Entering play against the Chili Peppers Monday, Pilots two-way Luke Zimmerman was hitting .200 with just three RBIs, contributing mostly on the mound after a knee injury kept him sidelined from June 30 to July 15.
Zimmerman raised his average 76 points and now has double-digit RBIs, etching his name into Peninsula history forever.
Zimmerman’s seven RBIs — which tied the single-game record for most in a game — gave the Pilots (30-10, 13-5 second) the 8-6 victory in its final game against Tri-City (7-30, 3-14 second half) in 2021. All three of the first baseman’s hits gave Peninsula a lead with his seventh-inning knock proving to be the difference in the ballgame.
“It was a close call on the 3-1 call; [the umpire] brought me back in the box after running up the line,” Zimmerman said about his seventh-inning at-bat. “He threw me an outside fastball and I stayed with it up the middle and just lucky it got through.”
In the second inning, center fielder Trey Morgan and shortstop Logan Steenstra drew the first two of the team’s seven walks. Then, on a 1-1 pitch, Zimmerman launched his second-career homer in a Peninsula uniform — a 376-foot three-pointer and his first of the season to open the scoring.
The Pilots then found themselves down 4-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth, but Zimmerman was back for more.
Left fielder Erik Stock laced a line-drive double — his seventh of the season — to War Memorial Stadium’s right-field corner followed by Morgan’s bunt single to put runners on the corners.
Another walk loaded the bases for Zimmerman who knocked a two-RBI single to right-center field to retake the lead 5-4 after the sixth.
Following a two-run Tri-City top of the seventh Peninsula was down yet again, but Zimmerman got another opportunity a half-inning later.
Chili Peppers right-handed pitcher Jacob Conover walked the bases loaded before being yanked for righty Connor Handy.
Designated hitter Jack Dragum skied his team-leading fifth sacrifice fly to center field before Handy loaded the bases on a six-pitch walk to Steenstra.
Zimmerman stepped to the dish with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, and, for the second time in as many plate appearances, he smacked a looping liner up and into right-center field — almost a carbon copy of his sixth-inning knock.
The Saint Joseph’s Hawk recognized Tri-City center fielder Carson Jones’ throw missed the cutoff man and went all the way home. Zimmerman broke for second base on the overthrow, but Chili Peppers catcher Tommy Crider cut him down trying to advance on the throw just inches before his record-setting eighth RBI of the game crossed the plate.
“We’ve had a lot of nights where we’ve seen him take pregame and we’re like, ‘OK, Luke’s locked in,’” manager Hank Morgan said. “But, we still never really got to him. I know it’s been frustrating for him waiting on that opportunity, but a lot of credit to be given to him for understanding that it’s a team game and staying completely locked in and what a great night for him.”
He finished 3-for-4 with seven RBIs, falling just a triple shy of the cycle. The only other time in Peninsula history that a player has driven in seven runs in a game was when Kyle McPherson did so in an Aug. 2, 2016 19-2 win against Petersburg.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling, I’ve been here for three summers now,” Zimmerman said. “Obviously, I love playing here, I love this place and to be remembered for something like that is pretty cool.”
The Pilots’ Tuesday exhibition against Tarboro was canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the River Bandits’ team. Their next game will be a road doubleheader against the Tobs in Wilson, North Carolina at 7 p.m.
The game will be broadcast live on FloSports and live stats will be available on www.poinstreak.com.