Petersburg, VA—Full Moon? Check. Black Cat? Check. Biggest comeback of the year for the Wilson Tobs? Check. The Tobs came out of the gate looking like the team that had lost three in a row - through the first four innings - then the offense, which has been relatively dormant over the last week and a half, exploded for ten runs in a three inning span, coming back from a seven run deficit to defeat the Petersburg Generals 10-8.
The game started relatively normal for both sides as the Tobs went down in order in the top of the first inning and Mikel Belcher, starter for the Tobs, did the same in the bottom of the first, picking up two strikeouts to keep it a scoreless game through one inning of play. The second inning is when the madness started.
The Generals jumped on Belcher immediately. Jeremy Wolf walked and Thomas Stallins singled to put guys on first and second for Dylan Yankle who ripped a double down the left field line to drive in the first run of the game and moving men to second and third. Spencer Williams’ walk loaded the bases and Belcher forced a 5-2 fielder’s choice to cut the run down at home, but the bases were still loaded with one out. Nine batter Justin Novak hit a fly ball to deep center to drive home the second run of the game and give the Generals a 2-0 lead before a flyout by Nick Christopher ended the inning.
The Tobs continued to go quietly in the third and the Generals continued to pour it on, this time scoring three. David Martinez began the inning with a well struck single and Ryan Owens followed with one of his own to put runners at first and third with nobody out. Owens immediately took second base on a stolen bag, which set up Jeremy Wolf to drive in two with a single to center field and giving the Generals a 4-0 advantage. The Wolf single signaled the end of the night for Mikel Belcher.
Head coach of the Tobs, Justin Hay, called for Braden Bristo out of the bullpen and his first throw of the night was over towards first, but was offline, allowing Wolf to move to second. Wolf attempted a steal of third and Tobs’ catcher Douglas Ard threw a seed to covering third basemen Jake Armstrong, but Armstrong lost the ball while applying the tag, compounding the error as it rolled toward the Tobs dugout on the third base line, allowing Wolf to score and the giving the Generals a 5-0 lead after three innings of play.
For the first time on the night the Tobs threatened in the fourth inning as Seth LaRue was hit by a pitch with one out and after a flyout by Ben Schmucker, Ard singled to right to put runners on the corners with two outs. However, Drew Cole took the first pitch he saw and popped out meekly to the shortstop to end the threat.
It looked like the night was only going to get worse for Tobs’ fans as the Generals plated two more in the bottom of the fourth. Bristo started the inning strong by striking out the first batter, but Martinez, who scored two runs on the night for the Generals, singled through the hole on the side to force Bristo into the stretch.
Owens’ grounder to LaRue at first moved Martinez to second and he came around to score on another single to center by Wolf, who had three RBI through the first four innings, and the Generals led by a score of 6-0. Things did not get better for Bristo as a wild pitch allowed Wolf to move to second and an easy ground ball to Frankie Navarette at short turned into a run for the Generals when his throw dove low and LaRue was unable to pick it out of the dirt and the rout was on, or so it seemed.
The coaching staff of the Tobs brought the team together after the fourth inning, imploring the boys in black and yellow to work harder at the plate and force Generals’ starter, Aaron Hatch, into longer at bats. Hatch had thrown just 34 pitches through the first four innings, 24 of them for strikes, before the Tobs’ bats started to find the sweet spot in the fifth.
The beginning of the inning looked remarkably similar to the rest of the game for the Tobs; the first two batters were retired on just five pitches, with both of the outs infield popouts. Adam Pate, who represented the bottom of the lineup for the Tobs, worked a 3-1 count and smashed a single into left before Doug Teegarden roped a single to center to give the Tobs runners on first and second with two outs. Zach Callahan was up next for the Tobs and continued the two-out lightning, driving a ball into the right center field gap, just out of the reach of the diving Jerrod Groves, and giving the Tobs some life, now down just 7-2. But LaRue tapped out to the catcher to end the frame.
