Pilots rebound to force Game 3


The Peninsula Pilots (photo courtesy of Pat Grecinger) avenged a tough Game 1 loss with a 9-2 victory to even the series at one apiece, forcing a winner takes all on Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium.

For the second straight game, Florence scored first with a run in the first inning. Gene Cone (South Carolina) led off the game with a single and advanced to third on a fielding error in the play. After a popout, Brandon Rawe (Morehead State) struck for the RedWolves with a chopper up the middle to give the West Division Champs a 1-0 lead.

Peninsula took the lead for the first time in the series thanks to a two-run double by Andres Nelo (Lee). Nick Lustrino (Temple) and PJ Higgins (Old Dominion) hit singles in the inning; setting up Nelo’s shot to left field that was just out of reach of the left-fielder. Nelo was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple, but nonetheless, the Pilots took the first lead of the game.

Holding a 2-1 lead to the fifth inning, Brandon Vick (Longwood) was doing his job of keeping Florence at bay. Florence did tie up the game on a RBI single by Connor Sullivan (Ave Maria) and threatened to score more with bases loaded and no outs but Vick retired the next three batters to minimize the damage.

The Pilots immediately retook the lead with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Nelo drew a one-out walk and advanced to third on Kyle Johnson’s (Purdue) double to right-center. Garrett Brooks (East Carolina) plated Nelo with a sacrifice fly down the left field line to give the Pilots a 3-2 lead. Will Shepherd (Liberty) followed Brooks with a double to left field to score Johnson and the team had a two-run lead.

Vick kept the RedWolves off the board in the sixth and the Pilots tacked on an additional run to give themselves breathing room. Brandon Stephens (Georgia) brought in Lustrino with a RBI double to take a 5-2 lead.

Florence threatened again in the seventh inning against Vick and the bullpen but stranded the bases loaded. After a ground out started the inning, Justin Bialkowski (Georgetown) singled up the middle, ending Vick’s night. Grayson Bailey (Lee) came in relief and walked Rawe. Bailey recovered to strike out a batter for the second out. Blake Marchant (Grand View) extended the inning with a single to center to load the bases, prompting the Pilots to go to the bullpen again. Jordan Brooks (Georgia College & State) was called on in the biggest situation of the year. He answered the call with a strikeout to strand three runners for Florence. The team also notched 12 hits but stranded 13 in the game, which proved to be crucial.

The Pilots added two runs apiece in both the seventh and eighth innings to widen the score. Alex Close (Liberty) and Lustrino added RBI singles in the seventh inning. Nelo brought in a run in the eighth inning with a RBI groundout and Taylor Ostrich (Old Dominion) got in the scoring with a sacrifice fly to give the Pilots a 9-2 lead.

Vick notched his second win of the postseason, giving up two runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. Four pitchers combined to pitch the final 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. Lefties, Bailey and Blair Betts (UNC-Greensboro) notched an out while Brooks and Taylor Edens (VMI) pitched scoreless innings.

Jordan Peterson (St. Joseph’s) was tagged with the loss, giving up seven runs in 6 2/3 innings. He scattered nine hits and struck out five on the night. Ty Simpson (Francis Marion) gave up two runs in relief for the RedWolves.

Lustrino led the Pilots with a 3-for-4 night, scoring two runs. Close and Higgins added two hits apiece while Nelo added three RBIs for the Pilots. Florence had four players with multi-hit games but was unable to cash in when it counted.

With the series tied, the all-important winner takes all will take place on Saturday night at War Memorial Stadium. The first pitch is set for 7:05pm. The winner will be crowned the 2014 Petitt Cup Champions. 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!

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