Generals Better Than Record Indicates
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jun 30, 2014, 09:01
Thomas Stallings strikes out with a runner in scoring position which is where the Generals have struggled this season.
PETERSBURG — It’s easy to see the growing frustration inside the Petersburg Generals’ dugout. It’s been an agonizing first half of the season for a team whose record does not indicate the type of baseball they have played. On the contrary, the Generals have been in most games, making it a tough slog for opponents with a gritty lineup and a pitching staff which has the feel for the game.
But sports are a results business and through the first half of action, Petersburg has struggled to put additional numbers on the left-side of their won-loss record. The reasons why they haven’t been comes down to not executing when they need to do so.
The Generals are not a team built the way a top-team like Edenton is. The Steamers rank No. 1 in the Coastal Plain League in total offense with the third highest slugging percentage in the league. Meanwhile, Petersburg ranks last out of 14 teams in total offense with the worst slugging percentage in the league. While those two stats seem like death-blows to a team’s chances of winning, they are not.
The team knows they cannot sit back and wait for a teammate to blast one out of the ballpark — the Generals have just one home run all season — but need to proactive at the dish. They need to take advantage of the opportunities given to them to be successful and most importantly, they need to execute.
Unfortunately, the reasons why the Generals have lost 14 of their last 17 games were on display in a double-header sweep at the hands of the second-place Peninsula Pilots Saturday night.
During the two losses of the double-header, Petersburg managed to score just one-run while surrendering five runs. The margin wasn’t indicative of a blow-out, but rather a sign of not coming through in the clutch and leaving 14 men on base during the two games.
The play which defined the inability to push across runs occurred in the 4th inning of game two. After Dylan Yankle worked a lead-off walk, Nick Christopher laid down a perfect bunt for a single to put two runners on and no-one out. However, Geremy Walton failed to lay down a sacrifice-bunt and the inning would later end with no runs scored.
“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,” Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the game.
“We are not going to be the 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.”
And the inability to do so is what has cost Petersburg from being near the top of the standings.
Look at the games they have played in and one will see blow-outs have been of rare occurrence. Instead, one would see close games throughout, including those against the top-tier teams in the league. In fact, out of the 27 games the Generals have played this season, 19 of those have come in games decided by three runs or less.
Included in those 19 games are all seven of the Generals’ victories — the first five of which came from the one-run variety. The stats prove the point Petersburg is playing on the same level of the other teams in the league. Against Peninsula this season — the Pilots are in second-place with a 20-7 record — the Generals have played and lost five of seven match-ups.
However, three of the five losses have come from a combined eight runs.
The same scenario has played out against Edenton, the team with the best record in the Coastal Plain League at 21-6. The Generals could have surrendered after falling behind 6-0 and 8-2, but instead battled back in their last meeting. While Petersburg would ultimately lose 8-7, they had opportunities as proven by the eight-men left on base.
While it hasn’t been the wins the team has searched for, it is a positive sign the Generals have yet to bow down to anyone.
“The fact that you are grinding it out with those top teams and you’re keeping them on their toes knowing they need to use their top guys to finish you off, that’s always a good feeling,” Wood explained of the situation. “The one thing we have to make sure is that we need to be mentally strong, continue to stay in these games and maybe tweak an approach, we’re going to start to pull out these wins.”
And one adjustment the Generals can make is to get over the mental road-block keeping them from executing sacrifice bunts.
Numerous times this season, the failure to lay down a sacrifice has cost Petersburg a chance to have a big inning. Against Peninsula, the failure to do so caused two problems, one of which was a momentum swing to the Pilots after escaping a two-on, no-one out jam.
It’s those type of failures which can be erased by executing one perfect bunt and perhaps bring with it a win in the process.
“It’s 100 percent a mental thing,” Wood said. “All of these guys know how to bunt. There’s no doubt about it. It’s about having the confidence in yourself to get it done ... We have to make sure we are mentally focused to get that thing done.”
If the Generals can get over the mental hurdle and grab a big win, it may be all it needs to jump-start a run over the second half of the season.