Generals Squander Seven-Run Lead
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 8, 2014, 08:39
The Generals gather by the mound after the Pilots completed their seven-run comeback to take a lead.
PETERSBURG — After dropping their last two games, the Generals could not have scripted a better way to start their contest against Peninsula. The team which had struggled to produce runs for most of the season has recently awakened and it continued against a Pilots' pitching staff which seemed to have no answer.
Petersburg would push across six runs runs in the 2nd inning before tacking on three more in the 4th to take what seemed to be an insurmountable 10-3 lead. However, the Pilots have proven to be one of the top teams in the Coastal Plain League and they did not go down quietly.
Peninsula manager Hank Morgan sensed his team needed a spark and he decided to go the route of a "Johnny Wholestaff" strategy. The stroke of genius shutdown the Generals lineup for the rest of the game — Petersburg did not advance a runner past second base over the final five frames — and gave his team a chance to comeback.
But with just six outs to play with and a four-run deficit to face, the Generals held all the momentum over the Pilots until it all fell apart. With a runner on first base and one-out, relief pitcher Ryan Allen induced the Pilots' Andy Lennington to bounce a grounder right back to the mound.
While the ball was hit hard enough to go to second base, the safe option for Allen would have been to go to first. However, Allen opted to toss toward second base and his throw sailed wide for an error. The errant throw left the door ajar and the Pilots busted it open, scoring four runs in the 8th and one in the 9th to take a one-run lead.
The stunned Generals could not complete a comeback in the bottom half of the inning with only Nick Christopher reaching base on a walk before Justin Novak popped up to end the game. Petersburg failed to hold on to a seven-run lead and instead were dealt an 11-10 loss with a key error one of the turning points.
"You can't really put it on one play although that really didn't help us at all," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the loss. "That's a play he probably makes 10 times out of 10 in practice or any other time. In that situation, where we do have the lead, if there is ever any doubt you would always like to take the safe out. But a big issue was also the surrendering of the free 90 feet."
Although walks were an issue for the Generals (9-25, 2-4) — they surrendered five over the final three frames after handing out one over the first six — it was not as big of a problem as the lack of offense shown following their 2nd inning outburst.
Over the first few innings, the Generals seemed to be on their way to setting season-highs in both hits and runs scored but they quickly went cold against Morgan's strategy. As each pitcher retired more Generals' hitters, one could see the doubts begin to creep into the minds of the players.
A look at the scoreboard would tell one the Pilots (24-9, 3-2) were on the ropes, but one glance at the Generals at the plate and it was obvious it was Peninsula putting them on their heels. The Pilots never once lost confidence or packed it in after facing a seven-run deficit, meanwhile the Generals struggled to display a killer-instinct to grab a big win. Instead, Petersburg allowed the problems of the first half to resurface and bring with it added questions.
"By no means do I want to put it on the first half where when you are struggling, you are just waiting for something bad to happen," Wood said. "You just have to remember you are in complete control. For us to have that killer-instinct, we have to have that correct approach ... Pitching with a lead is about pounding the zone and offensively is sticking to the approach that got you the lead. That's a killer-instinct."
The lack of the killer-instinct resulted in the Generals missing out on an opportunity to gain ground and possibly have a snow-ball type of an effect on the rest of the week. It also wiped out an impressive outing from Dylan Collett who deserved a win after the work he provided.
Collett surrendered three runs over the first two innings and it could have been even more. Collett struggled to command the strike zone and led to the Pilots being able to jump on his pitches. However, the Saint Leo University product would soon rebound.
The rising junior started to mix up his pitches, effectively dropping in his curveball for strikes and punishing hitters with a sneaky fastball. It resulted in Collett retiring 12 of 13 Pilots, including seven in a row before leaving the game with a seven-run lead. But instead of getting the win, Collett picked up a no-decision while his teammates struggle to figure out a way to bounce-back mentally with a short turnaround until their next game.
The Peninsula dugout erupts after taking a late-lead.
"It can be a good thing," Wood said of the quick turnaround. "We can obviously shake off the problems from tonight and head in the right direction ... but it can also snow-ball and go in the opposite direction. But I know these guys are going to grind. They're going to come out a little pissed, a little hungry, so I expect them to be ready to come back out here."
While the loss may be difficult to overcome, the Generals have been hitting the ball better of late, scoring 35 runs over the last three games. If they can view the loss as a wake-up call and not a lethal blow, it can be what's needed to propel them to the All-Star break, but if not, it could be the start of a downturn.
Either way, the Generals have reached a critical point in their season.