The Pilots are no strangers to getting the best of Tri-City, but this time it took 10 innings to do so.
The Pilots (15-4) defeated Tri-City (4-14) 9-7 at Shepherd Stadium Thursday behind redshirt freshman center fielder Trey Morgan’s four-hit day coupled with strong bullpen performances from righties Gage Williams and Michael Falco. The victory moves Peninsula 2 1/2 games ahead of Morehead City in the East Division standings with the first half of the season ending Sunday.
The top of the 10th inning saw the first international tiebreaker rule implemented of the season for Peninsula. Morgan was placed on first and freshman right fielder Elijah Lambros — who pinch ran for Hunter Hart in the ninth — was placed on second.
Justin Starke squared around to bunt for the first pitch of the at-bat, pulled back and took ball one. The play was taken off and a chopper to third moved up both runners, working essentially the same as a bunt.
Pilots third baseman Mason Dunaway — who usually finds himself in the batter’s box in crunch-time situations — came through yet again for his 16th RBI of the season which is one behind the team leader Alden Mathes.
Manager Hank Morgan elected to attempt a bunt with runners on the corners, but Trevon Dabney failed to execute, popping it up for catcher Cole Christman for out No. 2.
Another designed play worked out for the Pilots this time around.
During the next at-bat, Dunaway broke for second and, on the throw down, froze in his tracks. Trey Morgan then broke for the plate, scoring the second run of the inning for the Pilots to give them a 9-7 lead heading to the bottom of the 10th after Dunaway was tagged out in a rundown.
Junior right-handed pitcher Michael Falco relieved righty Gage Williams — who had pitched five relief innings, allowing just two runs — and retired the side in order on an unassisted bunt to the first baseman, a strikeout and a flyout to left field to close out Peninsula’s eighth win over Tri-City.
The Pilots found themselves in early trouble in the bottom of the first after a soft-lined single from Chili Peppers right fielder Cade Swisher. He was knocked in two batters later on a big fly from third baseman Ben Williamson, putting the Pilots behind against Tri-City at Shepherd Stadium for the first time in three games.
In the top of the second, Peninsula fought back to trim its deficit.
Trey Morgan grabbed the first hit of the game for the Pilots on an infield single to shortstop. The Hampton, Virginia, native reached second on a walk from Starke and went to third on a fielder’s choice from Dunaway.
Morgan scored the first run for the Pilots on a wild pitch — the first of three mishandled pitches that Peninsula took advantage of.
Tri-City clubbed its second home run in the bottom of the third — a solo blast from second baseman Casey Harford to give the Chili Peppers a 3-1 lead.
Morgan added two more on his second home run of the season — both of which have jumped the confines of Shepherd Stadium — on a two-run bomb that cleared the billboard advertisements in right-center field.
The Virginia Military Institute product finished 4-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
An inning later, Mathes and shortstop Jack Dragum mashed back-to-back dingers off of Tri-City lefty Maddison Furman — the fourth and fifth home runs, respectively, on the night.
With the game tied 5-5 in the top of the sixth, a passed ball allowed Dunaway to trot home. Then, two batters later a wild pitch from Tri-City lefty Logan Ross allowed left fielder Trevon Dabney to score his ninth run of the season to give Peninsula a 7-5 lead.
In the past two games against the Chili Peppers, the Pilots have scored four runs on either a wild pitch or passed ball.
Peninsula returns to War Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m. to square off again against the Chili Peppers as the first half of the season winds down. The Pilots’ magic number to clinch the East Division First Half title is two.
That means if Peninsula wins two games, Morehead City loses two or Peninsula wins the same day the Marlins lose, then the Pilots will clinch an automatic bid to the Petitt Cup playoffs.