The Pilots’ dominance of the Chili Peppers in 2021 continued Wednesday, picking up their seventh win against them prior to 3 p.m.
Peninsula (14-4) defeated Tri-City (4-13) 5-2 at Shepherd Stadium thanks to some timely hitting as all of the Pilots’ runs were scored with two outs. The victory moves them 1 1/2 games ahead of Morehead City in the East Division standings with just four games remaining in the first half of the season.
With Peninsula clinging to a narrow 2-0 lead, it put the game out of reach with a three-run inning in the top of the fifth.
After a Luke Zimmerman walk, designated hitter Alden Mathes tapped a ball to Chili Peppers first baseman Hunter Gilliam stepped on the bag and air-mailed his attempted 3-6 double play, allowing Zimmerman to coast into third.
Next batter, shortstop Jack Dragum skied a ball to right field that allowed the St. Joseph’s product to score on.
Three consecutive singles from left fielder Erik Stock, first baseman Justin Starke and center fielder Trey Morgan loaded the bases for third baseman Mason Dunaway.
The James Madison Duke knocked a groundball between the first and second baseman into right field for a two-out, two-RBI single for his 14th and 15th RBIs, respectively, on the season, extending the Pilots’ lead to 5-0, capping off the three-run fifth inning — which proved to be the difference in the game.
In the bottom of the sixth, Pilots righty Lliam Grubbs — who to that point had only allowed one hit on catcher Tommy Crider’s single in the third — surrendered his first two runs of the game.
The first came on an RBI single to left field from Ben Williamson. Then, after a 4-6 fielder’s choice, runners were on the corners with two outs.
Cade Swisher stole second and on Pilots catcher Zach Lass’ throw down in an attempt to end the inning, Williamson broke for home and scored to cut the Chili Peppers’ deficit to 5-2.
After a walk to put runners on first and second, Grubbs’ day was done after 5 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks, while striking out six Tri-City batters.
Grubbs turned the ball over to right-hander Alex Hinton who retired the Chili Peppers’ sixth-inning threat on just three pitches.
Pilots manager Hank Morgan then turned it over to Mathes who contributed three of the bullpen’s 3 1/3 perfect innings of relief to close out the game.
Last time the Pilots were at Shepherd Stadium, they scored seven runs in the first inning. This time around, they only grabbed one, but missed opportunities for more.
Mathes and Dragum led off with back-to-back bloop singles. Then, Stock bounced a ball off home plate with Crider trying to get the force out at third base, but was late on the throw loading the bases.
Peninsula had to have a little help from Tri-City right-handed pitcher Collin Lowe who threw a wild pitch with two outs, scoring Mathes from third to give the Pilots the early 1-0 lead.
In the top of the second, Stock put a charge into a ball that just barely cleared the short porch in right-center field for the second two-out run in as many innings for the Peninsula’s offense.
That marked Stock’s second home run at Shepherd Stadium in as many games.
The Pilots return to Colonial Heights, Virginia Thursday at 7 p.m. for its ninth contest against the Chili Peppers, entering play 7-1 against Tri-City on the season.