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In the 80-year history of Fleming Stadium, the edifice has been home to a number of quality pitching duels.
Tuesday’s slogging Coastal Plain League contest will not be counted among them.
But the Wilson Tobs won’t care about that. Rather, they will focus on a rampaging offensive attack that produced a season-high 18 hits and an early 9-0 lead en route to a 16-8 victory over the Peninsula Pilots.
Wilson, the first-half North Division champion, won its fifth straight game to improve to 21-14 overall and 6-3 in the season’s second half. Peninsula dropped to 19-18 in all games, 6-4 in the second half.
The five-game winning streak, cemented in a span of 3 hours and 35 minutes, ties a season high for the Tobs as 10 players collected at least one hit. The sole omission from that list was third baseman De’Andre Pitts, who went 0 for 1 — with five walks to his credit.
After seizing its initial 9-0 lead, Wilson saw the Pilots close to within 9-5 and 12-7. However, the Tobs responded by keeping the pressure on a battery of six Peninsula pitchers. The teams combined for a total of 32 hits.
“For me, it’s that our guys pitched to contact,” Tobs assistant coach Kramer Sneed said. “We limited the free base runners. We still struck out 10-plus batters. Yeah, they hit the ball a little bit, we know Peninsula does that. I’m proud of our guys. We left a lot of runners stranded too. It could have been a little more dicey, but our guys battled through some adversity, and we came out on top.”
Sneed carried out the pregame lineup card exchange in place of head coach Bryan Hill, who was serving a one-game suspension following his ejection from Monday’s win at Holly Springs.
Second baseman Kevin Jordan extended his hitting streak to seven games and went 4 for 6 with a double and an RBI. Nick Rose went 3 for 6 with a double and three RBIs, while Christian Avant tallied a run-scoring double as part of a 3-for-5 showing.
The first five batters of the game reached for Wilson, including DeShawn Lookout’s RBI single that scored Pitts. As part of Wilson’s four-run first, catcher Shamoy Christopher hit his team-leading sixth home run of the season, taking an offering from Peninsula starter Cameron Ochsenfeld over the wall in left center for a three-run shot.
Wilson batted around in the second against Peninsula reliever D.C. Arceneaux, pushing across five more runs. Jordan and Avant had back-to-back RBI doubles, and Lookout’s sacrifice fly allowed Jordan to score. Everything appeared to break the Tobs’ way, as Avant touched home on a wild pitch from second.
Rose’s double to left field scored Christopher, putting the Tobs up 9-0.
“Every night, we just kind of come out and we’re trying to ball with our bros,” Jordan said. “It keeps us loose and relaxed, and that’s just kind of the way we approach things. And, it works.”
Behind the plate, Christopher was inadvertently struck with the bat in the fourth inning and remained down for a while. He finished the half inning, but was substituted before his plate appearance in the fifth, creating a litany of defensive changes for Wilson.
Peninsula used a pair of two-run homers from Nick Biddison in the third and Drew Ashley in the fourth to climb to within 9-5.
But the Tobs countered with a run-scoring single from Rose in the fourth and Lookout’s fourth homer of 2019 to left field in the fifth. Pitts, in coaxing out his third walk, ultimately trotted home on a wild pitch in the fifth for a 12-5 Tobs cushion.
“As a pitching coach, it’s almost like we scored them too early!” Sneed said. “I’d rather throw up some zeros and then score runs, but I can’t say enough about our team as a whole. Our hitters have really just put it together the last week and a half coming off the all-star break in really just swinging the bats well.”
Carr’s contribution off the bench came in the form of a two-run homer in the seventh, a ball that rapidly disappeared beyond the wall in right center.
“The very start of the year, we were super hot with the bats,” Jordan said. “We felt like we were going to win no matter what like that, and then, in the middle stretch before the first half ended, we kind of went cold a little bit. Seeing everything come back to life offensively and with our pitching is real nice. Our pitching has always been pretty consistent, but our bats were slumping a while.”
Steven Worley, a product of North Johnston High now at the University of Mount Olive, earned the win in relief, pitching the fifth inning and allowing two hits. Ochsenfeld took the loss, being reached for Wilson’s four runs in the first.
Grant Fremion started for Wilson and threw four innings, allowing eight hits. All five of his runs were earned.
Biddison, despite being the Tobs’ designated promotional “strikeout victim,” responded by going 4 for 5 with a double and five RBIs, including a towering two-run homer in the third.
The game also marked the first Fleming Stadium appearance for field umpire Greta Langhenry, who began work with the CPL on July 11. Langhenry is the first female umpire in the league’s history and was called into CPL service as the next highest-ranked graduate of the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) Umpire Development Advanced Course. The CPL’s partnership with the minor leagues allows it to be the final stop before qualified umpires are given their first assignments in professional baseball.
Score by innings:
Peninsula 003 202 010 — 8
Wilson 450 120 22x — 16
WP-Steven Worley (2-0) 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO. LP-Cameron Ochsenfeld (0-1) 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Wilson: Kevin Jordan 4-6, 2B, RBI, Christian Avant 3-5, 2B, RBI, Nick Rose 3-6, 2B, 3 RBI , Deshawn Lookout 2-4, HR, 3 RBI, Chase Wullenweber 2-3, Shamoy Christopher 1-2, HR, 3 RBI, Jared Carr 1-1, HR, 2 RBI; Peninsula: Nick Biddison 4-5, 2B, HR, 5 RBI, Riley Hogan 3-5, Drew Ashley 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, Jake Boone 1-4, 2B.