It took the Peninsula High baseball team just two innings to build a 5-0 lead against Sumner on Wednesday afternoon, but it took even less time for things to unravel.
Heading into the top of the third, Peninsula (4-13 overall, 3-8 SPSL 3A) senior pitcher Garrett Smith was cruising. But Smith suddenly lost his ability to command his pitches. The senior walked two batters and hit three, prompting coach Pete Weymiller to pull him before the inning was over.
By the time the inning ended, Sumner had tied the game and turned the momentum completely back in its favor. The Spartans continued to threaten, and finally broke through in the top of the seventh against JT Kopp on a Taurus Kukahiko’s RBI single. Sumner added two more runs and won, 8-5.
"It’s obviously very frustrating," Weymiller said. "We’re all frustrated. It’s hard when you’ve lost the games that we’ve lost, to believe that you can win. That takes a mental toughness to do."
Weymiller said Smith was maybe "pressing" a bit when he started to lose control.
"He was solid for (two) innings and then yeah, he just lost his control," Weymiller said. "But you can see what kind of potential he’s got."
Weymiller was encouraged by his team’s early hitting onslaught, despite not being able to maintain the lead. Ben Weymiller racked up two hits, while senior Robert Kvinsland popped a shot into right field — which the right fielder lost in the sun — to drive in two runs and give Peninsula a 5-0 lead.
"We can see, too, what we’re capable of doing," Weymiller said. We’ve got potential. We’re still hopeful and optimistic. Hopefully we can sneak into the playoffs and make a dent. Sumner is a good team.
"Their pitcher did a good job adjusting. We could’ve done a better job. They find a way to win. We just need to find that. We’re not there yet. We’ve got three more games in the regular season and hopefully we can find that before the season ends."
Sumner (13-4, 9-2) senior starter Johnny Staley got roughed up early, but settled in and went the distance for a complete game.
"Most guys, you’d probably pull a hook on, but that kid’s a senior," Sumner coach Casey Adcox said. "He’s been through a lot of fires, so you give him a little rope. He’s pitched in a lot of big games. In the end, he didn’t have much left in the tank. He battled and he knows how to pitch."
The chances continued to accumulate for Sumner, and Kukahiko finally delivered a single into right field in the final inning to give the Spartans the lead for good.
"I wanted to be aggressive," Kukahiko said. "I didn’t want to let any strikes go past. I just wanted to get out there and be aggressive, hit the first fastball that came to me and just score runners."
Adcox was pleased to see his team finally take advantage of a key opportunity.
"We really work on executing plays," he said. "That’s a big emphasis of what we do. And to that point in the game, we had missed on a lot of opportunities. The message for those guys is just going to be the power of execution in those situations. It just took one guy to trust himself in that situation. It won us the game in the end."