Generals End First Half On Low Note
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 1, 2014, 09:04
Dylan Collett surrendered 10 runs, only one of which was earned, as his defense committed five errors in a decisive 2nd inning.
PETERSBURG — Facing the Peninsula Pilots for the third-consecutive game, the Generals aimed to finish off their first half of the season with a win and look toward a second half filled with success. For eight of the nine innings played, Petersburg outplayed the Pilots who finished the night tied for first-place and earned an automatic berth into the playoffs.
But the one inning they did not became an absolute nightmare. All season long, Petersburg's defense has been a strong suit of the squad, making all the fundamental plays and turning timely double-plays to help out their pitching staff. Yet, it all fell apart in the game-deciding 2nd inning Monday night.
Generals' starting pitcher Dylan Collett opened the frame by walking Peninsula's lead-off hitter on five pitches and the onslaught began. The Pilots' Alex Close swung at a first-pitch fastball and grounded it toward Robert Kosch for a sure double-play, but it was not be. Kosch fumbled the grounder and picked up and error, starting a string of three consecutive Peninsula hitters reaching base on errors in the inning.
By the time Collett managed to record the final out by inducing a ground out to third base, Peninsula had sent 13 men to the plate, scored nine runs on four hits and most importantly were helped out by five Generals' errors. The crater dug by the Generals in the one half of an inning was too difficult to overcome.
Peninsula would tack on one additional run in the 3rd and 9th innings while the Generals pushed across three runs — and it could have been more — on the way to an 11-3 loss to close out the first half of the season.
"Playing a quality club like Peninsula, who was battling for first place tonight, you can't have a big inning like that," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said following his team's fifth-straight loss to the Pilots. "You take that inning out, it's 3-2 us. It starts out with a lead-off walk and you have to get that lead-off guy out. Then, we kicked the ball around and looked like we were having a snowball fight out there for awhile. Kudos to the guys though because it could have gotten out of control."
And much of the credit for keeping the Generals (7-21) in the contest had to go to the pitching staff, including Collett.
Of the 10 runs scored off the Petersburg lefty, only one run was earned and had there not have been a comedy of errors in the 2nd inning, Collett may have earned his first win of the season. The Saint Leo University product kept the Pilots (21-7) off the board in three of his five innings pitched by mixing and matching his pitches throughout the zone.
The Pilots Will Shepherd crosses home plate with one of the nine runs they scored in the 2nd inning.
Additionally, Sean Pico made an impressive Coastal Plain League debut for the Generals in a three-inning relief stint.
The left-hander out of Salt Lake City Community College surrendered an opposite-field single in the 6th inning and little else the rest of the way. He erased the hit by inducing an inning-ending 6-4-3 double-play before proceeding to strikeout the side in the 7th inning.
Then, in the 8th inning, Pico surrendered a single but Geremy Walton gunned down the Pilots' Garrett Brooks attempting to turn his hit into a double. Pico recovered to record a fly-out and his fourth punch-out of the night to end the inning and his outing.
His debut, while impressive because of the result, was alway important for a Generals' team needing additional arms out of the pen. If Pico can continually pound the zone, change speeds and elevate the fastball when ahead in the count, he can be a big piece to Petersburg in the second half.
"It was fantastic," Wood said of Pico's outing. "Obviously this is a good league and you could get a little stage fright in your first appearance, but he did a great job. He stayed composed, his arm looked fantastic tonight and he attacked the zone. One thing I was impressed with was his ability to elevate the ball late in the count."
Jeremy Wolf blasts a lead-off triple in the 2nd inning, but does not reach home plate as the Generals' failures with runners in scoring position continued.
However, the true story of the game was the Generals finishing the first half of the season and what they have learned about themselves as a team thus far.
During a disastrous 2013 campaign, the Generals managed to win just nine games all season and were not competitive in many of the 56 games during league play. Yet, this season has been an entirely different story.
While the Generals are not pleased with their lopsided won-loss record, they have taken solace in the fact they have been in almost every game of the season and the stats back up their assertion. Of the 28 games played, 19 have been decided by three runs or less.
But the reason to feel optimistic does not end there. The Generals pitching staff and offense seem to be showing signs of awakening and they enter the second half of the season trailing the Wilmington Sharks by six games in the loss column for the final playoff spot in the East. It's not an enviable position to be in, but in no way are the Generals out of contention just yet. Especially not when Nick Christopher and Jeremy Wolf are starting to tag-team opposing pitchers with big hits.
"The big thing I've seen is they have been battling this whole time," Wood said of what he's learned about his team. "By no means did this half go the way we wanted it to. They could have easily shut it down and tanked it, but they play for all nine. Now with the second half starting, we've got fresh arms in the bullpen to help that depth and if people continue to turn it around offensively, we can have fantastic second half."
Making up six games in a span of 28 games won't be easy, but if the Generals are to accomplish the feat, consistency is a must. They can't allow themselves to dig early holes with a combination of errors and free passes. Instead, they need to play fundamentally sound baseball, utilizing small-ball tactics to get the most out of the team in a rally to reach the playoffs.