The Pilots went deep three times — enough to fend off a late ninth-inning charge from the Mustangs.
Peninsula (26-8, 9-3 second half) utilized the long ball to take down a struggling Martinsville (13-22, 5-8 second half) team 7-3, as Pilots left-handed pitcher Jay Cassady threw six shutout innings, silencing the Mustang bats.
“Jay deserves credit for staying with the process, you know, trying to continue to get better every night out,” manager Hank Morgan said. “Another thing that was really big was Brock Gagliardi behind the plate. He called a fantastic game, really did a good job playing the up-down game with them.”
Both pitchers combined to allow just five base hits in the first four innings of the game with Martinsville right-hander Nathan Holt walking three hitters.
Other than that, nothing for both offenses.
In the fifth, though, Peninsula center fielder Elijah Lambros led off the fifth inning with a five-pitch walk. Right fielder Alden Mathes bounced into what looked to be the second double play in as many innings, but he beat out shortstop Landon Shaw’s throw to first.
On the next pitch, left fielder Erik Stock launched a line-drive two-run homer that barely got over the 330-foot wall in left field.
Two innings later, Mathes turned around a Holt fastball that did not come back, extending the Pilots’ lead to 3-0. The Richmond Spider’s eighth big fly of the season broke a four-way tie with High Point-Thomasville’s Thomas Caufield, Wilmington’s David Smith and Asheboro’s Will Stewart for fifth-most in the league.
Mathes finished 2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored.
“I thought from our offensive perspective, we did a nice job of grinding out some at-bats and getting his pitch count up or else, I thought he could’ve kept going,” Morgan said. “The offense credit for forcing him to throw some pitches and, kind of, wearing him down a little bit.”
That was all Cassady needed as he dazzled in his six-inning start.
Entering play Monday, Cassady had not had a start where he did not allow a run, but he did against Martinsville.
The only real trouble the Christopher Newport product ran into was in the fourth when he allowed a ringing leadoff double that one-hopped the wall in the left-field corner to left fielder Christian Easley.
During the next at-bat, Cassady spiked a fastball in the dirt that hit off the mask of catcher Brock Gagliardi, allowing Easley to advance to third with no outs.
In what was a 0-0 game at the time, manager Hank Morgan elected to bring the infield in, but their services were not needed.
Cassady struck out the next two Martinsville hitters — Benjamin Serrano and Jack Elliot — before inducing a third-out fly out to right field.
The Burke, Virginia, native ended his six-inning start allowing just two hits while striking out seven Mustangs.
In his Pilots debut behind the plate, catcher Brock Gagliardi nailed a three-pointer to almost the same spot as Mathes’ in right-center field to put the game out of reach at 6-0.
“He hadn’t been in the box for a month, so a little bit of an adjustment period there,” Morgan said. “I’ll take a hard-hit ball and a good play, and then a three-run homer later in the night for my first time back if I get a chance.”
Stock’s second hit of the game was a leadoff triple, scoring one batter later on second baseman Carson DeMartini’s sacrifice fly — his sixth RBI of the season.
After back-to-back scoreless innings from righty Nic Psimas and southpaw Trey Morgan, right-hander Michael Falco struggled to preserve the shutout.
The first three Martinsville hitters reached on a pair of singles and an RBI double, respectively. Serrano and Elliot hit back-to-back sacrifice flies to cut their deficit 7-3 before Falco struck out Matt Malone to end it.
The Pilots return to War Memorial Stadium Tuesday to square off against Tri-City at 7 p.m. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. as Peninsula enters play 14-3 versus the Chili Peppers this season.