HOLLY SPRING, N.C. – The Holly Springs Salamanders capitalized on their home-field advantage and beat the Wilmington Sharks 9-5 at the North Main Athletic Complex on Monday.
Connor Johnson (1-1) posted his first win of the season for the Salamanders (8-9), striking out five batters in six innings of work, while Alex Hamilton (1-2 – 4 2/3 IP, 7 R, 6 H, 4 SO) took the loss for the Sharks (7-8).
Though he got tagged early for three runs in the first two innings, Johnson eventually finished with eight hits against him after throwing 85 pitches while facing 25 batters as 986 in attendance looked on.
“One word – competing,” is how Salamanders coach Andrew Ciencin described Johnson’s effort on the mound.
“He got hit around, but he still just kept goin’ at it. His confidence was there, he just had to keep the ball down. I thought he did a great job of adjusting. Overall, I thought he did pretty well.”
N.C. State’s Josh McLain had a big night with three RBI’s while going 1-for-3 at the plate.
Productive at-bats from Collin Woody (2-3, 3 R), Shaq Rolle (2-4, 1 R), Devin Wenzel (1-4, 1 R), Logan Porter (1-4, 1 R), and Will Nance (0-1) all helped to brings runs in as they finished with one RBI apiece.
Johnson was rocked early giving up a two-run homer in the first and a single long ball in the second as the Salamanders trailed 3-0 heading into their half the inning.
Woody and Joey Roach (1-3, 1 R) got on base and eventually scored following a single from Porter, and a fielder’s choice on McLain’s subsequent at-bat.
Rolle then popped up a single to right field to score Porter from second, and extended his finish on the play to second as the Sharks tried to tag Porter unsuccessfully at home.
The Salamanders bats continued to score runs when Roach’s double to left-center brought Woody home to give the home side its first lead of the game, 4-3, in the bottom of the third.
Wilmington tried to tie it soon after, but Holly Springs executed a well-timed rundown at home as third baseman Woody and catcher Porter worked to deny the Sharks Alex Destino (2-4, 1 RBI) any chance of scoring.
Woody’s double in the bottom of the fifth extended the Salamanders’ lead to 5-3 when he sent Thorburn across the plate.
McLain later drove in Hernandez and Woody to push the lead to four runs heading into the sixth inning.
Wilmington’s second pitcher, Andrew Locklear (1 1/3 IP, 1 R, 1H, 4 BB), got into trouble in the bottom of the sixth as he loaded the bases and eventually walked in a run for Holly Springs.
“I thought we did an excellent job tonight on workin’ counts and gettin’ walks,” Ciencin said.
“That just means that they’re locked in at the plate. There were a lot of 0-2, 1-2 counts and they ended up workin’ a walk, or they got a base hit. Seeing that, that means that they’re locked in and ready to go.”
While the Sharks scored to start the seventh, the Salamanders matched it as a result of a fielding error as Rolle scored and Holly Springs extended its lead to 9-4.
With Jonathan Piriz (2 IP, 2 R, 5 H) on the mound, Joe Roberts (2-4, 2 R, 2R) homered over the left field fence and cut the deficit to 9-5 for Wilmington in the top of the eighth.
However, it wasn’t enough for the Sharks as Chris Cervantes came in at the top of the ninth, threw 13 pitches and walked one before finalizing the win for Holly Springs.
It was a well-rounded effort – nine runs scored on nine hits accompanied by defensive contributions from all positions on the field.
“It’s nice having everyone here,” Ciencin said.
“They’re gettin’ the job done when they need to. It’s good to see.”