By: Evan Rogers
HOLLY SPRINGS, N.C. — In a game as slow paced as baseball, it’s rare to find a contest’s script get flipped on its head in a matter of minutes.
But in Holly Springs’ 5-2 win over the Wilmington Sharks, two consecutive pitches proved to be the difference for the Salamanders in their fifth straight win.
During Holly Springs’ win streak, that has propelled the Salamanders to the top spot in the Coastal Plain League’s East Division, the team has rarely found itself in early deficits. However, during Sunday night’s battle, the Sharks jumped out to a 2-0 in the first inning.
And, after the Salamanders were held scoreless in the bottom half of the inning, a sense of uncertainty began to arise amongst almost everyone in attendance — everyone but head coach Brain Rountree.
“I felt a sense of, ‘Don’t panic,’” he said. “I really felt strong in our offense that we’d get something going.”
The tranquility possessed by Holly Springs’ head man soon began to channel off onto his team.
In the next inning, designated hitter Will Stewart scampered to second base after a sacrifice bunt was placed down. One batter later, shortstop Nick Coolahan curved a double down the first-base line, driving in Stewart and chipping into the Sharks’ lead.
Coming into the contest, Coolahan had been in and out of Holly Springs’ starting lineup, resulting in just five hits for the sophomore from Elon in the early goings of the summer season. But, being the first batter to tally a hit for the Salamanders against the Sharks shouldn’t come at a surprise.
“(Coolahan) is a good player and he understands himself as a hitter,” Rountree said. “He hits hard line drives and uses his foot speed well.”
Coolahan’s hit ignited a two-run inning for Holly Springs, who now found themselves in a gridlock with Wilmington.
The tie between the two teams didn’t last long, however. In the subsequent inning, designated hitter Will Stewart tattooed his fourth home run of the season nearly over the upper gates of Ting Stadium.
“It was one of those ones you don’t feel off that bat, and you just know,” Stewart said. “It felt really good.”
One pitch later, deja vu struck those dripped in gold and blue.
This time with Nathan Humphreys at the plate, the center fielder slugged another ball out of the park, this time past the left-center field wall. In just two pitches, and in hits that seemed to be mere seconds apart, the Salamanders had blown the game open.
The instantaneous shift in momentum erased any worries sparked by the short, yet unusual, hole dug by Holly Springs, and helped the Salamanders capture a home win on Father’s Day.
Now, the Salamanders shift their focus to a battle against the Wilson Tobs — a squad that sits second in the East Division. Despite the bigtime matchup, an unwavering confidence appears to be hovering over the group, especially after launching back-to-back pitches out of the park.
“The ‘Manders are hot right now,” Humphreys said. “The pitchers are pounding the zone and the hitters are smacking it.”