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Hope flickered for the Wilson Tobs when Peninsula committed its only error to open the bottom of the ninth inning.
However, the threat died with base runners at first and second and the opportunity for a .500 finish in the first half of 2018 Coastal Plain League summer collegiate baseball competition eluded the Tobs in the form of a 7-6 loss to the first-half North Division winnersFriday night in Fleming Stadium.
Instead, three errors led to four unearned runs as Wilson tumbled to 10-13 with one first-half game remaining at Peninsula on Saturday night. The Tobs lost for the eighth time in the last nine games, while the Pilots boosted their record to 16-8.
Second-half play begins Sunday with Wilson welcoming the Holly Springs Salamanders at 6 p.m.
Wilson trailed by the final score entering the bottom of the ninth. Right fielder Carson Freeman reached on an error and, with one out, third baseman Kevin McGowan singled.
However, Ryan Devine, the sixth Pilots pitcher, sent the Tobs tumbling into the North Division basement, inducing an outfield fly and force play to end the contest.
“It was kind of rough defensively,” admitted Tobs starting and losing pitcher David Harrison, a left-hander from Rocky Mount High. “But I don’t blame the loss on the errors. Bad things happened at the wrong time; it’s just the game of baseball. We came out hard and had a chance to win.”
Trailing 4-2, Peninsula converted three Tobs miscues into four unearned runs in the top of the fourth inning against Harrison, who deserved a better fate. Harrison, who is coming off his freshman season at N.C. State, lasted five innings, allowing two earned runs.
An error with one out, left fielder Matt Schwartz’s single and a walk led to center fielder Cole Girouard’s two-run single. Base runners advanced to second and third on an errant throw from the outfield. The Pilots broke the 4-4 tie with two runs on a throwing error.
The Tobs got a run back in their half of the fourth on singles by second baseman Jacob Nester, third baseman Kevin McGowan and first baseman Ben Faso. Wilson was threatening for more, but the Pilots turned an inning-ending double play.
Left-handed Cody Smith worked two scoreless innings before the Pilots added an insurance run in the eighth. Girouard’s single produced his third RBI of the evening.
Two Peninsula relievers blanked the Tobs from the fifth through seventh innings, but Tobs catcher Jacob Charron cut the deficit to 7-6 with a solo home run, a towering shot to left-center field.
The Pilots nicked Harrison for a run in each of the first and third innings. Shortstop Jack Strunck connected for a sacrifice fly in the first and catcher Jonathan Embry belted an RBI triple in the third.
Peninsula head coach Hank Morgan described the outcome as “just another baseball game we were blessed to play.”
Morgan explained he varied from the normal game routine only in that he “staffed it on the mound.”
“We got six guys in and that was nice. If you want them to be sharp, they have to get work. That’s the only part that changed.”
“Baseball is unique and finicky. You have to go out and try to put your best foot forward or you might have a tendency to fall into bad habits.”
McGowan doubled in Wilson’s first two runs in the third and singled home center fielder Brenton Doyle, who had doubled, in the fourth — when the Tobs chased starting Peninsula pitcher Tyler Garbee.
Now, the Tobs attempt to escape the division basemen in their first-half finale.
“Just go out with a win,” said Harrison.
“We can win the second half. We have the guys and the talent, but we’ve got to put it all together.”
Whether Harrison will still be in a Tobs’ uniform depends upon when he works his allotted 40 innings.