HAMPTON, VA- The Peninsula Pilots pulled away with a six run eighth inning to escape the Gastonia Grizzlies with an 11-4 victory on Monday night at War Memorial Stadium.
With the Pilots clinging to a 5-4 lead in the 8th inning, the Pilots opened the floodgates with six runs to pull away with an 11-4 victory. Peninsula moved to 37-12 overall, 16-5 in the second half while Gastonia fell to 29-19 overall, 10-10 in the second stint. The win gave the Pilots victories over all West Division opponents with the exception of Forest City.
Kyle Kempf (Southern Indiana) and Taylor Ostrich (Old Dominion) led off the 8th inning with back to back walks putting the Pilots in prime position to get insurance runs. Gastonia expected PJ Higgins (Old Dominion) to advance the runners with a sacrifice but it was a ploy as a double steal sign was put in play and was successful. Higgins singled through the left side to plate Kempf, giving the Pilots a two-run lead. Alex Close (Liberty) followed with a RBI single through the right side before Liberty teammate, Will Shepherd, notched his fourth hit of the night with a two-run single to break the game open with a 9-4 advantage. A couple batters later, Brandon Stephens (Georgia) added a sacrifice fly and Connor Myers (Old Dominion) gave the Pilots their 11th run with a RBI triple.
Derek Justice (Mount Olive) shut down the Grizzlies in the 9th inning to preserve the win. Wes McGuire (Lenoir-Rhyne) moved to 3-0 with four innings of two-run ball. He added four strikeouts while scattering four hits. Blair Betts (UNC Greensboro) followed with two innings, giving up a run and striking out three. Taylor Edens (VMI) added 1 2/3 innings of one-run ball before Justice finished the last 1 1/3 innings for his third save of the season.
Austin Clark (Towson) made his Grizzlies’ debut and was touched for five runs in five innings, falling to 0-1 on the season.
Peninsula jumped on the Grizzlies with a five-run second inning. Higgins and Close were hit by pitches to start the inning. Will Shepherd (Liberty) loaded the bases with a bunt single. Nick Lustrino (Temple) drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to center that was deep enough to allow Higgins to score from third. Sam Tidaback (Ball State) and Myers added RBI singles to give the Pilots a 3-0 advantage. Kempf was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score another run. Ostrich made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly to center.
Gastonia clawed back with two runs in the fourth inning on RBI groundouts. The Grizzlies started the inning with back to back hits by Anthony Dimino (Belmont Abbey) and Weston Lawing (Lander) with no outs. Back to back groundouts by Colby Painter (Lander) and Henry Rundio (Gardner-Webb) scored two runs for the Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies cut the lead to two with a run in the fifth with a sacrifice fly by Chris Robinson (Morehead State).
With the Pilots holding a 5-3 lead in the 8th, the Grizzlies made things interesting with a RBI single by Ronald Thompson (NC Central). Justice struck out Wiley Jackson (UNC Pembroke) to strand the potential tying runner on second before the Pilots opened the floodgates with six runs in the eighth inning to pull away.
Shepherd led the Pilots’ 13-hit attack with four hits. Myers, Kempf, and Andres Nelo (Lee) added two hits apiece for the Pilots. Gastonia was led by Dimino, who was also 4-for-5 and Lawing, who was 3-for-4.
The Pilots will hit the road and face the Wilmington Sharks on Tuesday night before returning home to face the Petersburg Generals on Wednesday night for Pilots Trivia Night! 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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