Generals' Season A Success Despite Record
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Aug 11, 2014, 13:02
Jeremy Wolf was among the best hitters in the Coastal Plain League while batting clean-up for the Generals.
PETERSBURG — Success in baseball sometimes goes beyond the actual numbers posted on a record. There are many different factors which can determine the outcome of a baseball game in a sport where a few more strikeouts or two-out hits can be the difference between a playoff contender or a team on the outside looking in.
It's why it is difficult to judge the Generals' season based off just their record over the course of the Coastal Plain League season in which they went 15-40. While the record looks to be abysmal and the mark of a team not capable of playing against the elite teams, it could not be further from the truth.
Twenty-three of the Generals' 40 losses came by three runs or less, showing the type of competitive nature the team possessed all season long. Unlike in years past, this Petersburg team did not wilt after falling behind early, but instead mounted comebacks throughout the season.
In fact, after seeing their chances at a playoff berth slip by a few weeks before the season was set to end, the Generals rallied together to reach their goal of 15 wins. It was a remarkable turnaround for a team which went 6-7 down the stretch after having dropped nine-consecutive games during a miserable two-week stretch.
And the reason the team did not fall apart and continued to battle and grind toward the finish was because of the work manager Daniel Wood did during his first season behind the Generals' bench. Wood and assistant coach Matt Laney, a former pitcher in the Dodgers' organization and L.C. Bird graduate, found a lineup which worked, developed pitchers and saw every member of the team improve from the beginning of the season.
Wood witnessed his team build a sense of camaraderie and enjoyed every second he had to coach each of his players.
"I loved it and I had a blast," Wood said. "It was great to build a relationship with those guys and I can't say enough about how much I appreciated Matt's work this year. I don't know if we could have broken 15 wins if it weren't for him. He's one of the bright upcoming minds in baseball and it made me better as a coach."
But both Wood and Laney helped every one of their players improve as the season wore on. It's why the record is only part of the discussion when it comes to deciding whether a season was a success or not.
Chowan University right-hander and Thomas Dale graduate Austin McGhee struggled with command early in the campaign, but had improved so much late in the season, he fired two scoreless innings against Peninsula to earn his first career CPL save. There was also the continued maturation of Justin Novak who experienced his own growing pains, but worked hard to surpass them.
Trinity outfielder Jeremy Wolf didn't get off to a great start, but by the end of the campaign he led the Generals in average (.331) and RBIs (33) while falling just three doubles short (21) of the CPL record. All of it added up to a team which never coasted toward the finish line, but instead took each at-bat and each pitch as like a playoff berth was on the line.
It was the way they put behind the early-season struggles both at the plate and in the field to become a tough opponent which was one of Wood's favorite aspects of the season.
"I don't know if it was a little bit of shell-shock in the beginning, but they are feisty," he explained. "They grind and when they saw that as long as they compete for every single pitch, they're going to get better. We've got a ton of great athletes on this team and by grinding every pitch and getting better, you're going to start to see your abilities come up."
And that's what happened for the Generals over the final few weeks of the season. While the early part of the schedule was plagued by costly errors and big leads evaporating, the final part was a clinic in good play. Petersburg's defense played at a higher level, turning double-plays with ease while the pitching staff attacked the zone a lot more frequently.
Daniel Wood's first season as manager, in addition to his work as a pitching coach at Roanoke College, earned him a job offer to be an assistant at Longwood University.
While the Generals staff would end the season with 286 walks, most of it occurred in the early part of the season where one bout of wildness led to an opponent's offensive surge. It's why later in the year, there was a genuine respect from opponents toward the Petersburg dugout.
Instead of the confrontations which seemed to be the norm like it was the night against Edenton, other teams throughout the league had to use their best pitchers and hitters to find a way to defeat the Generals. The sudden strategy change by opponents is proof of a new attitude around the complex.
"I think they've definitely brought a good feeling back to the complex," Wood said. "Obviously the wins and losses aren't where you want them to be, but the fans and the teams that have competed against us know how these boys perform and how they grind every day. I think around the league there is a respect that the program is going in the right direction."'
With a winning attitude now in place after a culture shift this season, the building blocks are in place for the Generals to continue to improve in the coming years.