Alden Mathes throws a pitch during his two-inning outing out of the bullpen, earning the first Pilots’ win of the season. [Credit: Jim Arend/Peninsula Pilots photographer]
Junior right-hander Chris Ludman said Sunday night he had a crawfish platter for dinner and that it helped him power through in the Pilots’ home opener.

Despite what is getting put in the water, one thing is for sure: Ludman’s seven-inning, one-hit outing — coupled with some timely late-game hitting — propelled Peninsula (1-0) to an opening day 2-0 victory over Holly Springs (3-1, 2-1 CPL) Monday. 

“You can’t be any better than he was tonight really, can’t be much better,” head coach Hank Morgan said. “When our hitters are kind of scuffling right there, for Ludman to do what he did and just keep hanging zeros, I mean, they didn’t get a runner to second base against him.”

Peninsula had just two hits through the first seven innings, but in the eighth inning it found its sticks and got a little help in the process.

Redshirt freshman first baseman Justin Starke started the rally with a one-out, frozen-roped single to left field. The Prince George, Virginia, native later came around to score on a two-error play by Holly Springs’ shortstop and center fielder.

Pilots redshirt freshman third baseman Mason Dunaway grounded a tailor-made double play ball that went between the legs of Josh Hood, allowing Starke to cruise into third. Tanner Roach fielded it in shallow center and threw home, sailing it to the backstop as Starke hustled home and Dunaway to third.

The next batter — redshirt freshman utility Alden Mathes — laced a line-drive single over the Salamanders’ second baseman to score the Pilots’ second, and final, run of the ballgame.

That was all the offense needed to prevail because Ludman was dealing.

The University of Delaware product retired the first 10 hitters he faced in order before hitting Salamanders’ freshman designated hitter Ryan Wilson on his forearm.

From then on, Ludman retired the next eight Holly Springs hitters before Wilson reached again on a bouncer through the right side of the Pilots’ infield, breaking up the righty’s six-inning no-hit bid.

“The first inning was pretty nuts, I’m not used to pitching in front of that many people, so it was awesome,” Ludman said. “I got rolling, the crowd had my back, so it was just awesome to have the crowd behind me, I think it was helping me out a lot.”

Ludman finished with only five strikeouts across his seven frames of work Monday, pitching to contact and relying on his defense to back him up.

Despite posting an error on a failed backhanded attempt from redshirt freshman shortstop Zac Morris in the seventh, the Pilots’ defenders backed up Ludman nicely.

Redshirt sophomore left fielder Trevon Dabney charged in to make a diving play in shallow left field to record the first out in the top of the fourth and Morris made a nice on-the-run throw across the diamond two innings later.

“I was just pounding the zone and every single play they seemed to make,” Ludman said.

The Pilots’ offense struggled in the early going against Holly Springs’ three pitchers, something Morgan said was a product of getting caught up in the first game’s exhilarating atmosphere.

Mathes — who earned the win, closing out the final two innings after serving as the team’s designated hitter for the first seven — said the team just needed to hit through the lineup a few times before they got their footing.

The Broomall, Pennsylvania, native capped off the Memorial Day ballgame by striking out the side in the ninth and walking off the mound to an eruptive applause from the 2,179 fans in attendance.

“It was awesome, probably the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of,” Mathes said. “Probably the most enthusiastic crowd as well, I mean their energy helped us win that one.” 

The Pilots are back in action at War Memorial Stadium Tuesday as they take on Wilson at 7:05 p.m. Morgan said probable starters on the mound are either freshman left-hander Jay Cassady or redshirt sophomore righty Lliam Grubbs.