By: Evan Rogers
HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — Everyone loves winning.
It’s more enjoyable, fun and builds momentum. But, losing is where lessons tend to be learned, good teams and players become great and is a time when leaders are formed.
And, in Holly Springs’ 2-1 loss to the Wilmington Sharks, a defeat that extended the Salamanders’ losing streak to three games, one player was engaged in every pitch and at-bat of Tuesday’s contest — catcher Robert Brooks.
Whether it was him taking meetings at the mound with starting pitcher Zach Green to calm down the first-year from North Georgia, or motivating right fielder Will Stewart before his final at-bat of the night, Brooks’ first bumps, motivation and smile was constant throughout the game.
“Brooks is a good leader,” head coach Brain Rountree said. “He not only leads when he’s on the field, but when he’s not playing, he leads in the dugout. Brooks is even keeled and everything is positive and optimistic.”
Coming off a graduate season where he launched 21 home runs and notched 84 RBIs, Brooks had high expectations for his summer season in Holly Springs.
However, these aspirations were met by an early-season cold stretch that saw the catcher from Columbus State tally two hits in his first six games.
“I got here and I started struggling a bit,” Brooks said. “I’ve had a really supportive team and a really supportive coaching staff that have helped me.”
Behind the support of his peers, Brooks began to turn things around.
Against the Wilson Tobs on Monday, Brooks’ barrel was flawless, batting a perfect 4-4 and blasting a two-run homer in the sixth inning. However, the Salamanders fell to the Tobs 7-3, a final score Brooks claimed meant his night wasn’t as darling as it may appear.
“I didn’t win, we lost,” he said. “I did have a good night, but we lost so it didn’t matter.”
This team first mentality was present again from Brooks against the Sharks.
After Wilmington painted the corners in the first inning, Brooks met with Green at the mound, pumping him up and instilling confidence. The meeting — though brief and likely overlooked by many — helped pave the way for Green to excel on the mound, as he surrendered only one earned run in over five innings of work.
And, when asked about how it felt to have his best night on the bump with Holly Springs, the person Green pointed to for his success wasn’t himself.
“Me and Brooks, shoutout to him, had a good night,” Green said. “(Brooks) knew what was working the entire night.”
Similar to Brooks’ breakout game, Green’s night to shine came during a loss for the Salamanders. With Holly Springs’ loss to the Sharks, the Salamanders have dropped three straight games and have fallen to fourth in the East Division.
However, with Brooks leading the way the Salamanders look to be taking the string of defeats as a learning curve before the Coastal Plain League’s season ramps up into its latter half.
“We just have to embrace the suck,” Green said. “The best thing about baseball is we get to do it again tomorrow.”