Petersburg Offense Stays Hot In Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 8, 2014, 16:31
Petersburg had another great start, but faltered late in a loss.
PETERSBURG — After a tough loss less than 24 hours earlier during which the Generals held a commanding lead, there was concern it could have a snow-ball type of effect against the Fayetteville SwampDogs. However, Petersburg had the look of a team which shoved all negativity aside and focused on the task at hand which was halting a three-game slide.
Much like the previous night, the Generals struck first and had the type of start they envisioned. Starting pitcher Grant Cain worked a perfect first and retired six of his first seven batters faced while his offense pushed across a run in the first inning. Even after a four-run 3rd inning put a dent into the Generals' plans, the team battled back and eventually took a 5-4 lead.
However, in an episode of deja vu, costly misplays in the field resulted in the SwampDogs taking complete control of the contest. With the wind swirling around the ballpark, Fayetteville lead-off hitter Michael Bozarth hit a towering fly-ball into short left field. Petersburg shortstop D.J. Martinez went back into the outfield as left-fielder Spencer Wilmes sprinted toward the infield.
Martinez back-tracked and saw the baseball fall into his glove before bouncing out and finding grass. The error would prove costly as it allowed the SwampDogs to tie the game. One inning later, Fayetteville would take the lead, capitalizing on an error by Greg Turlik who charged in on a single up the middle, booted it and allowed the go-ahead run to score to make it a 7-6 ball-game.
Without any momentum and a suddenly revitalized pitching staff — Fayetteville had surrendered 37 runs over their last three contests — the Generals went down in order in the 9th inning, losing the game 8-6 and lamenting two costly misplays.
"As far as the worst happening from last night, that was not the case today," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the loss. "I was really pleased with our offensive showing and the way we pitched ... it really just came down to two plays we mishandled. It's one of those situations where you probably get it right every other time, but when it mattered we didn't."
It was another lost opportunity for the Generals (2-5, 9-26) and another wasted solid start on the mound.
Cain, the big right-hander out of North Carolina Central University, experienced one hiccup on the afternoon in the four-run 3rd inning, but shut down Fayetteville (1-5, 13-18) the rest of the way. The rising senior looked to be in complete-control, showcasing a slider on both sides of the plate with precision.
Grant Cain had an impressive outing, but fell short of earning the win.
Right-handed batters would flinch at the slider which starts at their hips and flail at the ones traveling off the plate away, keeping the ball off the barrel of the bats. His 6.1 innings tossed of five-run ball with four punch-outs followed Dylan Collett's strong outing one night earlier, showing the type of pitching the Generals could have if they limit free-passes.
"He did a great job of being able to locate the slider and what that does is make his fastball that much better," Wood said of Cain. "His fastball is a little erratic with late-movement on it ... He did a great job of competing today, got into the 7th inning and limited his walks."
But it was also another wasted effort by an offense which has caught fire in the second half of the season.
Petersburg has scored 41 runs over the last five games and is doing so with the help of a red-hot Andrus. The catcher out of Winston-Salem State took a few games off to take a short vacation and has since returned on fire.
Against the SwampDogs, Andrus finished the game 3-for-5 with two doubles and two runs driven in. It marked the second consecutive home game in which Andrus recorded three hits in a game. In the Generals win Thursday night, Andrus drove in two runs as well, displaying an ability to hit the ball to all sides of the ballpark, resembling the player he was for the CIAA Championship-winning Rams.
Connor Andrus' bat remained hot in another three-hit performance.
"I don't know what's going on or what he did on vacation, but he figured some stuff out," Wood said. "He looks very comfortable and confident in the box. And one thing I'm seeing is that he's sticking to pitches he can handle."
Yet, he wasn't the only Petersburg player who exploded against Fayetteville.
Coastal Plain League All-Star Jeremy Wolf finished the game 2-for-5, but one of his hits was an opposite-field, two-run homer which marked the Generals' first home run hit at home this season. Wilmes added an RBI single of his own in the 7th and even Jerrod Groves showed off some of his power while blasting an opposite-field triple.
Suddenly, a team which had to scratch and claw for runs while utilizing walks, hit by pitches and sacrifice bunts to advance runners to score is lining base-hits all over the field. While it didn't help them win the last two games during a four-game skid, it's a good indicator that maybe the Generals have one last run in them.
"They're definitely swinging it," Wood acknowledged. "The thing I'm seeing is a lot of pitches in the first half we would swing through or foul back, we're starting to barrel up. When pitchers are making mistakes, we're capitalizing on it. If we continue doing that, you'll going to see an offense full of production, big innings and a team coming together."
Sometimes it can be more difficult than others to find a bright spot during a trying time, but this current four-game skid has not been a result of bad play. It's been a few costly misplays which has led to losses and if they can be corrected, the skid will end sooner rather than later.