Missed Chances Prove Costly To Generals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 29, 2014, 09:26
Nick Christopher went 5-for-6 during the double-header against Peninsula as his bat continues to heat up.
PETERSBURG — There was little doubting the Petersburg Generals were looking forward to Saturday's matchup with the Peninsula Pilots. Throwing aside the chance to view the game as a measuring stick against one of the premier teams in the Coastal Plain League, it also represented the final two contests of an eight-game in six days challenge presented to the Generals due to the number of rainouts.
In the Generals' previous six contests, Petersburg experienced some minor success. They witnessed a pitching staff string together good outings mixed with length to help an overtaxed bullpen and even saw glimpses of an offense coming to life. Petersburg also captured a double-header sweep of Fayetteville, ending a season-long eight-game losing streak.
It was the confidence boost Petersburg needed to attempt to stop the streaking Pilots — winners of four in a row and 14 of their last 17 entering the game. And for much of the two games in the seven-inning double-header, it seemed the two teams were on the same playing field.
Petersburg made the Pilots claw for every run and hit, while making the Peninsula pitching staff work to earn each out against a gritty Generals' lineup. However, while Petersburg may have played two of their better ball games all season and played even with the Pilots in 12 of the 14 innings played, the other two innings were the difference Saturday night.
While the Pilots did the little things necessary to earn tough road wins — executing hit-and-runs, swiping bags and taking the extra base — Petersburg struggled. With an offense not built for power, the Generals struggled with a small-ball mentality and left a total 14 men on base during two losses to the Pilots by scores of 2-1 and 3-0.
Although the close losses are becoming a frequent occurrence for the Generals, it also means that one hit or one pitch could be the difference for the team heading into the second half of the season.
"Even the games we have won have been close games, so on a positive note, the fact you are always in the game heading to the last at-bat is a good feeling," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the game. "Even though it hasn't really worked in our favor, the one thing you want to hope for is a chance to win the game in the final outs."
And that has been happening regularly for a Generals (7-20) team that has not quite gotten over the proverbial hump quite yet and the reasons why were all on display during the team's double-header loss to the Pilots (20-7).
In game one of the double-header, Petersburg entered the bottom of the 7th inning trailing 2-1. Dinwiddie native Nick Christopher led off the inning with a base-hit up the middle, setting the stage for a would-be sacrifice bunt to put him in scoring position. However, No. 8 hitter Greg Turlik failed to get down the sacrifice bunt to advance Christopher who was left stranded on base in the one-run loss.
Matt Outman tossed a complete-game while surrendering just one run against Petersburg.
The inability to get down the bunt did not end in game one, but actually continued in game two and may have been the key reason momentum flipped to Peninsula. Entering the bottom of the 4th inning in a scoreless game, the Generals put their first two hitter on base on a walk by Dylan Yankle and perfectly placed push-bunt from Christopher.
However, Geremy Walton immediately fouled off the next two pitches on bunt attempts and it led to the Generals unable to push across a run in what could have been a big inning. It's the type of small miscues which are not allowing Petersburg to play at their best potential.
"When the games are tight like that and you have the opportunity to put guys in scoring position, you have to do everything in our power to put it down and make that happen," Wood explained. "We are not going to be that team that's going to put up 10 runs or hit doubles left and right ... When we have the opportunity to scratch across one run whether it's to tie the game or take the lead, we have to capitalize. It was a big, big momentum swing for them."
But the Generals may be experiencing a bit of momentum swing themselves.
While the lineup may be struggling, Christopher is starting to heat up and that is good news for an offense looking to add some punch. The Virginia State University product has seen his batting average climb from .113 last week to .255 after a 5-for-6 night where all his skills were on display.
Nick Christopher labored through five innings, but limited the Pilots to just one run and five hits, in his best outing of the season.
The rising senior tossed a strong 5 innings on the mound while allowing just one earned run and also displayed his baseball IQ by laying down perfectly placed bunts down the first and third base lines to reach base and set up possible rallies.
"He's a tremendous athlete and a fantastic baseball player," Wood said. "His ability to make adjustments on the fly is incredible and now that he's seeing more at-bats and has his timing down, it's made an immediate impact."
With Christopher heating up and the team seemingly on the cusp of breaking out after two more close losses to a top-team, Petersburg is in good position for a second half run.