HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. – The Holly Springs Salamanders put together an entertaining scoring display late in the game and beat the Florence RedWolves 8-4 in front of 1,032 in attendance at the North Main Athletic Complex on Tuesday.
Though Michael Elwell (2-0) earned the win, starter Chris Lanham (5 1/3 IP, 3 R, 6 H, 3 SO), a right-hander from Yale, carried a significant part of the load through five innings before Florence tagged him with three runs against.
Shaq Rolle (2-4) and Drew Butler (2-5) each finished with 2 RBIs and a run scored, while Logan Porter (1-3), Josh McLain (1-4), and Joey Roach (0-2) each finished with an RBI and crossed home plate to add to the Holly Springs offense.
The Salamanders’ CPL all-star selections showed their power and grace as Collin Woody (3-5, 1 R) and Brian Miller (2-5, 1 R) also added to what eventually became the team’s largest and most notable comeback of the season.
The RedWolves (17-17, 2-4) were in firm control of a 3-0 lead with starter James Walsh (7 IP, 6 H, 5 SO) on the mound.
Walsh, a left-hander from Randolph Macon, came into the game helping Florence maintain its league-leading effort in possessing the lowest team ERA (3.10).
However, an eight-run rally in the eighth inning changed that, and quickly put the Salamanders in charge of a game that was slipping out of their reach.
“I didn’t think we made very much of an adjustment against that first guy,” Salamanders coach Andrew Ciencin said.
“It was kind of frustrating to watch him dominate us, but we got to the bullpen and did what we needed to do.”
Holly Springs (17-18, 5-2) was coming off a 5-4 win over High Point-Thomasville on Sunday, the result of the team’s first-ever complete game thrown by Connor Johnson, Elwell’s teammate at Catawba.
The Salamanders sat in third place in the Coastal Plain League East Division standings and looked to keep up its strong play since beginning the second half of the schedule that began on June 30th.
Lanham and Walsh did exceptional work from the mound as both teams were scoreless through five innings.
Holly Springs tried put together some offense in the fourth as Woody tripled and Roach walked and were set up on the corners for Porter to bring them home.
Even while Walsh was forced to work into a 3-and-2 count, he got out of it as Porter popped up to right field and ended the inning with both teams still scoreless.
Lanham got into some trouble in the fifth when Matt Williams (1-4, 1 RBI) reached first on bunt, and a double to Nathan Wierzgac (1-4) put runners on second and third with one out.
The Salamanders defense helped its starter get the next two outs and the sheet remained clean in the runs scored column.
The RedWolves scored first and put together a rally that posted three runs in the top of the sixth inning.
While Ciencin tried to let Lanham work out of trouble early with one run against, the additional two runs that followed eventually forced him to call left-hander Wayne Wages, a recent signee from Georgia State, into the game.
“He’s kind of been getting to five or six innings and we just don’t know what we’re gonna get behind that,” the Holly Springs coach said of Lanham.
“We left him in to see what he had. He makes pitches, he gets outs. We took a chance. He was leaving the ball up late in the inning, and we just had to get him out of there and let the bullpen work.”
Wages put in one inning’s worth of work as a warmup to starting later in the week, and the Salamanders started the eighth with lefty Elwell on the mound.
Still trailing by three runs, Holly Springs didn’t have much time left.
They quickly took advantage of the opportunity to score runs in the bottom of the eighth after Walsh was replaced by Brett Porter (3 R, 3 H) who took over on the mound for the RedWolves.
Butler led off with a single and eventually reached third on a single from Wenzel.
A wild pitch from Porter scored Butler and the Salamanders trailed 3-1 with a runner on second and none out.
Woody then doubled and advanced Wenzel to third as DH Robbie Thorburn (1-3, 1 R) came to the plate as the go-ahead run.
That prompted Florence to make another change on the mound as Tyler Keele (1/3 IP, 5 R, 4 H) came in to attempt to contain Holly Springs’ momentum at the plate.
Thorburn’s patience won out as Keele walked him to load the bases, and still with none out.
Next up was Roach who kept looking as four straight pitches eventually walked him and brought Wenzel in.
Holly Springs trailed 3-2.
Porter’s single to center field then scored Woody and the game was tied with Holly Springs looking to score more.
That’s exactly what they did.
McLain’s single scored two more and the Salamanders kept the bases loaded with Rolle at the plate and possessing their first lead of the game at 4-3.
A broken bat single to center then scored Roach and Porter and extended the advantage to 6-3.
A fielder’s choice on a hit from Miller advanced Rolle and McLain to second and third respectively, and brought Butler back up to the plate.
Another single brought Rolle and McLain in and pushed the lead to 8-3, and prompted yet another pitching change for Florence.
“Every rally starts with a baserunner,” Woody said.
“Good job by Drew to get that started and Devin following it up, and then I got one from there. Then the wheels started spinnin’, the pitcher started strugglin’ a bit, and we put in quality at-bats. Things worked out for us.”
The game wasn’t over just yet though, as the RedWolves’ batters challenged and eventually forced Elwell out of the game in the top of the ninth.
Florence took advantage of its final chance at bat and placed two runners on first and second with none out.
Ciencin countered and brought in NC State’s Chris Williams to finish the job.
It didn’t come easy though as a wild pitch from the righty side-armer advanced the runners before he finally struck out the first batter he faced.
A pop fly to Rolle in center field brought in a run for Florence, but it was all that the Salamanders would give up as a comebacker to the mound allowed Williams to throw to first to get the final out.
“Early on we were just tryin’ to do too much,” Ciencin concluded.
“The bullpen did a great job of makin’ adjustments and let them make mistakes and we took advantage of it.”
“It was really exciting,” Woody added in describing the late-inning win.
“We love having the fans behind us and supporting us. That really, really helps us. It gives us energy in the late innings.”