Knowing that the All Star break was coming up, Coach Hay brought in normal starter Christian Slazinik to quiet things down, but Slazinik’s presence did not have the effect Hay wanted. Slazinik gave up back-to-back singles to begin the inning, leaving runners on first and third with nobody out. Novak again came to the plate for the Generals and hit a flair out behind second base. Tobs’ second baseman Zach Callahan ranged back and tried to make a running over the shoulder catch, but it hit off the heel of his glove and dropped in, giving one of the runs right back and a score of 8-2 in favor of the Generals.
The failed catch on the bloop actually left guys on second and third as Adam Pate’s throw from center went over the middle infielder’s heads and onto the mound, allowing Novak to take second as Groves stood on third still without a single out for the Generals. However, Slazinik, who has done a tremendous job all summer long of pitching out of defense compounded jams, pulled another rabbit out of his hat in the fifth: with the infield pulled in in the 8-2 game, Slazinik forced a popout to first for out number one, a groundball hit directly at the third basemen Armstrong for out number two and a slow roller to Callahan to get out of the inning and keeping the Tobs’ deficit at a manageable six at 8-2.
For one of the first times of the night, the Tobs had momentum on their side and for one of the first times in the second half of the season, the Tobs decided to roll with the momentum, doing their best impression of a dormant volcano before erupting for six in the inning and tying the game.
Again, it looked like the Tobs were going to go quietly against Hatch as he retired the first two batters on four pitches, but Justin Carroll, who replaced Drew Cole in the fifth, came up and screamed a single to left on the first pitch of his at bat. Kenny Hostrander, who replaced Frankie Navarette in the fifth inning, stayed patient and followed Carroll’s single with a walk before Jake Armstrong took one off the front elbow to load the bases for Adam Pate.
Up until his at bat in the sixth inning, Pate had started 20 games for the Tobs and had come to the plate 59 times without registering a single RBI. He would break that streak with a single, driving in two runs and cutting the Tobs’ deficit in half at 8-4. That made it four two-out runs on the night for the Tobs, but they were not close to done in the inning as they now had men on second and third (Pate took second on the throw home) still with the two outs. Teegarden was due up next and did what he does best, working a full count walk for his 25th walk of the season, loading the bases with two outs for Callahan.
Callahan did not feel like waiting around in the at bat. On the first pitch, he let the ball travel deep in the zone and pasted a single to the opposite field. Ryan Owens’, the Generals’ right fielder, charged the ball and threw to home, but it was too late to get the speedy Pate who started the play at second. The catcher, Dylan Yankle, cut the throw off and attempted to get Callahan moving to second, but his throw was offline, bouncing away from the middle infielder and allowing Teegarden, who had moved up to third on the single, to score, making it an 8-7 game and giving Callahan four RBI on the night.
With the Tobs needing just one run to erase what was at one point a seven run hole, the Tobs had one of their best players coming to the plate, All Star Seth LaRue.
LaRue, in his first game against the Petersburg Generals, took the second pitch of his at bat and ripped one up the middle, plating Callahan and tying the game at eight a piece. It was Schmucker’s turn at the plate next and the man who began the inning for the Tobs, ended the inning by grounding out to the first basemen, but Tobs fans were content as they watched their team erase an 8-2 deficit with a six run inning heading into the bottom of the sixth.
Daniel Batts took the ball for the Tobs, and the relief pitcher, who entered the game with a 3-0 record and having not allowed an earned run in his last three outings, spanning seven innings of work, immediately allowed a leadoff double. The Generals bunted over Wolf (3-for-4, 3 Rs, 3 RBI) and again Coach Hay called for the infield to be pulled in, this time with the game tied at eight. He was rewarded as Yankle hit a one hopper right at Armstrong at third, which kept Wolf in position and gave the Generals two outs in the inning. Batts slithered out of the damage by dirting a 1-2 changeup to Spencer Wilmes who chased the pitch and Tobs’ catcher Ard threw to first to end the inning.
