By Corey Hodges (Media Relations Director/Play-By-Play Voice, Morehead City Marlins)
After a first half midpoint slump that saw Morehead City (17-14) drop 10 of 16 between June 13th and the 30th, the Marlins have recently sprung back to life at just the right time with victories coming in four of their last five heading into the All-Star Game break.
Oh, and speaking of that All-Star Game, the Marlins also received a momentum boost from that, too, as their three selected players made the difference for the East Division in a 4-3 comeback victory over the West on Monday (July 11th) night at J.P. Riddle Stadium in Fayetteville, NC.
Morehead City's Tyler Weyenberg (Presbyterian College) scratched across what would prove to be the East's game-winning run in bottom 8th play on Monday evening as his timely score wasn't the only thing Weyenberg brought to the East Division's box score (his solo base knock accounted for one of just five total team hits for the East on the night).
Christian Campbell (Rutgers University), who arrived in Fayetteville fresh off a sac-fly walk-off shot against the Wilmington Sharks on Saturday (July 9th) evening that helped the Marlins to a 5-4 victory at home, didn't find much success at the dish in the 18th Annual Coastal Plain League All-Star Game but his top 9th hill heroics more than made up for whatever he lacked off the bat.
With the East clinging to a one-run cushion, Campbell (who quietly chalked up 25 strikeouts in 27.2 innings of work at Rutgers University this spring) stepped to the bump in the ninth and, in a display of pitching unbeknownst to most in the league as he entered with a team-worst 18.00 ERA, rang up two West Division batters and hung tough as he picked up the save and single-handedly delivered his Eastern Division All-Stars a victory in the yearly meeting of East/West Coastal Plain League talent.
Morehead City's other All-Star, Appalachian State right-handed threat Luke Watts, logged a singular frame of work in the second inning on Monday as he allowed just one base hit in four batters faced.
Would it be a stretch to say that Morehead City's all-star trio won it for the East?
Well, at the end of the day it's a team victory but the pro-Marlins stats are awfully tough to ignore.
A brilliant display of first half talent in Fayetteville on Monday only adds to Morehead City's recent resurgence in both the Eastern Division standings (Marlins currently sit second in the East behind only the Peninsula Pilots at 22-10 and the Wilmington Sharks at 21-13) and, to a more magnified degree, their own offensive stat column.
In the five games that preceded the ASG break (July 2nd-9th), MHC only played two teams (Wilmington three times, Fayetteville two) but nearly ran the table as their only loss in the stretch came against the Sharks on July 5th (1-2 in favor of Wilmington).
A closer look at the numbers, however, indicates a positive streak upward for Morehead City that bodes well for the team's second half playoff push aspirations.
After logging double-digit base hits in five of seven contests from June 9th to the 16th, the Marlins stumbled through a 14-game stretch in which they came close (four games with nine base knocks) but never got the 10+ hits cigar that could've added a couple more wins to their current total.
Nevertheless, MHC emerged from the mid to late June performance dip still hovering around the .500 mark and in need of just a few strung-together wins to bolt back up top in the East.
Thanks to a double-digit base whack return, which occurred as the Marlins swept a home-and-home back-to-back with the Fayetteville Swampdogs (11-21) July 6th and 7th, Morehead City got those consecutive wins they were searching for and even added a bonus baseball triumph to their resume courtesy of the aforementioned 5-4 squeaker to close pre-All-Star Game competition on July 9th.
All told, the Marlins now have nine 10+ hit games on the season plus a tidy 4-1 mark in extra-innings play (the latter may receive more of a spotlighting as July gives way to August and the playoffs come to the forefront of the minds of every contending team).
Cleaning up costly mistakes has also been a focus as of late for Morehead City and it seems their work has started paying off as the Marlins snapped a streak of 12 straight games with an error by committing no bumbles in back-to-back outings on July 5th against Wilmington and on the 6th versus Fayetteville.
Once the All-Star Game break has concluded, Morehead City will play five in a row to start the second half of the 2016 Coastal Plain League season in earnest as they'll kick it off at Big Rock Stadium on Thursday (July 14th) night as they play host to the Peninsula Pilots (the first of two meetings in a 48-hour period with their divisional foes as MHC will travel to War Memorial Stadium on the 15th with the Pilots awarded hosting honors).
As always, fans can follow along with the Marlins on a variety of social media platforms as the fish can be found swimming on Twitter and Instagram (@mhcmarlins) plus Facebook (Facebook.com/MHCMarlins).
Follow the author on Twitter, too! @The_CoreyHodges