Prior to the top of the ninth inning, the Pilots tied a season low with just four runs scored at Shepherd Stadium.
Like many of the previous 16 meetings between these two squads, Peninsula came roaring back for its fourth-consecutive comeback victory after trailing by as many as three runs.
The Pilots (25-8, 8-3 second half) downed Tri-City (6-26, 2-10 second half) 7-6, capitalizing on Chili Peppers second baseman Zach Hoekstra’s costly defensive error to extend their win streak in league play to five games.
Pilots right-hander Lliam Grubbs trotted out for his third inning of relief, looking to prevent Tri-City from adding to its 5-4 lead.
Hoekstra and right fielder Cade Swisher both singled to put runners on the corners. Swisher took off and Peninsula catcher Zach Lass’ throw skipped into second allowing Hoekstra to trot home from third to extend Tri-City’s lead to 6-4.
In the top of the ninth, left fielder Trevon Dabney and third baseman Mason Dunaway were both erased quickly, but, like many games between the Chili Peppers and Pilots, Peninsula was anywhere but out of the game.
Right fielder Alden Mathes dropped down an unexpected bunt single with Tri-City third baseman Logan Jarvis playing back and covering the line in a no-doubles defense.
Mathes concluded his impressive night 4-for-5 with an RBI double in the top of the fifth.
Following second baseman Jack Dragum’s five-pitch walk, designated hitter Carson DeMartini skied a ball high on the infield as Hoekstra looked to have camped under the pop up.
Hoekstra originally ranged to his right, but, as the ball fell to the ground, he scrambled back to his right and it fell in just beyond his outstretched glove. Mathes scored on the play and Dragum advanced to third to cut the game to a one-run deficit with two outs.
In what looked to be a runner-on-first-and-third stolen base — similar to how the Chili Peppers extended their lead in the bottom of the eighth — DeMartini broke for second without a throw from catcher Willie Havens.
The next pitch was not hit all that hard by first baseman Erik Stock, but it was perfectly placed. It rolled under both left-handed pitcher Jaden Griffin’s and shortstop Eliot Dix’s gloves, finding its way into center field for a two-RBI single to give the Pilots their first lead of the night at 7-6.
Peninsula right-hander Chris Ludman came on in his first high-leverage relief appearance, slamming the door with a three-up, three-down frame.
He capped off the victory by getting the best of Tri-City first baseman Hunter Gilliam who entered that plate appearance 3-for-4. Ludman punched him out after an 11-pitch at-bat that included five foul balls — indicative of how the Pilots seem to find a way to get the best of the Chili Peppers no matter the level of success to start the game.
The Pilots are back at home Saturday for Bark at the Park night where pregame music from “Take the Cake” will be made available on the left field pavilion. They will look to tack on to their 14-3 season clip against Tri-City at War Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.