Leaky defense dooms Tobs in 8-5 loss to Marlins

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The defense of the Wilson Tobs gave its pitchers breathing room at times during Tuesday’s Coastal Plain League game against the Morehead City Marlins in Fleming Stadium.

It also took away said breathing room in a painful manner.

Wilson’s defense turned three double plays to limit the Marlins from any big inning, but three Tobs errors produced four costly unearned runs, and Danton Hyman’s two-run double in the top of the eighth inning helped nudge the Marlins to an 8-5 victory.

After opening the season with two victories, Wilson’s second loss left it with a 2-2 record. Morehead City, leaders in the CPL’s new four-team East Division, improved to 4-1.

“We beat ourselves,” Tobs head coach Bryan Hill lamented. “That’s just what we finished talking about over there. We make the simple plays and not have any mistakes — mistakes happen, especially physical mistakes. That’s going to happen. But if we avoid those mistakes, we’re still playing or we’re winning.”

While neither starter — Wilson’s Chris Farrell nor Morehead City’s Sawyer Gipson-Long — flashed shutdown stuff, Wilson’s three errors helped put it on the wrong side of a close contest and wasted a 4-for-5 showing from leadoff batter Brenton Doyle.

The Tobs middle infield of La Salle second baseman Kevin McGowan and Wake Forest shortstop Patrick Frick turned double plays in the first, third and fourth innings that helped keep Morehead City insurgences under control. But in the third, fifth and sixth innings, a trio of errors left the Tobs in chase mode.

In the third, Hyman singled and should have been retired on a force play at second base, but the throw from Wilson second baseman Kevin McGowan was errant. That brought up Joe Mason, who sent a single up the middle to stake the Marlins to a 3-2 lead.

Two more unearned runs crossed for Morehead City in the fifth and once more in the sixth. Wilson cut the deficit to 6-5 in its half of the sixth after Jacob Nestor singled and Carson Freeman drew a walk. Nestor stole third and touched home on the errant throw from Morehead City catcher Bryce Delevie. Later, Doyle slapped his fourth hit, a single, into left field to plate Freeman.

“We should have beat this team easily,” Doyle reviewed. “Having a 4-for-5 night, it’s awesome, but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. We’ve just got to get back. We play the same team tomorrow, so hopefully we get some payback tomorrow.”

However, Morehead City picked up its breathing room in the eighth against Tobs reliever Gary Watkins. The Marlins parlayed three singles against him to load the bases, and with two outs, Hyman steered a 1-2 offering that dropped down the left-field line to give the visitors the final margin.

“He accidentally ran into that one,” Hill said. “We’re not a big fan of dink hits and guys who get them like that, but that’s baseball for you. He looked like he hit it with a rolled-up newspaper, but it’s a double in the books. So we’ve got to make a better pitch in that count, but hats off to (Hyman) for getting it done.”

Chris Farrell out of William & Mary took the loss for the Tobs, working five innings. He allowed eight hits, while striking out three and walking two. Only two of the five runs charged to the right-hander were earned. Garrett Letchworth picked up the win for Morehead City in relief, throwing one inning and allowing a pair of hits. Sawyer Gipson-Long picked up the start and worked four innings before departing short of victory eligibility. Shamoy Christopher and Antwaun Tucker each had two hits for Wilson and drove in a run.

Morehead City head coach Jesse Lancaster from the University of Mount Olive acknowledged the crispness of the two defenses played a key role. Wilson was assessed three errors, compared to just one for the Marlins. 

“That was the name of it,” Lancaster said. “That was taking care of the baseball a little bit better. Fortunate for us, I think a couple of double plays got misplayed, and we’re probably playing from behind if they make those plays.”

Brandon Marklund entered in the ninth for the Marlins and retired the side in order after Christopher grounded into a double play to end it. Mason led Morehead City at the plate, going 3 for 5 with a double and a pair of RBIs.

The Tobs, who visit Big Rock Stadium on Wednesday night for a rematch, were outhit 14-10. The CPL’s new divisional structure assured the teams will only see each other four times this season.

“I’m glad of it!” Lancaster said. “I’m glad we won’t see them often. I know that’s going to be a competitive team all year. So I don’t mind if we don’t see them any more after tomorrow.”