Jamar Hinton tried his luck to quiet the Tobs’ bats, but found nothing but Tobs’ barrels. Ard continued his hot hitting at the plate with a leadoff double down the right field line. Justin Carroll waited until he had a 2-1 count and ripped a double of his own to right, one hopping the wall and sending Ard home with the Tobs’ first lead of the night. Hostrander flew out to left for the first out of the inning before Jake Armstrong provided some much needed breathing room with a double down the third base line, which kicked up chalk, putting the Tobs up 10-8 and ending Hinton’s night. Dylan Collett finished off the Tobs by not allowing any more runs, but the damage was done and the Tobs had the two run lead.
Batts had to work around some trouble in the bottom of the seventh inning because Hostrander threw away a leadoff groundball to short. Again, the Generals bunted the man over, but Batts houdinied his way out of trouble with a 1-2 change in the dirt that got Christopher chasing and caught Martinez looking with a big breaking ball for out number three. Then the night got downright crazy.
As if scoring eight unanswered runs to turn an 8-2 deficit into a 10-8 lead was not enough, as Batts walked off the mound with the inning ending strikeout, a black cat ran out onto the field and straight across Batts’ path on the third baseline before running in front of the Tobs’ dugout, jumping on the side of the dugout, scaling the fence, and jumping out of the field of play before anybody really knew what was going on.
Both teams appeared to enjoy the moment of levity, but things went from comical to explosive with the next Tobs’ at bat. Callahan, working on a terrific two-hit four RBI night, tapped a ball slowly up the middle. Novak rounded the ball for the Generals and threw onto first for the out.
The Tobs still had a 10-8 lead however, with one man out in the eight inning. Miraculously, the rest of the inning went fairly quietly as LaRue struckout and Schmucker grounded out to end the inning. Thankfully for the Tobs, Daniel Batts had his easiest inning of his outing, retiring the side in order, completing three innings of scoreless work out of the Tobs’ bullpen.
For the fourth time of the night and the second time in as many innings, the Tobs went down in order in the top of the ninth, but the Tobs still had their trump card in the bullpen and called on the righty from NC State, Chris Williams, to close out the game.
Tonight was the sixth time the Tobs called on Chris Williams to close out a game this summer, and for the sixth time this season, Williams was able to squash any chance of a ninth-inning rally, retiring all three batters he faced, including a strikeout, to seal the Tobs 10-8 victory.
The seven run comeback is the biggest of the Tobs season thus far and gives them an even 18-18 record heading into the All Star break. The Tobs are now one game above .500 on the road this summer with a 10-9 record. Daniel Batts’ continues to excel out of the bullpen; his record improves to 4-0, all of the pen, and has now gone four outings without an earned run, spanning ten innings of work.
Jamar Hinton gets credit with the loss and Chris Williams is still perfect in save situations (6-for-6). Zach Callahan ended the night 2-for-5 with four RBI, a double and a run scored. Teegarden scored twice out of the leadoff spot in addition to picking up a hit, and Douglas Ard was the catalyst, going 2-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Justin Carroll, a mid-game replacement, went 2-for-3 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored.
The bottom of the lineup galvanized the squad with Adam Pate leading the way, going 2-for-4 with his first two RBI of the season and two runs scored out of the nine spot. Jake Armstrong, in the eight hole, went 1-for-3 with a double, an RBI, and a big run scored after getting hit by a pitch in the sixth to load the bases.
The Tobs have two days off for the All Star break before coming back home for a doubleheader to take on the Edenton Steamers on Jana Lake State Farm $2 Tuesday as well as Thirsty Tuesday. Since the Thursday night game was rained out, the Tobs have moved all of the beer and soft drink specials to Tuesday for the doubleheader.
The Tobs will play two seven inning games with the first game starting at 6:05 P.M. and gates opening at 5 P.M. If you haven’t purchased tickets for the game, please call the Tobs office at (252) 291-8627 or visit wilsontobs.com. If you want to see more pictures from today’s Picnic in the Park event be sure to follow us @wilsontobs and like us on facebook www.facebook.com/wilsontobs.
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 70 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