HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. – It was the storybook ending the Holly Springs Salamanders wanted to give a sold out crowd of 2,189 who witnessed the team’s first-ever Coastal Plain League (CPL) game played at Holly Springs Park at the North Main Athletic Complex on Thursday.
The league’s newest franchise christened its new facility with a comeback 7-6 win over the Edenton Steamers as Nick Hernandez’s lone hit of the night on five at-bats brought second baseman Michael Sconzo in to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Sconzo (0-2, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 R) and center fielder Shaquille Rolle (2-4, 2 R) played critical roles in getting on base and in position to set up the game-winning play.
“I want our guys to be the type of team that never gives up,” Holly Springs coach Andrew Ciencin said.
“Nine innings, I asked those guys to play hard every time. That’s all I want out of them. Obviously tonight we had the team that can do that. It’s never gonna’ give up and keep on goin’ and it showed tonight.”
Utility player Jon Rosoff (1 IP, 1 SO) earned the win, coming in as the fourth pitcher of the night after starting the game in left field.
Former Holly Springs Hawks pitcher Andrew Wantz (5 2/3 IP, 5 SO, 3 ER, 1 BB) started on the mound and helped the Salamanders hold on to a 2-0 lead through four innings until the Steamers bats started connecting more.
“Middle innings you get a little tired,” Ciencin said of Wantz’s performance.
“He hasn’t thrown live in a little bit, but he did what we needed him to do.”
Catcher Joey Roach, another former Holly Springs Hawks product, helped establish the Salamanders’ early two-run lead as he brought in the team’s first runs in the park, homering to right field in the bottom of the fourth to push Collin Woody across the plate before him.
Roach got some help on the play from Edenton right fielder Phillip Carrol who miscued his jump to catch the ball at the top of the fence and actually helped push it over.
“It was really exciting,” Roach said of watching the ball get over the fence.
“The fans tonight were electric – it was a great atmosphere, great first game. I was lucky enough to get one out of the park, almost storybook like.”
It got interesting as Chris Williams (1/3 IP, 4 ER) and Kyle Dyson (2 IP, 1 SO, 1 BB) came in to relieve Wantz, but struggled to control the Steamers’ momentum.
Edenton cut the lead to one run before adding another two to take its first lead of the game, 3-2, by the middle of the sixth.
Trailing 6-3 by the bottom of the eighth, Holly Springs put two men on base and Tony Davila drove in one run with a double to cut the deficit to two runs.
The Salamanders kept the rally going as Woody’s sacrifice brought Martinez home before Roach’s fly to left field ended the inning with the home side trailing 6-5.
With Rosoff taking care of the Edenton batters in the top of the ninth, Rolle singled and Sconzo walked, before Xyruse Martinez loaded the bases with a single to left.
With two out, Tony Davila (1-5, 1 RBI) got on base on a fielder’s choice and error that allowed Rolle to score and tie the game 6-6.
That set up Hernandez to write the ending that the crowd wanted to see play out.
His single to right field side brought Sconzo home and sent the entire Salamanders team spilling onto the field to celebrate while the fans did the same in the stands.
“It was a great game I thought,” Hernandez said.
“We showed a ton of fight. We were down at a couple points in the game, but we never gave up. It was awesome to see, especially at home here, in front of this crowd. It’s real nice to give our fans a win.”
The Salamanders, currently 2-1, travel to High Point-Thomasville to face the HiToms on Friday before returning home to host the Wilson Tobs on Saturday.