For the first time since their Aug. 7, 2020 exhibition contest against The C-Team — an independent team composed of Hampton Roads Major-League prospects — the Pilots were not victorious.
Peninsula (6-1) lost 2-1 to Holly Springs (6-2) Tuesday after its ninth-inning charge was killed on a game-ending double play — its second of the game with a runner on third base.
The Pilots found themselves down for the third game in a row when Salamanders redshirt sophomore right fielder Marek Chlup clobbered a tape-measure solo shot over the scoreboard in left field in the fourth inning.
Peninsula’s offense — which overcame the deficits of the previous two nights — looked like it was going to do so again when redshirt freshman shortstop Zac Morris doubled to deep right center field to lead off the top of the fifth, advancing to third one batter later on a skipping groundout up the middle.
Redshirt freshman catcher Zach Lass whiffed on a 1-2 breaking ball in the dirt, drawing Holly Springs’ catcher out from behind home plate to make the dropped-third-strike putout to first. Morris saw an opening with no one covering the plate and dashed for home.
Salamanders’ pitcher Jacob Kush covered the vacant home plate, blocked Morris’ path to slide, received the throw and tagged out the Suffolk, Virginia, native to complete the 2-3-1 double play and end the Pilots’ threat in the fifth.
Peninsula broke through in the eighth to tie the game 1-1 thanks to some misfires from Holly Springs sophomore right-hander Mike Walsh.
Southern Indiana second baseman Ethan Hunter led off with a single and was off to the races. On the third and fourth pitches, respectively, of Alden Mathes’ at-bat, Hunter raced to second and third base.
Mathes struck out on five pitches, but the first pitch to redshirt freshman first baseman Justin Starke was skied to the warning track in left field for a sacrifice fly.
A half-inning later, though, Chlup clubbed his second dinger of the night — this one longer than the first — to give Holly Springs a 2-1 lead heading to the ninth.
With one out, redshirt sophomore Trevon Dabney drew a six-pitch walk before Virginia Military Institute center fielder Trey Morgan smacked a back-side single to left field to put runners on first and second.
Morris followed that up by grounding a swinging bunt up the third-base line, reaching on an error by Salamanders’ third baseman Cash Young to load the bases with one out.
Richmond catcher Zach Lass beat a fastball up the middle for a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play to end the game and Peninsula’s comeback hopes.
The loss ends the Pilots’ historic start to 2021, falling just one win shy of the record for most consecutive wins to begin a season.
The Pilots finish up their three-game road trip Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. in Colonial Heights, Virginia, as they will take on the Tri-City Chili Peppers for the second time this season. Peninsula won the opening game between these two teams on a 6-5 walk-off balk.