Pam Pack falls short against first-place Farmville Central

Published 10:33 pm Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS STEPPING UP: Sophomore Tripp Barfield steps up to the plate in the third inning and works a walk. He finished 0-for-3 on the night.

STEPPING UP: Sophomore Tripp Barfield steps up to the plate in the third inning and works a walk. He finished 0-for-3 on the night.

Whether it’s a bad bounce, a blown call or a blooper that fails to find a gap, the Washington baseball team yet to find good fortune at the plate, on the base paths and in the field. In a game where chance can be the difference between a win or a loss, the Pam Pack simply can’t catch a break.

For the second time this season, fifth-place Washington engaged first-place Farmville Central and looked more than formidable. Some, including head coach Kevin Leggett, said both teams appeared equal in ability. Yet, for the second time this season, the Pam Pack fell to the Jaguars on Tuesday by a one run, this time by the count of 6-5.

“It’s frustrating. We play a really tough schedule and I don’t think the other teams have really been much better than us,” Leggett said. “Our defense and pitching I would put up against anyone around here, but we just have to put the bat on the ball. We had the situations we wanted tonight with plenty of runners on base. We got some of them in, we’re just waiting on someone to step up and hit the ball.”

Dating back to last season, the storyline has been the same, average defensive ability and solid pitching paired with an inability to close at the plate late in games. Eight of the team’s 13 losses this season have been by two runs or less, testimony to the absence of luck and the illustrious “big hit.”

Sophomore Tripp Barfield, who has looked like a true ace at times this season, struggled with his command early on — his fastballs sailed up and his curveballs skimming dirt. Farmville Central, the Eastern Plains Conference’s best offensive squad, adjusted accordingly and capitalized.

In the first inning after two full-count walks, Bryce Fleming teed off, smashing a double to left, plating two quick runs.

Washington had its answer in the bottom half of the frame, as Jaguars’ starter Dakeem Jackson beaned Cody Godley and Patrick Thompson, back-to-back. Junior cleanup man Neil Jennings followed with a single to the left side of the infield. A batter later, Logan Little hit a fielder’s choice to second base, scoring Godley from third, but after a walk to Nick Everette, the Pam Pack would leave the bases loaded.

Washington jumped out to a one-run lead in the second after control problems continued to plague Jackson, who walked three and hit one batter in the frame. Jamond Ebron came through with the lone hit in the inning, but once again, the Pam Pack would leave the bases loaded.

“We don’t get the little bloopers that fall in,” Leggett said. “It’s frustrating for them because things like that lead to big innings. But I’m proud of the way they fought and they’re still fighting hard.”

The home team’s lead would be short-lived, however, as Farmville responded for three runs in the third inning off Barfield — three walks, one hit and one costly error at shortstop that resulted in two runs.

Godley relieved Barfield and pitched the final four innings, allowing one run (unearned) on four hits and one walk, striking out two. The sophomore right-hander contained the Jaguars through the final innings, battled his way out of jams and gave his team an opportunity to chip away.

“Our main four pitchers have come in relief when they needed to,” Leggett said. “They just come in and do their job and Cody did his tonight. He came in with a tough situation and only gave up one run tonight, one that shouldn’t have gotten in.”

That one run came in the top of the sixth after a routine grounder to second turned into to a throwing error at first with two outs, which plated G.I. Hood, who led the inning off with a single, all the way from first.

Down 6-3, Washington led the bottom of the sixth off with three-straight walks, loading the bases, and Godley helped himself with an RBI single, though Grayson Gruninger was held at third base. Gruninger eventually came around to score on a wild pitch, putting the tying run, Ebron, at third base.

Fleming, who came on to relieve Jackson, finished off the inning with two strikeouts and a ground out, leaving another two Pam Pack runners stranded.

In the seventh, Fleming retired the first two batters and Matt Black fought his way onto first base with an infield single, but Washington couldn’t close.

With the loss, Washington drops to 2-13 (1-4 EPC) with four games remaining on the schedule and, more than likely, the season. The Pam Pack will travel to Pinetops on Friday to take on Southwest Edgecombe (7-7, 2-3 EPC).

“I just want them to keep fighting,” Leggett said. “If we keep playing like we did tonight, get a few hits here and there, that’s the only difference between us having a completely different record. I don’t think we’ll have a problem with fighting because it hurts them when they lose.”