MOREHEAD CITY, NC – The Morehead City Marlins reigned victorious Friday night and swept the Chili Peppers in a seven-inning double header, securing their place in the Pettit Cup Playoffs with the best record in the eastern division in the first half. The first game of the double header was a close one, with the Marlins walking off the Chili Peppers 3-2. The second game was equally contested, as the Marlins bested the Chili Peppers 5-4.
The first game got off to a slow start with Cade Carlson (East Tennessee State) on the mound for the Marlins. Neither team managed to push across a run in the first inning, but both teams pushed across a hit. Both pitching staffs rumbled along in the second, and the bats got to work in the third. With two runners on and one out, Michael Dolberry put a ball in play that was mishandled by Dan Tauken to score the first run of the day for the Chili Peppers, who took a 1-0 lead.
The Marlins bats would get cooking in the bottom of the third with one out, when Evan Scavotto (Portland) ripped a double into the pasture to get aboard, before advancing to third on a wild pitch by Tri-City starter Zach Abbey. Braylin Marine (Newberry College) laced a single to score Scavotto, to tie the game at 1-1.
Abbey and Steven Lacey (Delta State) pitched 1-2-3 innings for both teams in the fifth, as the Pepper bats would break out again against Zane Badmaev (Tarleton State). Back-to-back singles from Avery Neaves and Cole Garrett had the Peppers in business, when William Bean hit a fly ball to right field to put Garrett at third. Dalton Hurst then grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice at second to bring Garrett home to increase the lead to 2-1.
Ryan Devanney (Sacred Heart) came on in the ninth with the Marlins trailing by a run. He used his devastating slider to toss a 1-2-3 frame, before the Marlins came up to bat down a run pining for a walk off in the bottom of the seventh. McGwire Tuffy (Quinnipiac) came on as a pinch hitter for Mike Kenney (Mount Olive) in the seventh and reached on an error by the Chili Pepper third baseman Brandon Eike, and was replaced by Scotty Young (Rutgers) as a pinch runner. A Phillip Bernstein (Richmond) single and a Joseph Mershon (College of Charleston) walk loaded the bases for Trent Youngblood (Transylvania) who ripped a single into left field to score Young and Bernstein, and the party began. The first walk off for Youngblood at any level came at a pivotal time for the Marlins, as they came within another win and a Tobs loss of clinching the division. Youngblood was mobbed rounding first and the Fiesta hat was tossed upon his head, as the Marlins notched their first walk off win of the season at a crucial time.
Following the win, the Marlins were in a playoff clinching scenario. A win and a Wilson Tobs loss would secure the top spot in the CPL East Division as the first half came to a close. They received a Tobs loss and beat the Chili Peppers 5-4 to seal the deal.
Will Walsh (Nebraska) started Game 2 for the Marlins, going 4.1 innings while giving up four hits and four runs, three of which were earned.
In the first inning out of seven, no runs were scored as the pitchers performed well. Tri City scored the first run of the game in the top of the second inning. Jenkins and Neaves led off with singles, followed by Henry Cooke smacking a ball towards Marlins first baseman Evan Scavotto. Scavotto bobbled the ball, allowing Jenkins to come home and make the score 1-0, putting Tri City on top.
The Marlins quickly bounced back, scoring two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Tuffy hit a leadoff single, Nate Anderson (Gardner-Webb) walked, and Shayne Campbell (Reinhardt) singled to load the bases. Chili Peppers starter Marcus Van Alstine then walked Mershon, bringing Tuffy home. Youngblood reached on a fielder’s choice and scored Nate Anderson, giving the Marlins a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom of the third, Van Alstine forced two quick outs, but the Marlins still found a way to score. Tuffy secured a base hit, Nate Anderson forced a walk, and Shayne Campbell smacked a single, bringing Tuffy across home plate to extend the Marlins’ lead to 3-1.
Both teams went through the fourth inning with four batters, putting Walsh in a tricky situation in the fifth. Alex Christie drew a leadoff walk, and Myles Webb grounded out to third, advancing Christie to second. Bean then hit a two-run home run deep to left field on the next pitch. Walsh walked Cameron Miller, who stole second before being replaced by Joe Miceli (Gardner-Webb). Miceli forced an Eike groundout to Marine at shortstop, advancing Miller to third. A Miceli wild pitch brought Miller home, giving the Tobs a 4-3 lead.
In the bottom half of the fifth, back-to-back walks and Campbell being hit by a pitch loaded the bases with one out. In this tricky situation, the Tobs elected to make a pitching change, putting Jack Goleski on the mound. Goleski walked the first batter he saw, Young, tying the game at 3-3 heading into the sixth.
The Marlins shut down the Tobs in the top half of the sixth and entered the bottom of the inning with momentum. The Tobs replaced Goleski on the mound with Danny Kirwin. Following a Scavotto groundout, Marine hit a double, and Zach Marriott (Hendrix College) was hit by a pitch before being put out on a Tuffy fielder’s choice. Nate Anderson came to the plate with two outs, and a pitch from Kirwin got past Cooke behind the plate, allowing Marine to score and giving the Marlins a 5-4 lead.
Heading into the seventh inning, the Marlins were three outs away from securing a playoff spot. Left-handed pitcher Trent Anderson (Missouri St. Louis) took the mound for the Marlins and forced an immediate groundout to shortstop Braylin Marine. However, a five-pitch walk to Miller ended Trent Anderson’s day on the mound, prompting the Marlins to bring in righty Kaden Segel (Portland) with one out and Miller at first. Segel struck out Eike and forced a Dolberry flyout to center field, securing a 5-4 victory.
With an eventful doubleheader sweep over the Chili Peppers, Morehead City wins the Coastal Plain League East Division for the first half of the season and clinches a spot in the playoffs.
The Marlins improve to 21-7 overall and 16-7 in CPL play as they prepare to take on the Florence Flamingos on Saturday night at 7 PM for the final game of the first half.