The Peninsula Pilots overcame a shaky start to overcome a five-run deficit to stun and hand the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team its first loss of the 2014 summer, 7-5 at War Memorial Stadium on Sunday night (photo courtesy of Ralph Wood). The win for the Pilots marked the first time a team in the Coastal Plain League has defeated Team USA; and closed the 2014 USA-CPL Tour presented by Baseball America out on a positive and promising note for the CPL.
Down 5-2 and trailing for five innings, the Pilots took the lead with a four-run sixth inning. Alex Close (Liberty) led off the inning with a routine fly ball that fell between three fielders with Close hustling all the way for a double. Kyle Kempf (Southern Indiana) followed with a walk, prompting Team USA to go to the bullpen and counter with Trey Killian (Arkansas). Killian walked the first batter he faced loading the bases with no outs. Andy Lennington (Southeast Missouri State) knocked in a run on a single through the left side to cut the Collegiate National Team’s lead to two. After two quick outs, it looked like Team USA would be able to preserve the lead but Garrett Brooks (East Carolina) had other plans as he tied the game with a two-run single to right field. PJ Higgins (Old Dominion) followed with a hard shot to first base that was too hard to corral, allowing the Pilots to take the 6-5 lead.
The hosts added an insurance run in the seventh on a suicide squeeze to put the Pilots up 7-5 that ended up being the final score. With runners on the corners and one out, Lennington squared for a bunt with Kempf running on the pitch. Killian fielded the bunt cleanly but could not get Kempf at home in time giving the Pilots a two-run lead. The bullpen held Team USA scoreless the rest of the way to preserve the win for Peninsula.
The Red, White, and Blue jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the first two innings before the Peninsula Pilots bullpen shut out the team the rest of the way. Ryan Lenaburg (Southeast Missouri State) got the call to start for the Pilots against the nation’s best collegiate players.
Some nerves were shown in the first inning as Team USA scored three runs. Mark Mathias (Cal Poly) and Christin Stewart (Tennessee) started the game with back-to-back singles. The next batter, Alex Bregman (LSU), hit a sharp ground ball that first baseman Close, could not get a handle on, thus allowing Mathias to score the first run of the exhibition. DJ Stewart (Florida State) followed with an RBI groundout to score his teammate and put the CNT up by two runs before an out was recorded. After a wild pitch moved Bregman to third, Blake Trahan (Louisiana-Lafayette) drove a pitch up the middle to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
Team USA added two more runs in the second with Stewart’s double to the right field wall that scored Zack Collins (Miami) and Mathias. After the inning, the bats went cold with the team only scattering five more hits throughout the game.
Bailey Ober (College of Charleston) got the nod to pitch against the Pilots and breezed through two innings while striking out four. AJ Minter (Texas A&M) followed Ober with a scoreless third inning, walking three and striking out one. Jimmy Herget (South Florida) pitched an inning, giving up four runs. Trey Killian was charged with the loss giving up three runs – two earned – on three hits in 1 2/3 innings of work. Meanwhile, Tyler Jay (Illinois) and Dillon Tate (UC Santa Barbara) combined for three strikeouts in 1 1/3 innings.
The Pilots bullpen tossed seven scoreless innings with Shawn Clowers (Liberty) and Ryan Cook (Richmond) each tossing two innings. Both pitchers allowed two hits while Clowers struck out two and Cook struck out four. Cook was awarded the win as the Pilots took the lead in the sixth inning. Jonathan Rosenberger (Newberry), Brandon Stephens (Georgia), and Thomas Busbice (Iowa Western CC) each pitched an inning in relief with a strikeout to preserve the victory.
Team USA was led by Stewart and Trahan, who both had three hit nights. Mathias, Stewart, and Nick Banks (Texas A&M) each added a single for Team USA. Brooks and Close notched multi-hit games for the Pilots, while Brooks added three RBIs and Lennington knocked in two to lead the Pilots offensively.
The Pilots will hit the road for a three game swing before returning home on Thursday to host Edenton for our Military Appreciation Night. The Pilots travel to Petersburg on Monday night to close out the first half before heading to Fayetteville and Morehead City. We will honor our military and have a fireworks display for Thursday’s game. For more information regarding the season, please visit www.peninsulapilots.com. For up to the minute details on Pilots Baseball be sure to “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @PeninsulaPilots. Use the #PilotsNation to spread the word about the Pilots!