(HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C.) The Salamanders had hoped to start the CPL second half on a winning streak to improve their playoff resume, however Monday's loss made it back-to-back losses to begin the season's second act.
Timely hitting and taking advantage of defensive miscues pushed the Peninsula Pilots over the top Monday night, winning 4-1 at Ting Stadium. The North Division first half winners went to 1-0 in the second half and 18-8 overall with the win, and the Salamanders dropped to 0-2 in the second half and 8-20 overall with the loss.
The Salamanders got a good start from Mitch Holcomb (Penn), who was cruising along through the game's first five innings throwing five shutout innings and didn't surrender his first hit until Dominic Toso's one out single in the fifth inning. Things however unraveled slightly for Holcomb in the sixth inning. With Peninsula center fielder Cole Girouard on second base with nobody out, leadoff man Tucker Maxwell dropped a bunt down to the third base side of the mound. Holcomb's throw to first base was wild, sailing over the head of first baseman Trey McDyre (Liberty), allowing Girouard to score and putting Maxwell at second with nobody out. Two batters later, Pilots Jonathan Embry hit a ground-rule double to right center, scoring Maxwell to make it a 2-0 Peninsula lead. The double would be the end for Holcomb, who went 5.1 innings. Reliever Christian Bourne (James Madison) then came on with a man on second and one out.
Bourne balked on a 3-0 delivery to Tyler Adams, moving Embry over to third base. Adams was walked on the next pitch, setting up runners on the corners. With catcher Dalton Dedas at the plate, Adams broke for second base. The throw went through to the second base bag and Adams retreated back to first to begin a run-down to try and score Embry. Manders second baseman Daulton Martin (Tusculum) missed Adams on a tag attempt from behind in the footrace back to first and in the process Embry score to make it a 3-0 Peninsula lead in the middle of the sixth inning.
The Manders got one back in the bottom of the inning when Cam Locklear (Liberty) blooped a two-out single into center field to score Earl Semper (UNC) from third base, who had doubled and stolen third.
Peninsula got an insurance run in the top of the eighth when Dominic Toso singled to center off Salamander reliever Ryan Tapp (Slippery Rock) to make it a 4-1 game. It was quite the battle between Tapp and Toso, as Toso had fouled off eight straight 1-2 pitches before the RBI single.
In the bottom of the eighth, back to back walks set up Earl Semper on second and Chris Davis (Princeton) on first with nobody out and the tying run at the plate. The Manders took a gamble and attempted a double steal, in which Semper was thrown out at third base. Following Semper being caught, a strikeout and a flyout ended the threat. In the ninth, the Manders went down in order against Peninsula reliever Austin Krizan.
The Salamanders managed only four hits Monday night, being kept off balance by three Peninsula pitchers. Pilots starter Collin Liberatore was very effective early, tossing five shutout innings as he and Mitch Holcomb each got through five innings scoreless on Monday.
The Manders have two road games with an off day in the middle coming up, as they travel to Savannah to play the Bananas Tuesday night at 7:00pm. After an off day on July 4, The Manders travel to Morehead City Thursday night before returning home Friday night for a rematch with the Pilots at 7:00pm.