Morehead City won its fifth straight game on Friday night against Petersburg when Tyler Thorne’s seven-inning effort and a nine-run outburst led by Trent Leimkuehler’s pinch-hit grand slam propelled them to a 9-1 victory over the Generals.
Thorne had perhaps his best outing of the season on Friday, completing seven shutout innings and yielding just five hits to the Generals. He also struck eight batters, which is something he had not done this season in the CPL or in 19 games with Stanford this spring.
“His slider was good,” said head coach Sam Carel said. “He really competed well with that slider, and it [helped him get] eight strikeouts.”
Thorne was dominant early, allowing just one base runner but facing the minimum through his first 3.1 innings. He allowed two on with one out in the fifth, had a runner on third with nobody out in the sixth, and had another runner on third with no outs in the seventh, but was able to wiggle his way around the potential trouble to keep the shutout intact through his seven frames.
“The most impressive innings he had were in those sixth and seventh, and for him to battle and preserve the lead after allowing guys on third with nobody out was huge,” Carel said.
The 6-foot-4 right-hander now has a 3-0 record to go along with a cool 2.17 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched. He has allowed two runs or less in three of his four starts, and in two of those had not allowed a run at all.
“The ability for him to go six or seven every night has really helped solidify the rotation,” Carel said. “Here is a guy you can count on to take the ball and go deep, and that makes him a valuable commodity.”
Though he did not end up needing it, Thorne was supported with nine runs from a torrid Morehead City offense, which continues to strike early in ballgames.
The first four hitters reached base for the Marlins in the second inning, which fueled a three-run frame to help Morehead City to a quick lead. Nick Lombardi and Blake Graham both had RBI singles in the inning, and Andrew Amaro drove in a run on a fielder’s choice.
Lombardi finished the day 2-for-5 with two RBI, two runs scored and a stolen base, and is now hitting .474 with four RBI, four runs scored and three stolen bases in his last 19 at bats. Graham’s 2-for-4 night further extended his team-high on-base streak to 17 games.
The game stayed close until the eighth, when Morehead City ripped it wide open working against the Petersburg bullpen.
Caleb Lupton, on in relief for Generals’ starter Grant Cain, recorded the first out of the inning, but then imploded. Five straight hitters reached base after that, including Lombardi and Tyler Campbell who helped make it a 5-0 game with RBI singles.
That brought up Trent Leimkuehler, who was called upon to pinch hit for Andrew Amaro with the bases loaded and still one out. Leimkuehler was hitting just .198 coming into the game and did not have a home run, but he broke out in a big way with one swing.
He teed off on a grand slam to left field, making it a 9-0 ballgame and completing a six-run inning which saw 12 Marlins step to the plate. Leimkuehler is now fourth on the team with 16 RBI.
“He has been taking quality at bats,“ Carel said. “His batting practice has been good the last few days and we know he has been seeing the ball well. It’s good to see a guy who had been struggling come up with that hit.”
Whitman Barnes and Scott Edge each tossed an inning and combined for four strikeouts as the Marlins rolled to an easy victory—their fifth straight, which ties a season-high winning streak. With a Peninsula loss to the Wilson Tobs, the Marlins are now two games up in the CPL East, which is their largest division lead this season.
“We just [have to] worry about ourselves,” Carel said. “This has been a program where since day one, we worry about ourselves, focus on the process and focus on improving ourselves as individuals and the team.”
The Marlins will get a chance to improve their streak to six straight and improve their division lead on Saturday as they return home to face the Martinsville Mustangs at Big Rock Stadium at 7:05.
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 71 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