Late-Inning Blunders Hurts Generals
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 18, 2014, 23:03
Logan Sendelbach tossed seven shutout innings, but his effort was wasted in the loss.
PETERSBURG — Holding a one-run lead entering the 9th inning, this was a game the Generals needed to win. Petersburg received the best starting pitching performance all season, picked up the biggest inning of relief out of the bullpen and received the lone clutch hit of the game to take the lead in the 5th inning.
Everything that needed to occur for the Generals to end a nine-game losing streak and a six-game losing streak to the Peninsula Pilots happened. And it only seemed to be even more of a certainty when Petersburg closer Devin Repine struck out the Pilots' clean-up hitter and Coastal Plain League All-Star Alex Close on a fastball to lead-off the 9th inning.
But it would all come undone in just two pitches. Repine threw a first-pitch fastball to the Pilots' Will Shepherd and he sent it high into left-center field. Generals' left fielder Jeremy Wolf and center fielder Geremy Walton converged before Wolf stuck his glove under the ball, but could not haul it in for what would be a three-base error. Then, Nick Lustrino lined a single into left field to tie the game, but Peninsula was not yet finished.
Sam Tideback singled into right field to extend the inning for Taylor Ostrich who worked the count to 2-2 against Repine. The right-hander out of University of Maryland Eastern Shore got Ostrich to hit a ground-ball toward short where Justin Novak tossed to Robert Kosch for the force at second before throwing a wayward attempt toward first which allowed a second run to score.
The two errors in the 9th inning allowed two unearned runs to cross the plate, turning what could have been a shutout win into an eventual 2-1 loss, leaving the Generals frustrated as the skid reached 10 games.
"There's no doubt about it. It's really frustrating," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the game. "The guys did a great job all night. We put together some good at-bats and did a fantastic job of preventing the big inning ... You've got to play all nine, especially against a team like Peninsula. You can't give them an inch because if you do, they're going to take a mile."
But the Generals (2-11, 9-32) could have made the Pilots (10-3, 31-10) comeback attempt even more difficult if they had not run themselves out of a potentially big 3rd inning. After Pilots' starter Matt Outman breezed through the first two hitters of the inning, Novak lined a single up the middle to extend the inning for Ryan Owens.
Owens didn't waste any time in the box, swinging at the first pitch and bouncing it slowly to third base to leg out an infield single, setting the stage for Wolf to put the Generals ahead. Wolf had already launched an Outman delivery into deep left field in his first plate appearance and seemed comfortable in the box.
However, he was not given an opportunity to swing the bat as Novak attempted to steal third base on the first offering and was gunned down. While Novak may have beaten the throw and gotten in before the tag, it was a questionable decision to make with the team's best hitter at the plate and two outs already recorded.
"Obviously right there Justin felt like he had a good read and he could take the base," Wood said of the situation. "Is it the right move? Probably not. The big thing is he's being aggressive. Looking back, you're wondering what's going on because you have your best hitter at the plate. In that situation, you want him to have a chance to swing the bat ... That did hurt, but I thought we did a good job of clearing that and keeping ourselves mentally in the game."
When given the chance to atone for the earlier base-running blunder, the Generals made sure to cash in just two innings later. Following an Aaron Hatch infield single, Michael Byron sent a 2-0 offering into the left-center field gap to put Petersburg ahead. It was a clutch hit from a hitter who has struggled against CPL pitching, hitting just .139 this season. But that was not the only clutch moment.
In what turned out to be his last outing of the season after reaching his innings limit, Logan Sendelbach turned in the best performance of any Generals' starter this season. Sendelbach stymied the Pilots' offense through seven shutout innings while allowing just four hits and punching out four.
Michael Byron is tagged out at third base after driving in Aaron Hatch to give the Generals an early lead.
However, after allowing the first two runners to reach base in the 8th, Sendelbach needed help to keep the lead and he was relieved by Dylan Collett. Entering the contest with runners on second and third with no-one out, Collett tossed what may be the most impressive inning all season.
With the infield in, Collett induced a groundout from Kyle Kempf who was 3-for-3 at that point. Then, he foiled a suicide squeeze attempt as catcher Connor Andrus tagged out Connor Myers attempting to score before punching out P.J. Higgins to end the frame. Even after the frustrating loss, Wood could not hide his excitement for the sequence.
"To come in that situation with runners on second and third with no one out and facing the meat of their lineup, that's impressive," Wood said. "He made the big pitch to Kempf ... and then came up with a big strikeout against a fantastic hitter who was an All-Star. He did a great job of accepting the pressure and taking it one pitch at a time."
But Collett's effort was undone by a lack of focus in the 9th, delivering another harsh lesson to the Generals in a season full of them. It's now up to the team to learn from the mistake and turn it around or else the last part of the season could be a bumpy one.