Generals Limp Into Break After Blowing Seven-Run Lead
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 13, 2014, 09:19
The Generals bench grew quiet over the final innings as their lead evaporated.
PETERSBURG — There would be no denying Generals' manager Daniel Wood was displeased with his team's effort in a loss to Asheboro Friday night. He implored his squad to do better the next night and show some pride while doing so. He hammered home the point by stressing to the players they made it a goal to not be like Generals squads of old and instead bring about a winning culture.
His post-game tirade looked to pay immediate dividends the following night against the visiting Wilson Tobs. Generals starter Aaron Hatch was dealing from the start, taking his coach's advice to pound the zone and play to the Tobs' aggressiveness. Wilson's early hacks allowed the Winston-Salem State University product to mow right through Coastal Plain League's ninth-best offense, throwing just 33 pitches through a scoreless four innings.
Meanwhile, Wood's offense continued to break-out in the second half of the season. After being set-down in order in the opening frame, the Generals scored seven runs over the next three innings on the strength of nine hits. The pride Wood was worried would not be seen after a disheartening loss was in full display.
The Generals' dugout was lively, the fans fed off of it and the momentum tilted heavily in Petersburg's favor. But the good vibes would come to a screaming halt in the 6th inning.
Wilson started to chip away at the Generals lead in the 5th, pushing across two runs, before scoring six runs with two outs in the 6th to tie the game at 8-8 and seize all momentum Petersburg had obtained. The dugout and stands grew quiet as the Tobs then took the lead in the 7th and held on for a 10-8 comeback victory.
The loss marked the second-time in four days the Generals had squandered a seven-run lead. But this time the loss was even tougher after everything seemed to be clicking before completely unraveling in one big inning. It's been the story of the Generals' season.
"The good thing we can take away from it is after last night's debacle, we came back and responded really well," Wood said. "Part of the ABCs of baseball is preventing the big inning and we had a tough time doing that tonight. Hatch threw exceptionally well ... they started to hit him and the next thing you know it's bases loaded. He'd thrown well, so you give him a chance to get out of it and it just didn't work out for us tonight."
Although it will be the six-run nightmare of an inning which will stick in both fans and the players' minds after the tough loss, the true turning point of the game came just a half of an inning earlier. Sure, the Tobs tied the game in the 6th, but they gained all the momentum they needed to finish off a comeback when denying the Generals (2-8, 9-29) a chance to break the contest open.
Left fielder Spencer Wilmes led off the 5th with an infield single for the Generals and he was followed by another infield hit from Jerrod Groves. That set the stage for a run-scoring bloop base-hit into center from Justin Novak which just eluded Tobs' (3-5, 18-18) second baseman Zachary Callahan's glove.
Jeremy Wolf crossed home plate to help put the Generals ahead early.
This was going to be the moment the Generals displayed the killer-instinct they have lacked all season and finally take full control of the game. It was there for the taking. Two runners on, no-one out and the top-of-the-order due up. But the Generals couldn't muster a run as Nick Christopher, D.J. Martinez and Ryan Owens were each retired, failing to record a clutch-hit.
"That hurt tremendously," Wood said of the missed chance. "Their wheels were spinning. They had thrown the ball around a little bit and we had made some heads-up base-running plays to get our guys into scoring position with no outs. Right there we have to do some type of job: bounce one up the middle, a sacrifice-fly or just advance the runner ... for the life of me, I can't tell you why it didn't happen."
And that has to be a point of concern for Wood as the Generals head into the All-Star break on a seven-game losing streak.
They are a team which had held leads in their last two games and have lost it in addition to losing two games in which they held seven-run leads. While the team showed fight to rebound after Wood implored them to do so, this one will be tougher to digest.
As Wilson pushed more and more runs across the plate during the 6th inning, one look at the Petersburg dugout told one all you needed to know. Shoulders slumped, silence and stunned looks out onto the diamond. Hall of Fame player Yogi Berra once famously noted baseball is a game which is 90 percent of it is half mental.
It's the Generals' mental fortitude which will be tested the most when they return to action Wednesday night in a game at Edenton.
Justin Novak's deep sacrifice-fly brought in a run during the Petersburg offensive onslaught.
"We just have to realize that's baseball," Wood said of how to overcome the recent woes. "It's going to happen. Unfortunately it seems to happen to us more than other teams, but all you can do is ask them is to do their job ... You have to take each at-bat one-pitch at a time, each swing one at a time and making the plays as it unfolds. You can't think about things that happened in the past. This is a game of failures."
While the Generals have experienced more than their fair share of failures, that's what baseball is all about. It's the good teams which turn those failures into lessons which breed success. It's up to Petersburg to make the next step over the final 18 games.