HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. – It’s tough trying to beat a hot team.
That’s what the Holly Springs Salamanders (8-6, 20-22) experienced when they were topped 5-1 by the CPL East Division-leading Petersburg Generals (8-3, 18-20) at the North Main Athletic Complex on Thursday.
While the Generals extended their win streak to seven games and tightened their hold on the top spot, the Salamanders extended their losing skid to three games and fell one more game back.
That two-day furlough seemed to have caused Holly Springs to lose its mojo.
Even while catcher Zach Cerbo tagged his first home run of the season in a 7-2 loss to Edenton at home on Tuesday, the Salamanders bats haven’t maintained the same consistency at the plate this past week.
“We were definitely rollin’ before the All-Star Break,” Cerbo said.
“I don’t know if the break kind of hurt us a little bit or put us in our funk, but the past couple of games have been tough on us. This one (tonight) was a tough one – two before that, the same thing. We had a bunch of hits, but just not scorin’ the runs that we needed to.”
Holly Springs put more runs on the board in a 7-6 loss to the defending league-champion Peninsula Pilots on Wednesday, but still couldn’t build much more momentum in front of 1,170 in attendance to turn things around against Petersburg.
Coach Andrew Ciencin knows all too well and has reiterated repeatedly that it’s a long season, and there’s never a reason to panic.
“We’re fine,” Ciencin said.
“We know what we can do, we know our potential, and we just need to know what kind of spot we need to put ourselves in.”
Unfortunately, the Salamanders didn’t take advantage of the right opportunities to put runs on the board against the Generals.
A wild pitch, a home run, a double and a follow-up single, and a sacrifice fly all scored runs in the third, sixth, seventh, and ninth innings for Petersburg, while the Salamanders’ minimal hit output, five total, could only generate a run.
“That’s just doin’ too much,” Ciencin continued.
“Especially when we’re strugglin’. Everybody’s tryin’ to be the guy who hits a home run or whatever it may be. You just need to settle in and do what you need to do. If it’s a ground ball that gets a runner in, hit a ground ball. It’s not doin’ too much, it’s just keepin’ it simple and playin’ the game.”
Generals starter Conner Andrews (2-3, 1 R, 5 H, 3 SO) finished seven innings to earn the win, while Holly Springs right-hander Brett Daniels (1-3, 6 2/3 IP, 4 R, 5 H, 3 SO), a rising sophomore at UNC from Fuquay-Varina, was tagged with the loss.
N.C. State rising sophomore Tommy DeJuneas’ single in the bottom of the seventh scored the Salamanders’ only run of the game.
N.C. Central right-hander Devin Sweet came into the game and preserved the win for Petersburg, striking out 3-of-7 batters he faced to earn his second save of the season.
With an off-day on Friday, Ciencin believed another quick break could turn around his team’s performance for the better as quickly as did in the other direction.
“Saturday’s a new day,” he concluded.
“A new day ready to roll and hopefully that’s what we do. I think it’s a matter of going out and playin’. They need to be consistent every night. That’s kind of what they’ve struggled with all year (season), and hopefully we get back into playing consistent baseball, playing good baseball, and I think with that, our potential will take us pretty far.”