By: Evan Rogers
HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — At the beginning of Holly Springs’ summer season, shortstop Gavin Troutman was signed as a conditional player.
With this assignment the sophomore from Lock Haven’s roster spot was tentative, and as other Salamanders from Division 1 squads finished their collegiate seasons in June his time in Holly Springs could’ve been cut short at any moment. Troutman’s chances of maintaining a roster spot into the season’s end were slim, but playing a key role in a contests’ outcome was even less likely.
However, in the Holly Springs’ 9-6 win over the Peninsula Pilots, it was Troutman’s forceful bat in the lead-off spot that helped the Salamanders break their three-game losing streak.
Following a brief break during the Coastal Plain League’s All-Star festivities, Holly Springs saw its offense turn quiet. In their next three contests against the Savannah Bananas, Wilmington Sharks and Morehead City Marlins, the Salamanders plated a combined five runs while allowing a total of 27 runs.
The losing streak featured multiple lopsided box scores and Holly Springs’ worst defeat of the season — a mercy rule loss to Wilmington.
Even so, head coach Brian Rountree’s message to his squad heading into Saturday night’s bout against the Pilots was simple.
“Coach talked before the game about perseverance and getting through tough times,” third baseman Jack Oberdorf said. “I think what he talked about really hit the guys and helped us to keep going.”
Like many of its previous defeats, Holly Springs fell behind in the first inning as Peninsula drove home the night’s first run.
But the Salamanders responded quickly. Troutman — leading off for the first time this season — sparked Holly Springs’ offense as his single in his first at-bat paved the way for the Salamanders to tie the game.
One inning later, the shortstop delivered again. With painted corners and two outs, Troutman launched a 2-RBI triple to give Holly Springs its first lead of the night and boost Troutman’s already blistering confidence.
“It felt great,” he said. “I knew I was seeing the ball well from the first at-bat on the same kid. Even though I hit a dribbler I knew if he threw a fastball again, I was swinging.”
After gaining its first lead of the game, Holly Springs never looked back, outsourcing Peninsula by two runs in the contest’s final six innings.
On his break-out night, Troutman’s knock in the second inning turned the tide for good in favor of Salamanders. His efficient night should come as no surprise, as Troutman has quietly creeped up to a near .300 batting average.
And to hear Rountree say it, it’s the once conditional player’s late-season strides that made moving Troutman to the lead-off spot a no-brainer.
“I’ve told him in practice that he’s as good as anybody at barreling the ball up,” Rountree said. “(Troutman’s) a tough out at the plate.”
With their victory, the Salamanders snapped its near week-long skid, a feat that couldn’t have come at a better time.
In its next battle, Holly Springs will take on the Savannah Bananas in a game that’s been sold-out for over two months. And if that wasn’t enough to get one fired up for Sunday night’s contest, the Salamanders’ recent loss to Savannah makes their next game mean even more.
“We’re coming in fired up,” Troutman said. “(Savannah) took care of business at their place — kind of handled us with no problem. We want to show them what it’s like to play at our place.”