(HOLLY SPRINGS) At the conclusion of this years first half standings, the Salamanders were 8-18 and owners of the worst record in the Coastal Plain League. The Manders’ fortunes have completely changed in the second half, and following Thursday’s win over Morehead City, they were a first place team.

The Manders moved to 10-8 in the second half following Thursday’s game, taking over sole possession of first place in the CPL East by a half game. Holly Springs is now 18-26 overall on the season.

Thursday’s game was paced by the performance of starting pitcher Mitch Gremling (Wright State), who tossed five shutout innings while allowing only two hits. The sophomore right hander struck out four Marlins and walked only two, buckling down to escape a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the top of the fifth.

Holly Springs got on the board in the bottom of the first inning when Chris Crabtree (Duke) drove in Earl Semper (UNC) on a line drive RBI single to left field.

In the bottom of the fourth, The Salamanders added three more runs that would prove to be enough on Thursday. After Daulton Martin (Tusculum) walked to lead off the inning, Cam Locklear (Liberty) knocked a double off the left center field wall, setting the Manders up with runners on second and third with nobody out. Following Locklear, Chris Davis (Princeton) grounded out to second base, bringing in Martin to make it a 2-0 ballgame. The next man up, left fielder Earl Semper drove in Locklear with a single through the left side of the Morehead City infield. Two batters later, Peyton Isaacson (St. Leo) made it a 4-0 Salamander lead by knocking an RBI single up the middle, a line drive that scored Semper.

Morehead City left the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings, with Gremling closing the door in the fifth and reliever Ryan Tapp (Slippery Rock) striking out leadoff man Danton Hyman to escape the sixth after the man before him Sam Crawford (Georgia Tech) allowed five of the first six men he faced to reach base. The key play in the top of the sixth was when Marlins left fielder Joe Mason doubled to the right center field wall, but was thrown out trying to extend it to a triple.

Caden O’Brien (UNC) tossed the seventh, allowing one run on one hit, an RBI single from Marlins first baseman Hunter Shepherd to cut the lead in half at 4-2. Riley Myers (Catawba) came out of the pen in the eighth for just his second bullpen appearance of the year, and got the final six outs in order, striking out one as the right-hander earned the six out save, his first save of the season.

The now first place Salamanders will put their division lead on the line Friday night as they will take on the Morehead City Marlins again from Big Rock Stadium in Morehead City. #ManderMania

Thursday’s Box Score: https://www.coastalplain.com/sports/bsb/2017-18/boxscores/20180726_d6fu.xml #ManderMania