy for the Generals to lay down and surrender after 1st inning out of their worst nightmare. The Edenton Steamers, winners of eight-straight and a perfect 5-0 against Petersburg this season, pushed across six runs before the Generals sent a batter to the plate. The six-run inning was punctuated by the Steamers' Chance Sheperd's grand-slam over the left-centerfield fence.
However, if that weren't enough, Sheperd's torturing of the Generals' pitching staff was not yet complete until after the 4th inning. While Petersburg began to claw back, pushing across one-run in the 1st and 3rd innings, Sheperd belted a two-run homer in his second at-bat to give the Steamers an 8-2 lead. As the ball landed over the fence and Sheperd touched home-plate, it seemed to be the death-blow to the Generals' hopes of ending their current skid.
In fact, the circumstances looked downright bleak. Petersburg had scored six or more runs just three times this season and they would have to mount a comeback over the No. 3 ranked pitching staff in the Coastal Plain League. Additionally, the Generals history against the Steamers also left little hope for a comeback as Petersburg had lost 10 of the last 11 games against them dating back to last year.
Yet, this Petersburg team did not surrender or give in. They began to battle back, little-by-little. It started with a two-RBI bloop-single from Jeremy Wolf in the 7th inning to drive in both DJ Martinez and Ryan Owens to cut the deficit in half, 8-4. Then, the Generals sent eight hitters to the plate in the 8th, pushing across three additional runs on no hits, five walks and two wild-pitches, showing tremendous patience at the dish.
But the rally would fall short in the 9th as Edenton's Dustin Emmons retired the Generals in order to send the team to a sixth-straight loss in an 8-7 affair. Although the loss was disappointing after nearly completing the comeback, the mentality the team showed in not surrendering is a promising sign.
"We got off to a little bit of a rocky start in the 1st and they could have easily shut it down right there, but they battled and took the runs when we got them," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the game. "In the 8th, we had that big inning and the key was not trying to do too much ... I was pleased to see the guys keep grinding."
While the three-run 8th inning was a key point in the contest, it would have had zero importance on the game without the spectacular relief outing tossed by Austin McGhee.
Starting pitcher Ryan Gray struggled in his start, surrendering two home runs to Edenton's Chance Sheperd
After starting pitcher Ryan Gray was hit hard by the Steamers (18-4) on a night he did not have his trademark control or best stuff, Petersburg (5-15) needed someone to step up and deliver quality innings to keep them in the game. McGhee entered the game with a bloated 8.49 ERA in nine innings pitched this season, making his outing a bit of a surprise.
McGhee handled the Steamers' No. 3 ranked offense with ease over the course of three scoreless innings while allowing just two hitters to reach base during his outing. The 6-foot-4 right-hander pitched ahead in the count and showed off a tight-breaking slider which fooled Edenton hitters.
"He came in and might of had his best outing of the year," Wood said. "He's been working his tail off and he's come a long way since the beginning of the season."
But no one had a better night than Generals' shortstop DJ Martinez.
After dealing with taunts by Edenton last week and being ejected following his own response to the comments during a blow-out loss, Martinez let his bat do the talking this time. The Newburry College product started his night with an opposite-field single in the 1st inning and later scored Petersburg's first run on a wild-pitch.
Martinez would add two more singles on the night in addition to two walks to reach base in all five plate appearances while also driving in two runs. His ability to track the ball through the zone before pouncing allowed him to stay through the pitch and deliver timely base-hits.
"He came in a good mentality and didn't carry anything negative into this game," Wood said. "He played real well. DJ's done a fantastic job of getting deep into counts and allowing the ball to get deeper in the zone and accelerate the bat through the zone."
Edenton has become a Petersburg-killer, winning 11 of the past 12 meetings dating back to last season.
Much like Martinez's bat, the Generals may be gearing up to accelerate into the win-column after a solid performance against Edenton. For a team which has struggled to string together hits, Petersburg had its top five hitters go a combined 8-for-19 in one of the better offensive performances of the season.
Additionally, the team played a better game defensively, helping out its pitching staff by again turning multiple double-plays including a snagged liner and toss to second base on a full-out dive by Martinez in the 2nd inning.
It all added up to the type of effort the Generals can build off of moving into the rest of the week while hoping to end their current skid.
"We can definitely use this as a building block," Wood said after the game. "We're facing eight games in six days, so some guys are going to get an opportunity this week. As long they feed off the energy and momentum we've been building, we can keep moving forward and come out of this week with a couple of wins."
With the offense starting to heat up, the defense remaining stout and key contributions from unlikely sources, the Generals seem to be on the path to turning around their season. However, momentum is fleeting and they will need to continue to push forward for it to carry over into this week's contests.