Home-plate umpire Nobu Goto ejects Roberto Rivera (15) of the Wilson Tobs after Rivera argued balls and strikes in the third inning of Friday's game against the Peninsula Pilots in Fleming Stadium. The Tobs lost 14-3.
Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
Second baseman Kyle Butler (6) throws home to get Peninsula's Nathan Eaton at home plate in the fourth inning of Friday's game in Fleming Stadium. Wilson threw out two runners at the plate in the half inning, but went on to lose 14-3.
Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
By Jimmy Lewis
The elements were beyond combustible during Friday’s Coastal Plain League encounter between the Wilson Tobs and the Peninsula Pilots in Fleming Stadium.
Consider a hot, humid summer night, two teams that have played enough to establish a healthy distaste and a strike zone that did not appeal to the liking of the Wilson partisans.
What could possibly go wrong? Well, a little bit of everything for these weary Tobs.
Wilson did not generate a base hit until the fifth inning, and the strike zone of home-plate umpire Nobu Goto was simply unforgiving for Tobs starting right-hander Sam Luchansky in a 14-3 loss.
The Tobs, in losing their their third straight game, dropped to 11-24 in all games and 2-5 in the CPL’s second half. Peninsula, which won for the ninth time in 12 meetings against the Tobs this season, jumped to 21-15 overall, 5-3 in the second half.
The Pilots continued their mastery of Wilson at Fleming, running their record to 6-0 on Stadium Street in 2017.
Goto’s strike zone didn’t just confound Luchansky, who walked six batters during his five-inning outing and was often seen displaying his frustration at close pitches deemed balls. On separate mound visits, Wilson pitching coach Sean Willingham was left in the dugout in favor of head coach Aaron Lynch, who went to the mound with catcher Hunter Gore to serve in the calm-down role for Luchansky.
In the third inning, center fielder Roberto Rivera was called out on strikes by Goto on a full-count pitch. Rivera turned around to argue, and Goto gave him an opportunity to cease. But Rivera pressed on, and will miss Saturday night’s game at Morehead City after being ejected.
Lynch followed and had an animated discussion with Goto down the first-base line, but departed still in direction of the Tobs.
Luchansky’s consternation with the strike zone led to him issuing seven hits and six walks in five innings of work.
Peninsula touched Belmont Abbey’s Luchansky for two runs in the first and saw aggression on the basepaths work against it via Wilson cutting down two baserunners at the plate in the fourth.
However, in the fifth, the long ball victimized Luchansky and the Tobs for the 39th time this season. A one-out walk was followed by a no-doubt two-run homer by Drake McNamara, boosting the Pilots’ lead to 4-0.
Luchansky’s Abbey teammate, Jeff Thompson, entered in the fifth and surrendered homer No. 40 to Drew Delsignore. Delsignore’s solo homer down the left-field line, his ninth, allowed him to reclaim the league lead from Edenton’s Billy Wilson.
Entering Friday’s game, Tobs pitching had given up the second-most home runs in the CPL, just in front of the 39 of Morehead City. But by the close of the night’s games, the Tobs had another dubious CPL pitching distinction all to themselves as the Marlins didn’t allow a homer in their 9-7 loss to Wilmington.
Right-hander Kyle Hinton earned the win for Peninsula, ceding just one fifth-inning hit to Wilson’s Josh Ladowski, who was promptly erased on a double play off the bat of Andre Nnebe.
The Tobs did scratch back a run in the bottom of the sixth. C.J. Ballard, replacing the ejected Rivera at the top of the Tobs’ lineup, reached on a two-base error and scored on Kyle Butler’s double to the gap in left center.
That trimmed Wilson’s deficit to 5-1, but Peninsula battered the Tobs’ bullpen in the seventh by pushing across five runs to put the game out of reach. Nathan Eaton’s two-run single was the big blow in the inning, and a Tobs throwing error on the same play plated Delsignore to give Peninsula a commanding 10-1 advantage.
Wilson picked up two runs in the seventh. Nnebe singled and scored on an Austin Fisher groundout, while A.J. Hunt reached on a fielder’s choice and touched home on a wild pitch.
Peninsula outhit the Tobs 13-3, with Logan Augustine reaching in five of six plate appearances. The lone exception was a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Wilson’s gory pitching line as a staff included 11 walks, four hit batters and two runs in the ninth via a bases-loaded walk and a hit by pitch. The Pilots batted around in the seventh and ninth innings, including a four-run ninth.
By the time the midpoint of the eighth inning arrived on this sticky night, heat lightning had flashed beyond the right-field wall for the third time. And the traditional singing of “Sweet Caroline” from what remained of the Fleming faithful was muted.