By PJ Potter
There were a lot of downs. But, there were a lot of ups as well.
The Clams finished third in the overall standings in the North division with a 24-26 record, marking the first time since 2011 the Teal and Black did not have a winning season.
Going back to the first two weeks of the summer, Edenton began with a 2-9 record. To open up the second half, they compiled just one win in the first seven games. Starting off each half, the Steamers went 3-15 combined, digging themselves into a tough hole to climb out of.
However, they almost did. It actually came down until the last day the Steamers were still mathematically in postseason contention.
Following those subpar starts to each half, Edenton held a 21-15 record (.583 winning percentage).
Several players stepped up.
To start off, the Clams pitching staff went on a historical run, striking out 518 batters in 50 games. Had they rescheduled the two rained out games, there was a high chance they could have broken the single-season Coastal Plain League record.
Four pitchers finished in the Top 6 in strikeout total in the CPL:
2nd Place - AJ Spencer (65)
3rd Place - Jake Miller (64)
4th Place - Ben Anderson (59)
6th Place - Charles Hall (55)
Jumping to the offensive end, the Clams muscled 37 home runs for the summer, which ranked third in the league.
Led by Zane Harris, he blasted eight home runs, 32 runs batted in, 56 hits and a .315 batting clip. Harris, alongside Miller, Hall, Rich Ciufo and Devon Gardner, represented Edenton in the All-star Game in Lexington County, South Carolina.
Harris capped the end of the season with a 17-game hitting streak down the stretch with 31 hits and 19 RBI.
Ciufo made an immediate impact with the Steamers. On his first swing of the season, he crushed a home run at Hicks Field.
Since then, there was no looking back. Tallying 14 two-baggers, five homers and 22 RBI, Ciufo was a steady middle-of-the-order bat. He also changed positions about halfway through the summer. Naturally a middle infielder, head coach Russ Burroughs shifted him to third base, and a defensive star was brought to light. Ciufo captivated the crowd with nightly diving catches and bare-handed plays.
Another big-time pickup for Edenton was Ben Whetstone. A late-comer, Whetstone was everything the team hoped he would be. Standing at 6-foot-6, the Missouri State first baseman logged a little more than half the at-bats the other every day players recorded, but he still finished second in the lineup with 12 doubles and six home runs.
He also provided a .327 average and .607 slugging percentage.
Whetstone also brought the clutch gene. He collected two walk-off hits, including a two-run home run in extras in the final home game of the season to send the fans home happy one last time.
Whetstone was not the only one to have a flare for the dramatics, however. The Steamers had several come-from-behind victories, including two straight contests trailing by five runs in the ninth. Borderline miraculous, Edenton won each game to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Devon Gardner was another one to come up big. Earlier in the season, Gardner slapped a walk-off single in the 10th against the Peninsula Pilots. That game proved to be pivotal because that is when the Clams started to come together and win more games. They closed out the second half going 10-5.
Gardner also clobbered a stadium-silencing grand slam on the road against the Wilson Tobs on July 19.
Warneke ended the regular season with the most at-bats in the CPL with 182. Over that span, he drove in 28 RBI with 10 doubles and 11 stolen bases. He led the Steamers with 31 runs scored.
Jefferson added to the Clams speed with 12 swiped bags. Jefferson was an under-the-radar player all season for Edenton.
He began the summer as the leadoff hitter, but as the games flew by, Coach Burroughs was confident enough in slotting him anywhere in the lineup. With a .370 on-base percentage, he batted 1st, 2nd, 7th, 8th and 9th in the order.
The summer also added a few more surprises. Coming from a Division II program, there were a lot of questions surrounding RD Lutze out of the bullpen.
Lutze was able to answer. Powering 37 strikeouts in 22 innings with a 4-0 record and three saves, Lutze's fastball was untouchable, making him a mainstay reliever.
He cemented his Steamers legacy on June 21 against Wilson. In a tie game, Lutze threw four shutout innings with seven punch-outs. In three of those four frames, he was handed two runners aboard with no outs due to the International Tiebreaker Rule, but still came out unscathed in the Clams 8-5 win in 11 innings.
The Steamers also had a pair of players signed to a temporary contract that provided permanent damage to the opposition.
Holden Drake and Tyler Jones were expected to be with the Steamers for a couple of weeks, but wound up sticking around much longer.
Jones turned into an every day infielder at second or third base. His seven sacrifice hits concluded in a first-place tie in the CPL in 31 games.
Drake finished with arguably the gutsiest performance of the season. On June 22, Drake was in a jam. The bases were loaded for the Pilots in the 10th with no outs.
Somehow, Drake composed himself through that inning without allowing a single run. This set up Devon Gardner for the walk-off in the ensuing half inning.
It just seemed that was when the Clams played their best baseball - in extra innings. For the summer, they rallied for five wins in games going past regulation.
The 2018 season did not finish the way the Steamers had hoped, but looking back, there were quite a few games that left everyone with their jaw on the floor.