Generals Earn Split With Peninsula In Season Finale
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Aug 5, 2014, 08:33
Jeremy Wolf's RBI double in the second game of the doubleheader tied the contest at 1-1.
PETERSBURG — Heading into the final game of the regular season, there was little drama left for the Generals. Petersburg had already been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention a few weeks prior and their opponent from Peninsula had already wrapped up the top seed in the Coastal Plain League playoffs.
Yet, over the course of two 7-inning games which were needed because of a previous rainout, Petersburg did not play like a team looking in on the outside of a postseason berth. Instead, the Generals gave the Pilots everything they could handle and more, starting with a game one comeback.
Instead of wilting after surrendering two runs in the top of the 1st inning, Petersburg starter Stephen Brooks rebounded to keep the Pilots off the scoreboard over the next four innings, stymying the Peninsula attack with an assortment of breaking balls and well-placed fastballs. Brooks' reprieve on the mound gave his team ample time to mount a comeback which they did, scoring three runs over the course of the 3rd and 4th innings to take a lead they would not relinquish en route to a 4-2 win.
Game two of the doubleheader seemed to follow the same path of the first game as the Generals once again got themselves a good outing on the hill, had some timely hits and were in position in the bottom of the 7th to author another walk-off win. But Petersburg would strand runners at second and third with just one-out as Peninsula earned themselves a split of the doubleheader with a 2-1 win.
However, while the Generals were only able to earn a split, they ended their season on a high-note. With the realization the playoffs would not be in their future, the team turned in stellar performances each night to play their best baseball over the final part of the campaign, putting it all on display in a hard-fought split with Peninsula.
"These last few weeks we've been playing extremely well and to take the No. 1 team in our league down to the wire, beat them in game one and have the opportunity to snag another one in game two, it's always a good feeling," Petersburg manager Daniel Wood said after the game. "Obviously you always want to win out, but I'm very proud of the way the guys competed ... it's really easy to take it easy in the last game, but they played all 14 today."
The Generals (8-19, 15-40) didn't just play hard throughout the contest, but executed the game at one of the highest levels they have all season long. Their high-level of play started in the first game of the doubleheader with Petersburg trailing by one and lead-off hitter Thomas Stallings starting the 4th inning with a single.
Then, Greg Turlik stepped to the plate and laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line and it was his hustle to first which caused Peninsula (20-8, 41-15) third baseman Jason McMurray to fire an errant throw for a two-base error to tie the game. But the Generals would not be done yet.
Justin Novak's opposite-field single drove in Greg Turlik for the eventual game-winning run in the first game.
University of Virginia commit Justin Novak stepped into the batter's box with Turlik on third base and no one out. Novak swung at the first offering from Peninsula pitcher Jonathan Rosenberg, fouling it straight back to the back-stop. Rosenberg's second pitch — an outer half of the plate fastball — was laced by Novak into right field for an RBI single which would eventually be the game-winning RBI.
During a season filled with breaks not going their way, it was the Generals being rewarded for executing small-ball tactics and playing to the situation at hand.
"In that situation all we are trying to do is move our runner up, so anything that happens after that is a plus and the good thing is you are putting the pressure on the defense," Wood explained of the strategy. "Greg can move a little bit and being left-handed, he gets out of the box quicker. When you are playing a team with the caliber of guys Peninsula has, you don't expect to score 10 plus runs, so you need to do the little things."
And while the Generals did enough of the little things needed to win, the night also had more meaning than adding another digit to the won-loss column to one particular member of the team.
Nick Christopher, the standout player from Virginia State University, suited up for his last game as a General after playing three consecutive years in the league. Christopher has earned numerous awards and accolades while in the CPL in addition to being key to Petersburg's success.
The rising senior has exhibited nothing but true class and determination in a Generals' uniform and it was all on display in his final game. Taking the hill for just his fourth start of the year, Christopher was in complete-control. The right-hander hit the edges of the plate with crisp fastballs and froze Pilots hitters with a tremendous sweeping curveball.
Nick Christopher dazzled on the mound in his final Coastal Plain League game of his career, tossing six innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts.
Although his 6-inning stint of allowing just two runs on seven hits and seven strikeouts did not result in a win, it was just another masterful performance from a General who has supplied plenty of them in his career.
"He's a stud and he's done a fantastic job all year with any role we've given him," Wood said. "It was a good little way to send him off with a start and you know Nick is going to step up and compete. He's going to give you everything he's got and it was great to see a player like him get that type of success in his last outing."
Even though Christopher's final outing coincided with the end of the Generals' season, Petersburg had their moments of success and showed it's a program on the rise. The faces will change next year, but a fighting mentality has been established and it should lead to more success in the future.