By Corey Hodges (Media Relations Director/Play-By-Play Voice, Morehead City Marlins)
One night later back at their place against the same Edenton club, the Marlins also demonstrated a deft defensive touch as they didn't get the bevy of runs but in the end only needed five to grab a sweep of the Steamers.
It's all a case of "good things come to those who wait" for Morehead City now as late July fortune follows in the wake of a mid-month slump that at one point threatened to sink the playoff ship.
But with the cylinders now clicking in unison, and players finally falling into their own personal grooves, the Marlins seem to be creating a new ceiling to reach for with each passing day.
After picking up four straight wins (July 21st-23rd) to right a five losses in six games span from July 14th to July 20th, MHC (24-19) entered Monday's matchup in Edenton (the sixth of 10 scheduled meetings between the Marlins and Steamers) brimming with the kind of newfound confidence only strung-together wins can create.
That positive attitude, combined with the hitter-friendly nature of Hicks Field in Edenton, NC where centerfield sits just 350 feet ahead of home plate, proved a lethal combo for Morehead City as they rocked the Steamers 19-12 (15 of the Marlins' runs came in inning number two) courtesy of five home runs (two from Romeo Cortina, one apiece for Justin Weigle, Mark Vaughn and Cole Bedford) and 19 base knocks.
The game flow, however, was a bit different on Tuesday (7/26) evening back at Puck O'Neal Field (Big Rock Stadium) as the Marlins looked for a home-and-home back-to-back sweep of Edenton.
What wasn't different for Morehead City, though, was the fact that just like on Monday the Marlins fed off of one big frame of production to get them to the finish line against the Steamers.
No, it wasn't a 15-run inning but the four-spot MHC chalked up on Tuesday night in the third at home went a long way towards ensuring the home team got the victory and kept their momentum going positively northward.
Brandon Shaffer (Indiana Wesleyan University) handed the Marlins three of their four bottom third runs thanks to a left field home run shot that also plated Matt O'Neill (University of Pennsylvania) and Chase Chambers (Tennessee Tech) before Tanner Kirwer capped the home third for MHC by doubling in Justin Weigle (Ouachita Baptist University) to make it a 4-1 game.
The three-pronged hurling trio that helped Morehead City hold strong even when they gave up two top sixth runs by way of a homer from Edenton's Tony Rossetti was led by starting righty Sean Mason (Appalachian State) who nearly struck out the sides in the first before settling into a rhythm and ending his outing with a tidy line (5.2 IP, six hits, three runs, seven strikeouts) that upped his 2016 K total from 34 to 41.
After the comeback-minded Edenton Steamers loaded the bases in their sixth, Mason was yanked and replaced by RHP Tad Ratliff (Lenoir-Rhyne University) who rang up Shamoy Christopher (Roane State CC) to retire the sides and deny the visitors any further inroads.
Ratliff (2.1 IP, two hits, two walks, four K's) sat after the eighth with MHC on top 5-3 and then the renewed pressure was applied to right-hander Jared Datoc (Georgia Tech) who stepped to the hill top ninth looking to close down the visiting Steamers.
Datoc struck out the first two he faced away ninth but then Edenton put runners at the corners to seriously threaten the Marlins' slim two-run cushion.
Yellowjacket turned fish Datoc was up to the challenge, though, as he steered MHC out of the late jam to earn a team-best sixth save of the summer to go along with two K's and one surrendered hit in his lone frame of Tuesday evening hill patrol.
The loss for Edenton (24-21) was their second straight to Morehead City since Monday (7/25) and ended a recent hot streak that witnessed the Steamers winning eight of nine from July 13th to the 23rd.
Because of their good play over the last two weeks, Edenton had started climbing back atop the Coastal Plain League Eastern Division standings as they entered Tuesday action with a 12-4 mark in the second half (MHC came in with a 9-6 record in the same span of time).
But because of a late season scheduling quirk that will see the Marlins take on the Steamers three more times (7/28, 7/29, 8/1) over the course of the next six days, victories for MHC now carry even more meaning as they're against a division opponent that has eyes on the same playoff berth the Marlins are staring down.
Behind the 30-16 Peninsula Pilots and 28-17 Wilmington Sharks, MHC and Edenton are now locked in the third Eastern Division slot at 24 wins apiece and the stage is now set for a stretch run that could either see the defending Coastal Plain League champion Steamers make it in or the upstart Marlins returning to the post-season for the first time since 2010.
On the strength of a season-high six victories, Morehead City will host the Wilson Tobs (22-22, 8-9 second half) on Wednesday (7/27) at Puck O'Neal Field (Big Rock Stadium) as the two squads will play a double-header that includes a GM 1 continuation of a rained-shortened affair back at Wilson's place on July 8th and an abbreviated GM 2 consisting of seven innings.
Fans can follow along with the Marlins on Twitter (@mhcmarlins) for inning-by-inning updates and by utilizing the same handle can also catch up with the fish on Instagram (@mhcmarlins).
Follow the author on Twitter, too! @The_CoreyHodges