In the Hunt
Edenton Steamers continue playoff chase, beat Martinsville Mustangs
Edenton 8 Martinsville 6
By Malcolm Shields
Saturday, July 21, 2018
EDENTON — With two weeks remaining in the Coastal Plain League regular season, the margin of error is thin for the Edenton Steamers if the club wants to experience postseason play.
The Steamers made it interesting in the ninth inning, but were able to secure an 8-6 victory against Martinsville at Hicks Field on Friday night.
With the win, the Clams (18-22, 6-8 second half) secured their fifth victory in their last seven contests.
As the rain fell in the ninth inning, it appeared the Clams would watch their 8-3 lead wash away.
Martinsville (17-24, 6-10 second half) pushed across three runs in the top of the inning during a moderate rain that began the previous inning.
The Mustangs were able to load the bases with no out against Edenton relief pitcher Kyle Shimp, who entered the game in the ninth.
A wild pitch and an infield RBI single brought two runs home to make it an 8-5 contest.
Shimp was replaced by Jorge Lozano.
Martinsville added a run on a bloop single by Romero Harris into shallow right center field between two Edenton defenders to cut the deficit to 8-6.
At that point was when the rain stopped and the Martinsville rally dried up.
Lozano retired the next three batters, which included a strikeout of Martinsville’s Jake Lorenzini, to end the contest and earn the save.
Edenton coach Russ Burroughs was pleased with his team’s effort on Friday night following a 10-inning road win against second half North Division leader Wilson on Thursday.
“I thought our guys came out fantastic,” Burroughs said. “I thought we hit the ball well. We saw the pitcher really well. Anytime that you can string multiple innings with runs, you can’t ask for anything more.”
The Steamers posted nine hits in the contest, which included a 3-for-4 game for Rich Ciufo.
The production from Ciufo was needed for the Brown University product.
Entering the contest, the 2018 CPL All-Star had hit a rough stretch at the plate.
“It felt really good,” Ciufo said. “I’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate. It was finally good to hit some balls hard.”
Burroughs noted that with Ciufo, you are going to get a competitor.
“I don’t have any doubt with him,” Burroughs said. “He comes to the field every day ready to go.”
The Edenton third baseman helped break open a 3-2 contest in the sixth inning with a solo home run to left field.
On the homer, Ciufo said he got a changeup.
That home run led to a four-run frame against two Martinsville relief pitchers and a 7-2 advantage for the Clams.
It has been a fruitful summer for Ciufo with the Steamers.
He was also selected to the CPL’s Select Team that faced Team USA’s College National team last month.
“It’s a great experience,” Ciufo said of his season with Edenton. “I was coming down here to try to get better and work hard. It’s working out for me. We have a great bunch of guys and this team is awesome. I love playing for them.”
Jake Miller got the start on the mound for Edenton and went six innings, gave up two runs on four hits and posted nine strikeouts to earn the win.
Burroughs noted that Miller, from Binghamton University, was able to keep the Martinsville hitters off balanced during the contest.
“He mixed in the off-speed really well,” Burroughs said.
The coach added that Miller did a good job of locating his fastball up in the strike zone.
Edenton took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI double by Nick Caruso.
The Mustangs responded with a run in the top of the third.
In the bottom of the frame, a Zane Harris triple pushed across a run to give the Clams a 2-1 lead.
Harris went 2-for-5 with two RBI, while Caruso finished with two RBI in the win.
With a runner on base, Edenton took a 3-1 lead in the fourth following a throwing error by Martinsville, but the Mustangs got the run back in the top of the fifth on a Chase Dawson RBI hit.
Dawson led the Mustangs with two hits and three RBI.
The Mustangs added a run in the seventh on a Cross Factor RBI hit to make it a 7-3 contest.
In the race for a berth into the CPL Petitt Cup Playoffs, Edenton is in third place — 4 ½ games back — in the CPL North Division second half standings behind first-place Wilson with Peninsula in second place.
Peninsula has clinched a berth into the playoffs by winning the division’s first half championship.
The Clams’ path to the playoffs is by either winning the division’s second half championship or securing a wild card spot.
Edenton would need Peninsula to win the second half division title and post the best overall record among Wilson and Martinsville to claim the wild card.
Wilson is 20-17 overall before Saturday’s schedule of games.
Edenton has multiple contests with Peninsula, Wilson, Morehead City and Holly Springs remaining to conclude the regular season.
If the coaching staff had its way, the team would bypass off days.
Burroughs noted that the team has a losing record after an off day.
“You get into that rhythm,” Burroughs said. “Once you get into a routine everything starts clicking. These next two weeks are going to be big.”
The Clams will matchup with rival Peninsula at least six more times with two more contests against Wilson.
“We come out here to win,” Ciufo said. “I think we have a legit shot at making the playoffs.”
Former Perquimans County High School standout Nate Gardner had another clean appearance out of the bullpen for the Steamers against Martinsville.
Gardner, who will be a senior at North Carolina Wesleyan next spring, posted two strikeouts in the eighth inning and did not give up a run.
He pitched two innings in relief and was credited with the win against Wilson on Thursday.
Gardner, a right-hand pitcher, has made 13 appearances with five starts this summer.