The rain moved in about 45 minutes prior to the 7 p.m. first pitch and went on for about an hour, delaying the game’s start time until a few minutes after 9 p.m.
For the Pilots (3-0), though, the hits continued to pour, battling back from an early deficit to post a season-high 14 base knocks en route to a 7-4 victory against Wilson (0-3) Friday at War Memorial Stadium. Freshman right-handed pitcher Carmine Poppiti III gave the Pilots five shutout innings out of the bullpen to preserve Peninsula’s third win of the season.
“The star of the game right there is Pop,” head coach Hank Morgan said. “If you look at the line score, the whole game calmed right there in the fifth when he came in the game.”
After Peninsula was in a 3-0 hole after the top of the first, it responded for five unanswered runs in the bottom of the first and second innings, but not without some help from the Tobs shoddy defense who committed four errors on the night.
After back-to-back singles from redshirt freshmen center fielder Trey Morgan — the lefty’s first of the season — and shortstop Zac Morris, redshirt sophomore left fielder Trey Dabney reached on a bobble by Tobs second baseman Dylan Scaranda to plate the Pilots’ second run, cutting the deficit to 3-2 after the first.
In the bottom of the second, the weirdness continued.
The first two Peninsula hitters reached on a single and an error, respectively, bringing freshman right fielder Elijah Lambros to the plate.
Lambros grounded a ball to Scaranda who misfired his throw to second, allowing the Pilots to tie the game 3-3. Wilson head coach Harry Markotay had a 10-minute discussion with umpires that resulted in Lambros being called out for his bat being of an unsanctioned brand, taking the run off the board and placing the runners back at first and second base.
The next batter — redshirt freshman first baseman Justin Starke — popped a ball high into the dark, hazy night sky. Wilson center fielder Jared Carr lost the ball in the air, slipped on the wet grass when he finally picked up its track as it dropped in for a two-RBI double to give the Pilots a 4-3 lead.
“I think that was big as far as momentum goes,” Starke said. “I think that’s what we’re looking to do all year is just kind of pick each other up when something like that goes down, so it was definitely a big turning point in the game.”
Peninsula capped off its three-run inning as Starke advanced to third on a wild pitch before Wilson junior catcher Chase Wullenweber sailed his throwdown into left field, allowing the Virginia Military Institute product to trot home for Peninsula’s fifth run of the game.
That paved the way for Poppiti who had to pick up junior lefty Robert Cook’s early struggles.
In the top of the first inning, Wilson got singles on back-to-back pitches from two Logans — Keller and Carr, respectively — before senior first baseman Riley Jepson walked on four pitches, bringing sophomore third baseman Andrew Fleming to the plate.
He laced the first pitch he saw screaming into right field, sailing over freshman right fielder Elijah Lambros’ head to clear the bases, giving the Tobs the early 3-0 lead.
Before Cook retired the side in the first, he walked junior left fielder Brainy Rojas — the second walk of the inning. Coming into Friday, Pilots pitchers had walked one batter in 18 innings on the mound.
Poppiti took over after Cook’s three-inning outing and an inning of work from freshman righty Lance Hinton with a two-run lead.
He allowed a single to Wullweber with two outs in the fifth — the only base knock Poppiti allowed on the night — and walked Scaranda in the ninth.
The James Madison righty retired 13 of the last 14 Tobs hitters on the night.
“After seeing a guy like that go up there keep getting us chances, throwing up zeros, that just instills a lot of confidence in our offense, just come out and give him some run support,” Starke said.
The Pilots will be back on the diamond at War Memorial Stadium Saturday against Martinsville at 7:05 p.m. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m.