__Conference losses hurt team’s playoff chances__
Rain postponed the opener of a three-game series between the College and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington at Plumeri Park Friday night. Junior pitcher Pete Vernon, who had been slated to start Friday, took the mound for the College Saturday afternoon to open a doubleheader against UNCW. The lefty pitched a complete game, shutting down a potent Seahawks lineup as the Tribe won the opener 5-0. But the College could not keep the UNCW bats silent for long, as the Seahawks exploded for 33 runs over the next two games, winning 14-5 Saturday night and 19-1 Sunday. Losing the series dropped the Tribe to 25-21 overall and 11-12 in the CAA.
p. Vernon, whose record improved to 7-4 on the season, efficiently moved through the Seahawk lineup Saturday, striking out four batters while allowing only three hits and four walks. His performance earned him CAA Pitcher of the Week honors.
“Pete [Vernon] was able to keep all the hitters off-balanced, he was able to mix all his pitches up and throw all his pitches for strikes,” junior catcher Tim Park said. “He gave us a great game.”
p. Vernon did have some trouble early on, allowing the first two batters he faced to reach base. The lefty settled down quickly, however, forcing the next batter into a double play. Vernon escaped the inning with help from a base-running gaff by UNCW’s catcher Jonathan Batts, who tried running from home plate to second following a ball-four wild pitch. Park got to the ball swiftly, fired a strike to senior second baseman Brent McWhorter, and caught Batts in a run-down between first and second for the final out.
p. The Tribe capitalized on the momentum shift immediately, as McWhorter led off the bottom half of the first with a single, moved to second on a Park sacrifice bunt, and scored two batters later on senior third baseman Greg Sexton’s sacrifice fly. The College would push across one more run in the inning to take an early 2-0 advantage.
p. The Tribe struck again twice in the fifth and once more in the eighth to stretch the lead to five runs as Vernon continued to mow down Seahawks, facing no more than four batters an inning from the second till the ninth.
p. “Coming off of a really tough weekend at [Virginia Commonwealth University], we just wanted to, as a pitching staff, come in here and set a tone for the weekend and give our offense a chance,” Vernon said.
p. While the weekend got off to a promising start for the Tribe, it would not end that way. Freshman pitcher Kevin Landry started game two of the doubleheader Saturday and got shelled immediately. Landry, whose record fell to 4-5, lasted only 1.1 innings and surrendered seven runs, all earned, as the College fell into an early hole. By the time the Tribe came to bat in the bottom of the third, UNCW led 10-0 en route to a 14-5 Seahawk victory.
p. The rubber match held large playoff implications, as the two schools entered the final game of their weekend set tied for fifth in the CAA standings. The Seahawks, propelled by yet another offensive outburst, jumped ahead of the Tribe early for the second time in as many games Sunday, scoring six runs in the first inning, five more in the second, and an additional four in the fifth. While the Tribe did manage 12 hits on the afternoon, the College failed to score a run until the eighth inning, when the game was well out of reach.
p. “We actually hit pretty well [today], we just didn’t get them all bunched,” Park said. “We are usually pretty good about that. When we get runners on, we move them over and score them, we just struggled with that today.”
p. Dropping two of three to UNCW is a setback in the Tribe’s pursuit of a playoff spot, but with six games remaining in the regular season, the team is not ready to throw in the towel just yet.
“We can’t give up, we’ve got to keep trying,” Park said. “We are still in good shape. If we win our next two series we should be able to make the playoffs. So we just got to go there and take care of business.”
p. The College will travel to the University of Delaware next weekend to battle the Blue Hens. Delaware currently stands third in the CAA, but a sweep by the Tribe over the weekend would push the College ahead of Delaware and help secure a spot in the playoffs.
p. The Tribe faces George Washington University today at 7 p.m. at Plumeri Park.