Steamers fighting to stay in playoff race
Wednesday, August 3, 2016
EDENTON — Bryan Hill has no time for the doubters who say the season is nearly done.
There’s a postseason to win again. Problem now is his Edenton Steamers remain just out of the playoff picture.
“You have to keep on truckin’ and it’s not over,” said the coach after the Clams lost 8-6 against Savannah on Tuesday night, the team’s sixth defeat in its last seven outings. “We still expect to be in the Petitt Cup and win the whole thing again, just do it a different way this year.”
All looked well leading into last week’s slate of five contests, four of them against Morehead City, a club the Steamers went 3-2 against during the Coastal Plain League’s first half of the season.
Edenton (13-9 second half, 25-25 overall) was on top of the East Division’s second half, and winning it means an automatic slot into the CPL playoffs.
The Steamers proceeded, however, to lose all four facing the Marlins. Only a ninth-inning rally in a fifth meeting with Morehead City on Monday avoided an 0-5 mark.
Off on Wednesday, the defending CPL champions have five games left in the regular season to make a run and qualify for the playoffs starting today at Wilmington.
Edenton is a game and a half out of first in the division’s second half. To get in as one of the East’s four best teams on overall winning percentage is more difficult, with Morehead City currently fourth at 27-22 overall.
The Steamers last missed the postseason in 2003, perhaps the most consistent margin of success in the CPL that’s also produced three titles.
Hill notes recent injuries and departures has the team playing with a slim 20-22 players, but still bristles at the notion the playoff streak is in danger.
“I don’t know, and I don’t care about all of that,” said Hill when asked if he knew the last time the Steamers missed the playoffs. “All I know is we’re close to it, we’re about to be in it, and when we do we’re going to make some noise. I’ve never won it without winning a half, so it’s going to fun to win it in a different way.”
Edenton and Savannah met for the first time as the Bananas are in their inaugural year of play.
With the countless puns used to describe the team — “can’t stop the peeling” or “this is bananas” and add “split a doubleheader” — all that was missing were the visitors sporting the all-yellow uniforms, albeit reserved for their home games.
On Tuesday at Hicks Field, the operative play on words was the Bananas scored in bunches and each time to thwart an Edenton rally: two in the sixth inning, three in the eighth and two in the ninth.
The Steamers did piece together two runs of their own in the ninth, thanks to a two-run homer by Richard Cunningham, to try for another comeback victory.
It added to the tremendous tally of dingers hit by the Clams this summer, now at 68 and more than 20 ahead of the CPL’s second-best in High Point-Thomasville.
Edenton is next at home on Saturday for a doubleheader against Fayetteville, the team’s last at Hicks Field for the regular season.
Every day last week was not described as happy by the Edenton Steamers, at least when it came to the win column.
But Cunningham is suppose to always portray such glee, right?
The redshirt freshman out of Baylor shares the same name as the famous character played by Ron Howard on the TV show “Happy Days.” The series lasted 11 seasons from 1974-84.
Around the clubhouse, however, few get the joke: none of the players were even born in the 1980s.
“My parents always say, ‘Can you believe we did that to you?’” said the CPL All-Star, who added they weren’t rabid fans of the show and had no particular reason for using the name. “It’s hysterical, it creates a good laugh and it’s a good icebreaker. Then all of the guys in the dugout are saying, ‘What are they talking about?’
“I love it. It creates good conversation.”
Cunningham comes across as good-natured and talkative as the TV version. Yet while watching reruns, Richard Cunningham is not as big of a fan of Richard Cunningham.
“You got to go with the Fonz,” said the Edenton slugger of the cool motorcycle riding mechanic played by Henry Winkler. “He’s all right, but it’s all about the Fonz.”