WILMINGTON — The Morehead City Marlins had a chance to punch their ticket to the Petitt Cup Playoffs on Monday night in Wilmington but couldn’t get it done, losing 6-5 to the Sharks on a walk-off single in the 11th inning.
“That one was tough,” Marlins coach Jesse Lancaster said. “We have to find a way to put away teams late in innings. This is something we’ll have to do with some high-pressure games late in the season, but we weren’t able to get it done tonight.”
Morehead City is 28-12 overall in the Coastal Plain League, two games behind the Peninsula Pilots at 30-10, however, the Fish lead he second-half CPL East Division standings at 14-4, one game up on the Pilots at 13-5.
The Marlins missed a big opportunity offensively in the first inning when they loaded the bases with nobody out and were only able to push across a single run. That run came on a bases-loaded walk from Jack Harris (Newberry). Sharks third baseman Taber Mongero (UNC Wilmington) made a great play to rob Zack Miller (Catawba) of a hit after that, and then a flyout and a strikeout ended the inning with just one run scored for Morehead City.
“We have to be better at burying teams when we have the chance,” Lancaster said. “We left the door wide open for them to come back, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Wilmington answered back in the second inning on a two-run home run from Alec Makarewicz (East Carolina) to make it 2-1 Sharks.
The Marlins answered back in the top of fourth inning on a two-run home run of their own, this time by Jeff Wehler (Pittsburgh). It was Wehler’s first homer in the Marlin blue.
The 3-2 score held all the way until the top of the ninth inning. In a pinch-hit role, Conner VanCleave (Pitt State) came up huge again for the Marlins, hitting an RBI single to right field to score Jack Casbarro (Mount Olive). It was 4-2 Marlins heading to the bottom of the ninth with a playoff berth on the line.
The Marlins got the first two outs with ease, but then disaster struck. The Sharks strung together four straight hits with two gone in the ninth to drive home the tying run, the last single coming from John Behrends (Belmont).
Trey Jernigan (Appalachian State) was able to leave the game-winning run on third base in the ninth, sending the game to extra innings. The CPL rules dictate an international tiebreaker in extra innings, meaning two men are on base before a pitch is even thrown.
The 10th inning brought madness in both halves.
In the Marlin half, Hunter Shepherd (Catawba) walked with one out to load the bases. Harris came up and bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning without the Marlins scoring.
In the bottom half, David Smith (LaSalle) sacrifice bunted the two tiebreaker runners over to second and third, the Marlins walked Zack Budzik (UNC Greensboro) intentionally, and then chaos ensued.
Makarewicz came up and hit a hard chopper to shortstop. Casbarro bodied it up, but the ball bounced off his chest and into the hand of Gibson Krzeminski (Canisius) at second base. Krzeminski picked up the ball, stepped on the second base bagged, and fired a strike over to Shepherd at first base to turn an unconventional 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and extend the game to the 11th inning.
In the 11th inning, the Marlins pushed a run across on a sacrifice fly and RBI from Casbarro, so the Fish led 5-4 heading to the bottom half.
Wilmington loaded the bases with a bloop single by Mongero, and with one out, Hansis popped out to third base. With two out and two strikes, Jack Hodgins (Hendrix) threw a wild pitch over the catcher’s head, scoring Budzik to knot the game up at 5. The next pitch, Ciufo lined a single to right field to end the game and give the Sharks a 6-5 win.
The Marlins took control of the Golden Chumbucket Series on Saturday with a 10-1 win in Wilmington.
“Always good to bring home a trophy,” Lancaster said. “We took the pressure off ourselves by being ready to go offensively, and we did some good things on the mound tonight too. We’re close to being where we want to be, but we’re getting better every day.”
Sean Johnson (Belmont Abbey) hit a leadoff solo home run on the second pitch of the game. Later in the top of the first inning, Miller tacked on a 2-run RBI single. Morehead City added two more in the top of the second. Jack Harris (Newberry) hit a two-run RBI double to give the fish a five-run lead.
It didn’t stop in the third, as Wehler hit Joe Mason (Mount Olive) home on a sacrifice fly.
Wilmington grabbed its first and only run in the bottom of the fourth. Smith hit an RBI single that scored Mongero.
After being hitless for the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, the Marlins got back on the board in the seventh. Miller grabbed an RBI groundout, followed by Mason touching home on a wild pitch.
It did not stop in the eighth inning for Morehead City. Harris hit an RBI single that scored Casbarro, giving the Marlins a 9-1 lead. Morehead City grabbed double digits later in the inning, thanks to a sacrifice fly from Mason.
The pitching was dominant for the Marlins at the Shark Tank. After striking out eight batters in Holly Springs on July 17, Cam Seguin (Elon) kept it going in Wilmington. The southpaw struck out five, giving up five hits and an earned run in three and two-thirds inning pitched.
Jon Vore (Butler) got the win, moving to 4-0 on the season. The righty gave up no earned runs and three hits, striking out one in an inning and two-thirds pitched.
Matt Hickey (Tarleton State) came in midway through the fifth inning, and put the Sharks to sleep. The sidearm throwing righty struck out two, giving up neither a hit, run nor walk in 1 2/3 innings pitched.
The pitching was not the only strongpoint for Morehead City.
Johnson, who led off for the third consecutive game, went 1-for-3. His only hit was the leadoff solo home run that stayed fair down the left field line.
Harris followed Johnson in the order, and continued his strong 2021 campaign. The right fielder went 2-for-4, driving in three runs. Harris’ RBI total this year is now up to 36.
Mason was a force at both the plate and on the base paths. The left fielder went 1-for-2 with an RBI, along with two runs scored and two stolen bases.
Miller was another name that stood out in the Marlin lineup on Saturday night. The catcher went 1-for-4 with three RBIs.