Jul. 25—THOMASVILLE — The HiToms endured a rough stretch of games last week to remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.
The HiToms are 21-17 overall and 8-8 in the second half of the Coastal Plain League season. They are four games behind West Division leader Savannah (31-7, 12-4) and trail Lexington County (21-16, 11-5) by a half-game for the division's other playoff berth.
Here's a look at the week in review:
—Tuesday vs. Martinsville (L, 5-3) — Matt Corder homered and drove in two, Hogan Windish also homered, and CJ Johnson doubled. Corder's two-run home run in the fourth gave the HiToms a 2-1 lead. But Martinsville scored two runs in the seventh to break a 3-3 tie. Landen Smith, a former Wheatmore standout, took the loss in relief.
—Wednesday vs. Wilson (L, 16-4) — Corder and Von Seibert each homered to lead the HiToms. Corder finished with two RBIs, while Seibert and Max Riemer each had two hits and one RBI. Wilson, which led 7-2 through two innings and raced away with five runs in the fifth, outhit the HiToms 14-10. Jacob Tate lasted just one inning in taking the loss.
—Thursday at Asheboro (W, 3-2) — Starting pitcher Will Lancaster retired the first 14 batters in a row and didn't allow a hit until the sixth inning. Thomas Caufield hit a two-run home run in the fourth to give the HiToms a 3-0 lead. Tristan Snyder pitched two solid innings, and KJ Wells picked up the save.
—Friday DH vs. Forest City (L, 6-4; L, 12-5) — In game 1, Forest City scored six in the fifth — keyed by a grand slam. Hogan Windish had two hits and two RBIs for the HiToms, who scored four runs over the sixth and seventh innings. Matt Corder also had two hits, while Seibert tripled and Jake Lysaght doubled. Colin Sells, who had a no-hitter going through four innings, took the loss. In game 2, Johnson hit a solo home run in the first, but Forest City scored nine straight runs to lead 9-1 in the fourth. Caufield had two hits and an RBI, while Cameron Mills and Chet Sikes each had two hits. Smith took the loss, leaving with the bases loaded and one out in the second.
—Upcoming: The HiToms, after visiting Forest City on Saturday, enters the final week of the season — Tuesday vs. Martinsville, Wednesday vs. Martinsville, Thursday at Martinsville, Friday vs. Asheboro and Saturday at Forest City.
Often in the CPL, teams go through three phases — when they're waiting on players to arrive, when they have a full roster, and when players start to leave.
The HiToms are in that third phase now. So, they're trying to piece things together the best they can.
"It's difficult," HiToms coach Scott Davis said. "We've got guys gone, we've got guys hurt. It's the end of the summer, so we're having a tough time putting a competitive group on the field right now, as you could tell tonight. We've played six games in five days with little or no pitching. ...
"We lost Luke Spiva a couple weeks ago. We lost Noah Ledford about four days ago to a broken wrist. And those are two of the top bats in the league. Anytime you lose two of the top bats in the league in the middle of your order, it has an impact on your whole lineup."
In Friday's doubleheader against Forest City, HiToms pitchers struggled with walks — issuing 14 over the two games. That put them in difficult situations and, with limited pitching, was hard to overcome. Five total errors also didn't help.
"Starting pitching is the key," Davis said. "When you don't get a quality start, then you're always behind the eight-ball. You've got a bullpen that's very shallow because of numbers, and then you've got an offense that's struggling and you're down five, six runs early. ...
"Typically you want a bunch of guys in the 'pen so that you can mix and match right and left and get a guy out if he's struggling and try to stay in the game. But if you don't have the 'pen, then you've got to leave guys out there longer than you normally would just to get through the game."
TREMENDOUS START FOR LANCASTER
The HiToms needed a tremendous performance from Lancaster on Thursday against rival Asheboro. And they got it.
Lancaster, who is from Lexington and will pitch his final college season at Charlotte, allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out five over six innings. The HiToms only got two hits, but they were timely enough to win 3-2.
He retired the first 14 batters in a row and didn't allow a hit until two outs in the sixth.
Lancaster is tied for fourth in the league with four wins. He sits alone in fourth in strikeouts with 49 and is seventh in ERA at 2.23.
Windish, with 12 home runs, is tied with Morehead City's Jake Harris for the CPL lead. Johnson is tied for fourth with nine, while Caufield is tied for sixth with eight. Windish leads the league with 44 RBIs.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Despite their struggles, the HiToms are just a half-game behind Lexington for the West's final playoff spot. And they face Martinsville three times in their final five games.
They have beaten the Mustangs eight times in 12 meetings, outscoring them 90-55. So, they have an opportunity for one final push to end the summer and meet Savannah in the Pettit Cup semifinals.
"That's what we try to tell the kids," Davis said. "We want to go to Savannah and play. We want to be in the playoffs. And I think if you're a part of the game — if you coach or play in a game — then you want to try to win. And you want to try to keep advancing."
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