Generals' Offense Unleashes Their Own Fireworks
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 3, 2014, 23:32
Nick Christopher continued his hot-hitting, reaching base in five of six plate appearances out of the lead-off spot.
PETERSBURG — All season long, the Generals have struggled to push runs across the plate. It's been a battle to play fundamentally sound baseball with a focus on small-ball tactics which had resulted in a poor start to the season. However, with the second half underway, it seems Petersburg may be on the verge of putting it all together.
With July 4th weekend upcoming and a post-game fireworks display bringing in the biggest crowd of the season, the Generals offense set off their own fireworks in an offensive onslaught. The carnage began in the 2nd inning when with two outs and two-on, lead-off hitter Nick Christopher bounced a single up the middle to give the Generals an early two-run lead.
However, Martinsville quickly countered the Generals in the 4th inning, pushing across four runs on five hits and three errors committed. It was almost a carbon-copy of nightmarish innings of the first half of season, but this is a team which has rediscovered its confidence.
Instead of wilting under the pressure of losing an early lead and letting their 4th inning struggles snowball, Petersburg answered back by scoring three runs in the 5th, and five each in the 6th and 7th to take full control of the contest.
While the Mustangs would tack on five additional runs themselves, it would not be enough. Caleb Lupton fired the final three-plus innings, ending the game by inducing a 5-4-3 double-play, sending the Generals to their second-straight win by a 15-9 score.
After not surpassing eight runs all season, it was the type of offensive performance the Generals have been searching for since the campaign began.
"We did a great job of taking momentum from yesterday and rolling it into today," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after his team set season-highs in runs and hits recorded with 14. "I think we may have had our first big inning of the year and that was fantastic. But for them to get back into the game and cut the lead to one and then us being able to answer right back, that was huge."
It was made even bigger by the Generals (9-22, 2-1) earning their first win over Edenton one night earlier and just their second win over the Steamers in the last 13 contests. And a big reason why the offense was able to continue their success was a lineup shake-up by Wood.
While struggling much of the season, Christopher had seen his name penciled into the bottom half of the lineup, but has since caught fire over the past couple of weeks, becoming the Generals' most dangerous hitter. His combination of speed, baseball IQ and even some power makes him a weapon at the plate.
It's what made Wood's decision to place Christopher atop the Petersburg lineup all the more easier, knowing his hot-bat could jump-start the team. And it did just that against the Mustangs (12-18, 0-2).
Christopher reached base in five of six plate appearances while recording three hits, including one which started a five-run rally in the 6th inning. The rising senior at Virginia State University bounced a ball deep down the line and took advantage of an errant throw. Christopher raced around first and ended up on third base to lead-off the inning and put the Generals in business.
It's the type of play Wood has come to expect out of the Dinwiddie native of late.
"He's a dynamic player all the way around," Wood said. "He can really handle the bat, he can run, he's really a quality hitter and he's been hot. He's probably our hottest hitter right now so why not stick him at the top of the lineup and try to get him as many at-bats as possible."
Colin Bigelow did not factor in the decision, but was able to deliver 4.2 innings of solid pitching to give the Generals a chance to win the game.
However, he was not the only Generals' hitter to lay carnage on a Mustang pitching staff which has now yielded 44 runs over the last three games. Eight different Petersburg batter recorded at least one RBI during a game every player in the lineup also reached base.
Included in the offensive onslaught was Connor Andrus' 3-for-5 night with two RBis, Jerrod Groves' 2-for-4 night with two RBIs and Thomas Stallings' 2-for-4 night with two RBIs of his own. No matter where one looked at the lineup, someone was producing for the Generals especially during a three-inning stint where 28 hitters went to the plate. It's a stark contrast to what occurred over the first half of the season.
However, it may be the new normal for a team which suddenly looks to revitalized after receiving a blank slate. After capturing just seven wins in the first half of the season, the Generals players are eyeing a spot in the playoffs with a dramatic second half turnaround.
Petersburg has won two-straight games which is made all the more impressive after they dropped their first game of the second half to Edenton and could have lost their composure mentally. Instead, they have regathered themselves and it's a promising sign moving forward.
"They're capitalizing on it right now," Wood said of the clean-slate. "You have to have a short memory in baseball. It's kind of easy for them to roll over from the first half especially after the first game here, but it almost looks like they have shaken the first half completely. We're pitching well, playing great defense and the offense has done a good job the past two nights."
Petersburg has found the formula for success once again. Whether it sticks around this time or disappears will determine the Generals' playoff fate.