HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. – The Holly Springs Salamanders fell behind early, tried to come from behind, but couldn’t and succumbed 9-6 to the Petersburg Generals at the North Main Athletic Center on Monday.
Coming off a 4-1 win at home on Saturday over High Point-Thomasville, it seemed that the Salamanders (5-6) were prepared to work to piece together another winning effort, but Petersburg’s bats stayed hot and challenged the home side’s pitchers throughout.
Lefty starter Connor Johnson (0-1) suffered the loss for the Salamanders even while striking out six of the 20 batters he faced.
While Holly Springs went through five pitchers, Petersburg’s Conner Alford earned the win with Cameron Busby recording the save as part of a group of four that took to the mound to eventually hold off any late-inning heroics from the Salamanders.
Finishing with nine hits, the double-digit total of men left on base was an area that needed improvement in, and exactly what Salamanders coach Andrew Ciencin talked about in his pregame comments.
“I said it before the game, (about) runners in scoring position – I betcha’ we left maybe 10 guys on base with bases loaded and no outs,” he said.
“I don’t know if they’re doin’ too much, thinkin’ too much. It’s gotta’ be a team at-bat the whole time, and we’re just not doin’ that right now.”
Collin Woody (2-5, 1 R, 3 RBI) and Joey Roach (1-5, 2 RBI) provided the scoring punch for Holly Springs, while Brian Miller (2-4, 2 R) and Devin Wenzel (1-4, 2 R) put themselves in position to score.
As the Coastal Plain League‘s (CPL) fourth-best hitting team in batting and slugging percentage, Brynn Martinez, Eric Crain, and Jamar Hinton all finished 2-for-5 at the plate with two RBI’s apiece for Petersburg (4-5), and kept the offense churning through the ninth inning.
Johnson seemed to start off fine, with a three-up-three-down first inning, but that didn’t last as the Generals took advantage of a fielding error, a walk, and five hits to post four runs on the board during the second.
The error was somewhat surprising as the Salamanders entered the game with the league’s best fielding percentage, having committed only 11 errors on the season – a mark that moved to 12.
It helped to put Petersburg ahead 1-0.
Johnson then walked a batter and a subsequent single drove in two more runs as the Salamanders fell behind 4-0.
Holly Springs finally connected off Generals starter Robert Cook (2 1/3 IP, 3 R, 4 H) in the bottom of the third and cut its deficit to two runs.
The scoring spurt forced Petersburg to make a pitching change as Alford came in.
The Salamanders took him to task right away.
Logan Porter (1-3, 1 R) and Miller got on base after Porter was hit, and then stole second before Miller walked.
Wenzel singled and set Woody up to connect with the bases loaded to score two runs with one out.
Roach then hit a chopper that Alford decided to throw to first which allowed Wenzel to score.
A pop fly ended the inning with Holly Springs trailing 4-3.
Johnson’s teammate at Catawba, Michael Elwell, came in to start the fifth inning, but his time on the mound only lasted an inning as Petersburg added two more runs to its lead, once again establishing a three-run distance from the Salamanders.
Jonathan Piriz took over from Elwell to start the next inning and managed to keep the Generals scoreless during his three innings of work with one hit against from 12 batters faced.
Holly Springs earned a run back in the bottom of the sixth as the Generals committed a throwing error that allowed Wenzel to score.
An inning later, Wenzel started the Salamanders’ off with a double, the result of a high pop fly that the Petersburg fielders lost in the lights and dropped while trying to make the catch.
The 1,082 in attendance waited in anticipation for a scoring surge, but it didn’t surface.
Wenzel was stranded at second as the Generals’ Thomas Durant (1 IP, 1 BB) worked the ball around the plate to force outs on Holly Springs’ next three batters.
Trailing 6-4, Jordan Bissette came in to start the ninth for Holly Springs, but lasted only a third of an inning.
A double, a fielding error, and a wild pitch eventually allowed Petersburg to extend its lead back to three runs, and meant that Bissette’s time on the mound was over.
Jon Rosoff came in to try to finish the inning, but even the Salamanders’ most reliable hurler late in games got picked for two runs before getting out of the inning.
Facing a five-run deficit, Holly Springs needed to reach deep and try to manufacture a ninth-inning rally.
Miller started it off with a single.
After Wenzel popped up to advance him to second, Woody’s double drove him home.
A hit into right center gave Roach a double that scored Woody, and the Generals lead was cut to 9-6 with one out.
A fielder’s choice advanced Roach to third, and an eventual walk to Tony Davila (1-3) put runners in place for the rally to continue with two out.
Unfortunately, on the next at-bat, a force out at second ended the game and the Salamanders’ comeback attempt.
It’s a pattern that this team has developed – playing catch-up ball.
Sometimes it’s resulted in a win, but not against Petersburg.
“Part of it is coming together as a team,” Woody said.
“We have faith in each other. We just need to play a bit sharper – tighten the screws a little bit and I think it’ll be a good season for us.”
“We haven’t put a complete game together, to where we hit, we pitch, and just play the complete game of baseball,” Ciencin added.
“That’s what I’m looking for now – pitch it, hit it, field it – everything. Do everything and just win a baseball game cleanly.”