Generals' Miscues Lead To Disheartening Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 12, 2014, 09:09
Greg Turlik and Aaron Hatch score on Jerrod Groves' bloop-double to give the Generals a two-run lead.
PETERSBURG — It seemed the moment had finally arrived for the Generals. The pieces of the puzzle had begun to click into place as they took the field against the Asheboro Copperheads. Petersburg starting pitcher Logan Sendelbach was dealing, the offense flowing and the defense steady.
Sendelbach faced the minimum nine batters over the course of the first three innings, showcasing a deadly arsenal of pitches. The Tiffin University product attacked the zone with his fastball to get ahead and dominated the Copperheads with his breaking-ball. In fact, Sendelbach was so dominating, he recorded five of his first nine outs via the strikeout.
Meanwhile, his offense found a way to take the lead in the 3rd inning. After Aaron Hatch led off the inning with a single, Greg Turlik followed with a single of his own. Then, with two outs and runners at second and third, Jerrod Groves hit a bloop-double down the right field line to score two.
But then it started to unravel for a Generals team which has struggled to master the fundamentals all season long.
Asheboro would push across two runs in the 4th inning, helped in large part to two critical errors by the Generals and it would only snowball from there. Petersburg would commit two more additional errors on the night, bringing their total to eight over the last two games and set the stage for another loss.
The Copperheads utilized a two-run homer off the bat of Austin Bossart to create some breathing room in an eventual 8-3 win, sending Petersburg to their sixth-consecutive loss.
"The free passes we've given up and the little things like even overthrowing the cut-off man has killed us," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the frustrating loss. "The offense that we have is not bad, but it's not good enough to allow the opposition to have that type of advantage. We have to make them earn every 90 feet they get. Logan threw his heart out and we didn't back him up."
And that's what makes the loss so much tougher to take.
The Generals have received solid starts before, but none as dominating as Sendelbach's performance was. The right-hander continually got himself ahead of batters and made Asheboro hitters earn their way on base, walking just one batter over six innings.
Although the Copperheads scored four runs off of Sendelbach, only two of those runs were earned and the game could have had a different ending if his defense helped him out in a critical situation. After surrendering a lead-off walk in the 6th inning, Sendelbach induced Brandon Krieg to hit a grounder toward short for a routine double-play, except it wasn't.
Logan Sendelbach was masterful on the hill in a 6-inning effort with 7 strikeouts, but was the hard-luck loser,
Nick Christopher, normally as sure-handed as they come in the Coastal Plain League with only two errors entering the game, booted the ball to allow Krieg to reach. Then, Rouric Bridgewater immediately drove both in to give the Copperheads their first lead of the game.
"The kid threw fantastic," Wood said of the right-hander. "When he got into trouble, he got the result. He made the pitch to get the ground ball to turn a double-play and get himself out of the inning, but we just couldn't back him up defensively. We're better than that."
Unfortunately, the Generals (2-7, 9-28) have yet to prove Wood right on a consistent basis.
Much of this season, Petersburg has shown glimpses of the type of talent they have lining the roster but it has yet to come fully together. There was the four-game winning streak earlier this season, but since that point, the Generals have yet to reel off more than two wins in a row and have won just five games since.
More often, the Generals have shown their talent and detriments within the same game, much like what occurred against Asheboro. Sendelbach's performance was nothing but dominant, Groves' hit was clutch and their 4th inning was even better.
Instead of faltering following the Copperheads (3-5, 15-20) tying the game, the Generals used small-ball tactics to regain the lead. Thomas Stallings led off the inning with a walk before swiping second. Then, Connor Andrus grounded out to the right-side to advance the runner before Geremy Walton blasted a sacrifice-fly. In that moment, the Generals displayed all they can be, but it has been short-lived.
"It's incredibly frustrating," Wood said. "We did some good things. We took an early lead with some big-hits and ran the bases real well with stolen bases to put us in scoring position. We were on the right track and to just throw it away and hand it back to them is difficult."
Even more disheartening is with the squandered leads and free passes leading to losses, the second half offensive surge the team has experienced has not led to more victories. Instead, the Generals' playoff hopes, already slim after the first half, is more so in the second.
The Generals sit five games back of division-leading Morehead City for an automatic berth into the playoffs, an almost insurmountable lead with both Peninsula and Edenton still playing well. It's why it now comes down to pride. The Generals' players spoke of not wanting to be like Petersburg teams of the past and now is the chance to prove it.
"That's the biggest thing — pride and confidence," Wood said. "All of these guys can play. If they couldn't, they wouldn't be here ... it's not an issue of a lack of ability. We need to have the confidence to get it done and hopefully this leads to a spark."
With the season heading to its conclusion, there are fewer opportunities for the Generals to create a spark and finish on a high-note rather than limp to the finish like their predecessors.