Bullpen Unable to Hold Lead, Tobs One Game Away From Elimination
Wilson, N.C.—When Michael Wilson woke up this morning he did not know he was going to be starting Game One of the best-of-three game East Championship Series against the Peninsula Pilots. When he woke up this morning he also did not know that he would put together his best performance of the season. However, the bullpen was unable to hold onto the lead, and the Tobs dropped Game One to the Pilots 8-3 in front of 1,198 fans at historic Fleming Stadium.
The game started off poorly for Wilson before he quickly rectified the situation. He allowed a leadoff single to Garrett Brooks and Brooks stole second base, leaving the Pilots with a man on second and nobody out. But all Wilson was doing was starting an infuriating theme for Pilots’ bats; Wilson retired the next three batters in order, not allowing Brooks to move past second base and stranding his first of eight runners on the night.
In every single postseason game the Tobs have played this summer the home team has scored in the bottom of the first inning and the Tobs kept that streak going, scoring three runs off of Pilots’ starter Ran Cook.
Cook retired leadoff man Adam Pate, but Drew Cole singled hard to right field on a 3-1 pitch and as Cole took off for second on a full count, Ben Schmucker singled up the middle, off of the glove of shortstop PJ Higgins, pushing Cole all the way to third base. Collins Cuthrell struck out on three straight pitches though and it looked like Cook was going to get out of the inning unscathed, but Matt Rubino continued his torrid postseason, launching a two-run two-out triple to dead center to put the Tobs ahead 2-0. Douglas Ard made it 3-0 with a single to the opposite field in the next at bat.
Justin Carroll followed with a two-out single of his own on a 1-2 count to put runners at first and second for the Tobs. Jake Armstrong made it four two-out hits in a row with a bounding ball over the head of Cook, but Jason McMurray, the second basemen for the Pilots, knowing that he had no play on the ball, pumped to first and the pump-fake deeked out Ard rounding third base. McMurray smartly threw to third and Lustrino, the third basemen, chased Ard to home where he was tagged out by the catcher Brandon Stephens.
The 3-0 lead gave Wilson the confidence to attack batters and attack the strike zone, which is exactly what he did, keeping the Pilots off the scoreboard through the next five innings of work while issuing just one walk and stranding another seven runners, giving him eight stranded through the firs six innings.
The Tobs had a big opportunity to put more runs up on the scoreboard in the sixth inning, but came up short. After allowing Ryan Cook to settle into a groove in the middle innings, including finishing the fourth and fifth innings on eleven total pitches, the Tobs bats finally made the righty starter for the Pilots work in the sixth. Ard worked a walk with two outs and Carroll again singled on a two-strike count, this time 0-2, to put two runners on with two outs. Hank Morgan, head coach of the Pilots, pulled Cook from the game and called on Devin Hemmerich, who immediately balked to move the runners to second and third. However, Jake Armstrong popped out to the right-fielder in foul territory on a 3-2 pitch to end the threat.
The Pilots immediately made the Tobs pay for the missed opportunity. Wilson went back out on the mound and looked as strong as ever, striking out pinch-hitter Andres Nelo before inducing a groundball to short from Brooks. However, the normally sure-handed Matt Rembielak committed his second error of the game and it opened the door for the Pilots. Wilson battled P.J. Higgins to a full count, but plunked Higgins, ending Wilson’s night.
Justin Hay, head coach of the Tobs, turned to the bullpen and the almost always-reliable left-handed arm of Daniel Batts, but Batts did not have his best stuff tonight. He immediately relinquished a double to Kyle Kempf, which provided the Pilots first run of the night and left the possible tying run at second and brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate in reigning CPL Home Run Derby King Alex Close. Close sat on a 2-2 backdoor curveball from Batts and smashed it over the wall in left, erasing the deficit and providing the Pilots with the 4-3 lead all in one swing of the bat.
The Tobs tried to bust down the bullpen door of the Pilots in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Jordan Brooks shut the door, striking out Jake Armstrong with runners at first and second and two outs.
John Allen, who had pitched the eighth inning without allowing a run, imploded in the ninth: he hit three batters in the frame, walked a batter and gave up two hits including a bases clearing triple to Andres Nelo, providing the Pilots with an insurmountable 8-3 lead. Thomas Buspice pitched a perfect ninth to seal the game for the Pilots, their fifth of five arms on the night.
The losing pitcher was Daniel Batts (0-1) who went just 0.2 innings pitched on three hits and two runs, both earned, while striking out one and allowing both inherited runners to score. Devin Hemmerich (1-0) picked up the win despite throwing just 1/3 innings pitched and not allowing a run. Blair Betts went a scoreless 1 1/3 IP while Jordan Brooks’ 2/3 IP was the bridge to Busbice.
If this was Michael Wilson’s final appearance for the Tobs on the season he comported himself well. The redshirt freshmen from DeVille, LA, who came into the game with an 0-4 record and a 5.35 ERA, went 6 1/3 IP, giving up five hits, striking out two and walking just one. He was charged with two runs, one of them earned, although he did leave the game without giving up a run to score before Batts allowed the two inherited runners to score.
The Tobs are now one loss away from elimination and will go on the road to the War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, VA to try and extend the season.
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