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While it’s only eight games into the Coastal Plain League season, the Wilson Tobs returned to the confines of Fleming Stadium on Tuesday night as the owners of the worst team batting average in the league at .184.
So how did the Tobs manage to make an aggressive climb towards the Mendoza line against the Wilmington Sharks in outing No. 9?
Simply by smashing one relentless double after another in a four-run fifth inning.
Wilson, which entered play as losers of two in a row and five of its last six contests, put together four doubles in the fifth inning as it rallied from an early three-run deficit to score seven unanswered runs in an 7-3 victory.
“We’ve just been waiting to break it open,” first-year Tobs head coach Bryan Hill said. “The last home game, we had bases loaded four times and got one run out of it. So it’s about time some things fell. It’s not like we hadn’t been hitting the ball. We just hadn’t been rewarded for it yet. So, we finally did. It felt good.
The Tobs moved to 4-5 overall in their first meeting with the Sharks this season, while Wilmington dropped to the .500 mark at 5-5.
The result made a winner out of Wilson reliever Gary Watkins, who spelled starter Chris Farrell in the fifth inning and retired nine of the 11 batters he faced. Watkins sat down eight straight Sharks to open his outing before an error and single caused Wilmington to threaten. A passed ball moved a pair of runners into scoring position, but Wallace, with a healthy diet of off-speed stuff to include his curveball and changeup, got Paxton Wallace to ground out to end the threat.
“That’s one of the best feelings you can have as a pitcher,” Gary Watkins said of being staked to a lead. “Just coming out of the pen, and once our runners just started getting on base, our hitters started knocking them in. It’s just the best feeling I could have out there.”
Farrell lasted four innings and settled down after the first, allowing five hits. He struck out four and walked three.
Wilson diligently made headway against an early three-run deficit in the top of the first. After Noah Liles walked and Wallace slapped a single, Danny Wondrack’s three-run home run to left field put the Sharks up 3-0.
However, the Tobs scratched back with a two-out solo homer from Brenton Doyle, his second of the season, in the fourth. Doyle added a double in Wilson’s fifth-inning spree. In the fifth, Dudley Taw’s single into right field plated Carson Freeman, who had walked.
Trailing by one, Wilson scored three of its four runs in the fifth with two outs. Doyle and Drew Brooks had back-to-back doubles to tie the game, and Wake Forest University shortstop Patrick Frick laced a hit that curled towards the right-field line. Wilmington right fielder Ayden Karraker made a run and appeared to have a chance at it to end the inning, but the ball careened out of his glove.
The play was ruled the Tobs’ third double of the inning and gave Wilson the lead for good. Carson Freeman followed with an RBI single and Dean smashed a double into center field, giving the Tobs a 6-3 cushion.
“I feel like for the most part — not even today, but the whole time — we’ve been seeing it well,” Brooks said of Wilson’s approach at the plate. “But like Coach (Hill) said, stuff hasn’t been falling for us. Our rhythm has been a little messed up from off days from rain outs to delays and everything like that. Tomorrow’s an off day, so hopefully it doesn’t mess up our rhythm again.”
Dean, who finished 2 for 4, lashed a seventh-inning RBI single into left field. Jacob Nester doubled in the sixth as the Tobs generated six extra base hits. Wilson threatened for runs in the third with runners on the corners, but a sharp line drive was fielded by shortstop Wil Hoyle ranging to the middle for the third out.
Starter Trent Alley was tagged with the loss for Wilmington, lasting 4 2/3 innings and allowing seven of the Tobs’ 11 hits. He struck out four and walked four.
Jared Gallagher and Luis Acosta worked the eighth and ninth innings for Wilson, respectively. Each defense was responsible for a pair of errors. Gallagher authored a spotless eighth.
After Wednesday’s scheduled off day, the Tobs remain in Fleming Stadium to oppose North Division rival Edenton on Thursday.