Trailing by four after the first half inning, the Wilmington Sharks (30-25) fought back to defeat the Peninsula Pilots (29-26) 7-6 on Thursday night to force a decisive game three in the opening round playoff series. Kennard McDowell’s solo home run in the bottom of the eighth served as the eventual game-winning run as the Sharks tied the series at one game apiece.
With the rain coming down by the bucket load, the Pilots plated four runs after sending nine batters to the plate to take the early lead. The crooked number was the product of two errors and three hits, including a two-run blast by Peninsula left-fielder Jimmy Kerrigan.
As they did in game one, Wilmington would not allow themselves to be on the ropes for long. McDowell and Andy Austin reached base to start the second and both came around to score after Nick Rotola laced a triple down the right field line.
Alex Destino knocked his seventh homer of the year in the form of a solo shot to lead off the third and Wilmington tied the game after an RBI single by Jose Hernandez.
Down 6-5 later in the ballgame, Kyle Nowlin was handed a one-out walk in the seventh and Hernandezmashed his second hit of the night to collect his second run batted in, tying the game at six to set up McDowell’s heroics in the eighth as the UNCW shortstop smacked his second round tripper of the summer with a shot over the wall in left-center.
Wilmington and Peninsula will face off in game three at Buck Hardee Field on Friday night. The winner will move on to the Eastern Division Championship, which is scheduled to begin Sunday, Aug. 9.