HAMPTON, VA- Brandon Stephens drove in four runs and Brandon Vick struck out nine in 7 1/3 innings to help the Peninsula Pilots even the best-of-three playoff series with the Fayetteville SwampDogs with a 7-2 victory on Thursday night at War Memorial Stadium.
The win evened the best-of-three playoff series at one apiece with the most important winner takes all game on Friday night at War Memorial Stadium. Fayetteville won the first game of the series with a 7-6 win at Fayetteville.
After trading zeroes in the first three innings, Brandon Stephens (Georgia) put the Pilots on the board in the fourth inning with a bases clearing double that gave the Pilots the lead they would not relinquish. A leadoff double by Kyle Kempf (Southern Indiana) and walks to Alex Close (Liberty) and Garrett Brooks (East Carolina) set up Stephen’s shot to right-center to take a 3-0 lead.
Stephens’ hit gave the Pilots the fire they needed after a rough start with a couple calls that did not go their way and sizzled their momentum. With the defense playing strong, Brandon Vick (Longwood) kept the SwampDogs at bay with 7 1/3 strong innings. He scattered eight hits and struck out nine on the night. The left-hander was able to strand runners in the first seven innings, but in the eighth, the SwampDogs loaded the bases with a walk and two hits. Vick would recover to get a strikeout and left the game to a standing ovation from the Pilots’ crowd. Fayetteville would score two runs later in the inning that were charged to Vick, but Taylor Edens (VMI) got a fly out to end the inning and preserve the lead.
Holding a 3-0 lead to the sixth inning, the Pilots tacked on another run with the help of a couple miscues by the SwampDogs’ defense.
The very next inning, Peninsula added two more runs to put themselves in prime position of forcing a winner takes all on Friday. Stephens added another double off the left-field wall that scored Close. Nick Lustrino (Temple) made it 6-0 with a single to center, scoring Kyle Johnson (Purdue).
Fayetteville finally got on the board in the eighth inning after loading the bases with no outs. Chase Edwards (Mount Olive) hit into a fielder’s choice to plate the first run. A double steal was successful later in the inning to cut it to 6-2 but that was the closest they would get.
The Pilots added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning with a RBI single by Kempf that scored Andres Nelo (Lee).
Edens worked around two hits with three strikeouts in the ninth inning to preserve the win. Nick Hartman (LSU Enice) was charged with the loss, giving up three runs in five innings of work. Garrett Hickman (UNC Pembroke) gave up three runs in two innings while Justin White (NC Central) gave up a run in an inning of work.
Stephens had two doubles that scored four runs for the Pilots. Kempf and Lustrino each added three hits in the victory. Lustrino has back to back three hit games in the series. The SwampDogs had multi-hit games from Michael Bozarth (St. Louis) and Norm Donkin (Delaware).
The two teams will face off in a winner takes all game on Friday night at War Memorial Stadium for a spot in the East Division Finals. For more information regarding the season, please visit www.peninsulapilots.com. For up to the minute details on Pilots Baseball be sure to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @PeninsulaPilots. Use the #PilotsNation to spread the word about the Pilots!
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