Right-handed pitcher Lance Hinton trotted out of the bullpen to relieve righty ace Chris Ludman who, for the first time this season, got hit around in his 4 1/3 innings of work.
Hinton was thrust into a tough situation with runners on second and third with one out, needing to limit the damage and keep the Pilots’ deficit at four runs. He struck out Cole Christman and induced a flyout to left field to retire the side, proving to be a crucial turning point in Peninsula’s ever-so-important victory
The Pilots (16-4) won its second battle-tested game in a row against the Chili Peppers (4-15) 6-4 Friday, overcoming an early 4-0 deficit to score six unanswered runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. The victory moves Peninsula just one win or a Morehead City loss away from clinching the First-Half East Division crown and an automatic bid to the postseason.
In the bottom of the fifth — a half-inning after Hinton neutralized the Tri-City threat — recent high school graduate Carson DeMartini led off with a walk, jump-starting the Pilots’ offense that had been stymied to that point.
Following a Zach Lass single up the middle past a diving Jack Capobianco at shortstop and an Alden Mathes walk, Peninsula’s first run of the game was scored on an RBI walk from Jack Dragum.
One batter later, left fielder Erik Stock popped a fly ball to shallow right field and, in a gutsy move, third-base coach David Mitchell sent Lass from third to cut the deficit in half, then at 4-2.
The following inning started the same way as the previous with a Trey Morgan walk and a Mason Dunaway single.
DeMartini pushed across the first run of the inning on a sacrifice fly, picking up his first RBI as a Pilot.
The Virginia Tech commit oddly finished the night 0-for-0 with three walks and the run batted in in the sixth, raising his on-base percentage 94 points to its current .538 clip on the season.
Lass followed that up one batter later with a bunt that rolled up the first base line. Tri-City first baseman Logan Jarvis fielded it and attempted to tag out Lass, but the Richmond Spider evaded the attempt and dove headfirst into the bag for an RBI single, tying the game 4-4.
In the seventh, a Dragum walk was followed by a ball that Stock stung to the left-field corner, rattling around for an RBI double — his first two-bagger of the season.
Two wild pitches later, Stock scored standing to push the game to its final clip of 6-4, turning the ball over to pitcher Carmine Poppiti III to finish it out.
Poppiti relieved Hinton after the sixth inning and dealt three scoreless innings in which the only baserunner he allowed was a two-out single to Casey Harford in the ninth.
The James Madison right-hander threw the final three innings, allowing no runs on one hit while walking none and striking out four to earn his third win of the season.
The Pilots have a quick turnaround and are back on the road for their third road game in four days. Peninsula will be at Hooker Field in Martinsville, Virginia to take on the Mustangs for the second time this season — it won 6-2 June 5 at War Memorial Stadium.