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Mustangs 'cursed,' lose fifth in a row
HiToms rally past Martinsville for 4-3 win
Thomasville’s Justin Roland is tagged out by Martinsville’s Adam Pendleton at home plate in the fourth inning Thursday at Hooker Field. The Mustangs have lost five in a row. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Martinsville Mustangs head coach Matt Duffy didn’t really know what to call it, but whatever it is, the Mustangs can’t seem to shake it.
Riding a three-run seventh inning, the Thomasville Hi-Toms rallied to beat the Mustangs 4-3 Thursday night at Hooker Field. It was Martinsville’s fifth loss in a row.
“We’ve got a curse on us, and we’ve got to break it,” Duffy said. “I don’t know what it is. We’ve got to break it. Something isn’t going right. Somebody isn’t living right.
“We hit the ball hard. These other teams are beating us right now, and it’s like they’re hitting the ball off the end of the bat and the ball is just dropping in. We’ve hit the ball hard now for a couple of games in a row, and we’re hitting it right at people.”
That was particularly true in the sixth inning, when the Hi-Toms had two infield bloops to extend the inning and drive in a run.
Of course that run should have never happened, but second baseman Paco Martin, who usually plays shortstop, misplayed a ground ball that put the scoring run on first base and would have been the inning-ending out.
The Mustangs had four errors in the game, though Martin’s was the only one that ended up affecting the score. Martinsville now has 11 errors in their last 23 innings played.
“We’ve been trying to take extra fungos before games and get more comfortable in the positions we’re at now,” said John Faircloth, who went 3-for-4 with a double for the Mustangs.
Faircloth had a throwing error at shortstop, and Karsten Strieby had two errors at third base to go along with Martin’s error.
Duffy said part of the problem is his team is playing out of position.
“We’re still missing four guys, and that’s big,” Duffy said. “I moved (Karsten) Strieby over to third base, and he hasn’t played third base. To go from first-to-third is a big difference.”
The loss was particularly bitter for the Mustangs because they got one of the best outings, by his own measure, starting pitcher Jake Lambert has ever thrown.
Lambert (1-1) went seven innings and gave up four runs, three earned, on nine hits. The 6-foot-8 hurler threw 90 pitches, 62 for strikes and hit his locations the entire night. Nearly all that damage was done in the seventh inning, and a lot of Thomasville’s hits in that inning were little bloopers just out of the infield’s reach.
Prior to that, Lambert was rolling.
He threw four no-hit innings to start the game, before Will Canaday finally put a ball in play in the fifth inning.
“I felt great,” Lambert said. “I feel like I had some of the best stuff I’ve ever had.”
Thomasville didn’t score a run until the sixth inning when Kyle Brandenburg circled the bases after reaching first on Martin’s error.
Lambert worked his way out of that sixth inning by striking out Justin Roland after consecutive errors helped put runners on second and third base with two outs.
“Jake’s a competitor, man,” Duffy said. “He threw his butt off. He showed a lot of heart staying out there and giving us everything he had.”
Lambert finished with seven strikeouts and one walk.
But the Hi-Toms got to him in the seventh inning, knocking in three runs on five hits.
“I don’t know what happened,” Lambert said. “It just happened. It happened too fast. I was still making the same pitches; they just got lucky.”
And while the Hi-Toms heated up in the sixth and seventh innings, the Mustangs seemed to slow down.
Martinsville got an RBI from Strieby in the first inning on a fielder’s choice, knocking in Ryan Bull, and Martin laid a squeeze bunt down the first-base line to score Chris Branigan in the fourth inning.
But the Mustangs only recorded three hits in the final five innings and finished the game with eight base knocks.
Thomasville starting pitcher Dylan Thompson certainly had something to do with that. Thompson (1-1) settled in after his first two innings and made things tough on the Mustang hitters.
“He settled down good and really battled for us,” Thomasville coach Sean Walsh said. “That was big ... damage control. He really kept us in the game.”
And he and the Hi-Tom bullpen kept the Mustangs from stringing any late-inning hits together, too.
Martinsville stranded six base-runners in the game and two in the eighth inning.
“We just left a lot of runners on in certain situations,” Faircloth said. “We never got the big hit.”