The Fayetteville SwampDogs entered the night looking to close out their opening playoff round against the Peninsula Pilots, but the Pilots had other ideas, defeating the Dogs 7-2 on Thursday night at Peninsula War Memorial Stadium.
The first few innings were a good pitcher’s duel between Nick Hartman (LSU Eunice) and Brandon Vick of the Pilots.
An interesting sequence unfolded in the bottom of the third, after Nick Lustrino singled off of Hartman to start the inning. Andres Nelo laid down a sacrifice bunt up the first base line, and was tagged out after Brandon Metoyer (Menlo) fielded and tossed to Hartman covering first.
Hartman would not be as fortunate in the next inning, when he would play with fire and get burned. He allowed a leadoff double to Kyle Kempf, then walked Alex Close. The next batter, Kyle Johnson, sacrificed the runners over, then Garrett Brooks was walked to load the bases. Brandon Stephens would lace a three-run double into right-centerfield to give the Pilots a 3-0 lead.
In the sixth inning with Garrett Hickman (UNC Pembroke) on the mound, the Pilots would strike for their fourth run of the game, thanks in part to two two-out errors sandwiched around a hit that was the result of a bad hop off the lip of the infield grass.
The Pilots added two additional insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh, courtesy of a two-out double from Stephens to score Close. Stephens finished 2-4 with a run scored, two doubles and four runs batted in. The next batter, Lustrino, had an RBI single to score Johnson, but Stephens was thrown out at the plate by Michael Bozarth (Saint Louis) to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Vick was dealing for the Pilots, holding the Dogs scoreless through the first seven innings.
The SwampDogs would start to mount a comeback in the eighth inning against Vick, as David LaFleur (LSU Eunice) walked to lead off the inning, then Jason Blum (Southeast Missouri State) and Bozarth notched back-to-back hits to load the bases with no outs. Vick came back to strike out Kam Stewart, then Hank Morgan removed Vick from the game, to a standing ovation from the Pilots fans.
Taylor Edens came in and induced Chase Edwards (Mount Olive) to ground into a fielder’s choice which brought home LaFleur with the first SwampDogs run. With Norm Donkin (Delaware) at the plate, Edwards and Blum executed a double steal of second and home, leading to the second run of the inning for the Dogs, but that is all they would muster in the eighth.
The Pilots would add an additional insurance run in the eighth against Justin White (N.C. Central) to make it 7-2 because of an RBI single by Kempf.
The SwampDogs, who have made a habit of coming from behind in their last at bats recently, tried to complete the feat again in the top of the ninth. Sam Hall (Dixie State) led off the inning with a hit off of Edens, but then Drew Butler (Campbell) struck out for the first out. Metoyer followed that up with an infield single, but LaFleur would go down on strikes to bring up Blum as the last chance for the Dogs. Blum would strike out swinging to end the game.
Vick deservingly got the win for the Pilots, while Hartman suffered the loss for the SwampDogs.
With the SwampDogs loss, the best-of-three series is now tied at 1-1. The decisive game three of the series will be played Friday night at 7:05 pm at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, Va.
The Coastal Plain League is the nation’s hottest summer collegiate baseball league. Celebrating its 18th season in 2014, the CPL features 14 teams playing in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The CPL gives college players the chance to refine their skills with the use of wooden bats. Players are housed with local host families for the summer and past experiences have been very positive for both players and hosts. The CPL has had over 1,200 alumni drafted and 72 of those – including 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander – make their Major League debut; while another notable alum - Russell Wilson - won Super Bowl XLVIII. For more information on the Coastal Plain League, please visit the league website at