HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. – On a clear night, hot and sticky as it was, the Holly Springs Salamanders entertained the 1,111 who came out to cheer them as they secured a 4-0 win over the Wilson Tobs at the North Main Athletic Complex on Thursday.
Actually, it was starting pitcher Sam Mersing, a Pitt Panther, who held the crowd’s interest by throwing an impressive one-hitter with nine strikeouts that gave the Salamanders their third win in a row.
It was his first appearance in a game since June 5th, and his longest of the season, going 6 1/3 innings with one hit against to earn his first CPL win.
“I was really grindin’ this week to get back to where I used to be,” Mersing added.
“It felt good. I had a helluva defense behind me tonight – it wasn’t just me out there. It was a good team win.”
“He did a lot better job of gettin’ out there and keepin’ the ball down,” Salamanders coach Andrew Ciencin said.
“He just competed.”
The Salamanders bats supported Mersing’s effort, totaling 11 hits with run production coming from from Collin Woody (2-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI) and Robbie Thorburn (1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI).
Brian Miller and Xyruse Martinez both got on base with two hits apiece, while Josh McLain, Nick Hernandez, Zach Cerbo, and Devin Wenzel had one each.
The Salamanders (10-9) were coming off a 3-1 win over the Tobs (8-13) at Fleming Stadium on Tuesday, their second in as many games, after a 9-5 win at home over Wilmington the night prior.
Due to inclement weather, they weren’t able to play at Martinsville on Wednesday, and were afforded a night off before returning home to host the Tobs, a team they were facing for the fourth time this season.
The only hit Wilson managed against Mersing and the rest of the Holly Springs staff that included Michel Elwell (1 2/3 IP, 1 SO) and Colten Duttweiler (1 IP, 2 SO), was on their first at-bat.
Clark Scoliamero (1-4) reached second on a 2-1 pitch count, but Mersing struck out his first batter of the night right after.
The Tobs’ Collin Thacker (0-4) got to first on a throwing error by Woody, but the third baseman eventually made up for it and initiated the double play the Salamanders needed to get out of the inning.
Losing pitcher Trent Cormier (2-2) kept Holly Springs off the board for five of the six innings he pitched, but a rough third allowed the home side to establish the lead it needed to eventually win the game.
Miller dropped a ball into right center for a double and was set up for Thorburn to drive him in which followed immediately afterwards with a single to right.
With two out, Woody then connected and hit his third home run of the season, bringing Thorburn along with him to extend the Salamanders’ lead to 3-0.
Mersing continued to stymie the Tobs at the plate, continuing to keep them off the base paths through four innings with five strikeouts.
“Just locating – it was a helluva game called by my catcher,” Mersing said.
“Just mixin’ all night – they were strugglin’ with the off-speed.”
Holly Springs took advantage of well-placed hits as Hernandez singled, while consecutive bunts from Cerbo and Martinez loaded the bases in the bottom of the fourth.
Hernandez was called out on the force at home, but Will Nance kept the bases loaded on the fielder’s choice.
The Tobs’ defense then showed some of its own flash when McLain popped up to left field.
With Cerbo tagging up at third, The Tobs’ Raheim Cooper completed the double play to end the inning by making a perfect throw that got the Salamanders’ catcher called out at the plate.
Holly Springs carried its 3-0 lead into the fifth inning.
Miller again singled, but was eventually left stranded as Cormier forced pop ups on the ensuing three Salamanders’ batters to end the inning.
After walking his second batter of the game, and getting a fly out, Ciencin elected to replace Mersing with Elwell.
The Catawba lefty took over where Mersing left off, striking out the first batter he faced.
However, a subsequent walk had runners on first and second with two outs.
That didn’t phase Elwell as he helped to get the runner caught between second and third before Woody made the tag for the final out on a well-placed throw from Wenzel.
The Tobs made a pitching change in the bottom of the seventh when Brock Gooding (2 IP, 1 R, 2 H) came into the game.
McLain put Gooding to the test quickly and got on base with a single.
A few batters later, Woody singled and drove McLain in and extended Holly Springs’ lead to 4-0.
Elwell got into trouble to start the eighth, as he walked the first two batters he faced.
After holding a conference on the mound, the Salamanders worked an impressive double play to ease some of the pressure off Elwell.
With a runner still remaining on third, an impressive diving catch along the line behind first base enabled Hernandez to step on the bag for the final out of the inning.
Duttweiler came in to close out the game in the top of the ninth and helped to secure the first shutout win of the season for Mersing and the Salamanders.
“He didn’t try to do too much tonight,” Ciencin said of Mersing’s work on the mound.
“He let the ball move. When he’s at his best, his ball moves down the zone, and he got a lot of ground outs. That was good to see.”