Before the bottom of the ninth with the Pilots down two runs, public address announcer Perry Wood fired up the crowd, concluding his message with, “It’s winning time.”
Peninsula took Wood’s words to heart, leaving victorious after the first eight innings looked bleak.
The Pilots (19-6 if they win, 2-1 second half) defeated the Mustangs (10-16, 2-2 second half) 6-5 on a throwing error from third baseman JT Inskeep at War Memorial Stadium Friday. The walk-off victory is Peninsula’s third of the season and first since a 2-1 win over Holly Springs.
“It just shows how much resiliency this team has,” Mason Dunaway, the man who put the ball in play that the error was committed on, said. “In front of a fabulous crowd, it was awesome.”
Mustangs right-hander Nathan Holt had given Martinsville eight strong innings, and despite being at 97 pitches, he certainly had the stuff to remain in the game, allowing just three hits and two runs in his final three innings, leaving the Mustangs in great position to come away with a 5-3 win.
“Their starter really mixed things up on us. Everything was moving, the cutter, the two-seamer, and we were having a hard time figuring out which one to be on,” Pilots manager Hank Morgan said. “I thought he could’ve finished the game to be honest with you.”
Martinsville manager Brandon Nania instead elected to go to righty Trey Carter — whose fastball lived in the low to mid-90-mph range — but the strike zone danced on him from his first pitch on.
Pilots designated hitter Alden Mathes — usually an aggressive swinger — took six pitches in a row to work a ninth-inning lead-off walk.
Second baseman Jack Dragum took the first swing by a Peninsula player in nine pitches, fouling a fastball back to the screen. He took another hack two pitches later, but, ultimately, drew the second walk in as many hitters to put runners on first and second.
Dragum’s seven-game hitting streak was snapped Friday, but he has reached base safely in 13 straight games, only failing to reach base in his June 14 0-for-3 Pilots debut.
Next batter — right fielder Erik Stock — put the first ball in play of the inning, popping a ball that Martinsville right fielder Will Knight overran to fall in for a single. Stock snapped his 0-for-9 skid in the seventh with a double that one-hopped the fence in left-center field.
Shortstop Logan Steenstra drew the third walk of the inning to collect his second RBI of his Pilots home debut, cutting the deficit to 5-4.
Morgan called on recent Ocean Lakes High School graduate Carson DeMartini with the bases loaded and nobody out to tie the game and he delivered.
DeMartini — who, entering play Friday, had already drawn nine walks in 24 plate appearances — collected another free pass for his second RBI of the season which could not have come at a better time, tying the game 5-5.
“DeMartini took a really grown-up at-bat in that situation,” Morgan said. “I’ve always been a believer that he who takes his walks is he who is about to be hot.”
Then, like Wood said prior to the inning’s beginning, it was winning time.
Dunaway took the first two pitches of the at-bat before chopping a slow roller to Inskeep who fielded, sailing his throw to the backstop. Then, the party began as the Pilots stormed the field to douse Dunaway with the ice-cold water cooler.
In the inning, Carter walked four without recording an out to gift wrap the Pilots the 6-5 win. Nania did not have another pitcher warming the entire bottom of the ninth.
The Pilots’ scoring opened on center fielder Trey Morgan’s RBI triple that he roped off the top of the slanted wall in the right-field corner, missing his third home run of the season by a couple feet.
Luckily he got a chance to redeem himself in the eighth as the Hampton, Virginia, native roped a 377-foot shot over the wall in right-center field — the first round-tripper for Peninsula at War Memorial Stadium in 2021.
Morgan finished the night 2-for-3 with the triple and the blast, adding a walk and two more RBIs to his season totals.
In the seventh, Peninsula collected back-to-back base hits to grab its second run of the game, trimming the deficit to 4-2.
Peninsula hits the road for the fourth time in six games, traveling Saturday to face familiar foe Tri-City at Shepherd Stadium at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed live on FloSports as live stats will be available on www.pointstreak.com.