Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
Judging by the conduct of the invited dogs, the Wilson Tobs’ “Bark in the Park” promotion proved successful on a sweltering Sunday evening in Fleming Stadium.
But canines and their owners/handlers, who happened to be Tobs’ fans, saw little to bark about in Wilson’s 13-4 Coastal Plain League summer collegiate baseball loss to the Holly Springs Salamanders.
The Tobs, coming off Saturday night’s rain-out at High Point-Thomasville, lost for the fifth time in the last six outings in dropping to 3-5 in the North Division. Holly Springs won for just the third time in 10 games.
The recipe for trouble was similar to the Tobs’ lopsided loss at Martinsville on Friday evening. Wilson fell behind by a sizable margin early and the pitchers — starter and relievers — were ineffective. Wilson managed just six hits against four Salamanders pitchers.
“We’ve had a rough go of it the last two days,” Wilson head coach Bryan Hill admitted. “The pitching has been up and down, up and down. We are trying to figure it out.”
But Hill accentuated the positive in his postgame comments.
“We’ve still got 46 games left. We have two games before our day off Wednesday and we are looking at being 5-5 — which is where we need to be.”
A sensational inning-ending play from first baseman Ben Faso prevented the Tobs’ deficit from being worse than 1-0 after the first inning.
However, the Salamanders bounced back with a five-run outburst after two outs in the second inning. On four successive hits, Holly Springs hitter connected on two-strike pitches.
“We had a ton of energy,” expressed Salamanders head coach Avery Booker, the grandson of baseball legend Jack McKeon. “We came back in the second inning and finished what we could have done in the first. Tonight, we came out and played clean, threw strikes and got after it. The hitters were ready to hit.”
Holly Springs, despite 11 strikeouts, tagged seven Tobs pitchers for 16 hits, including two home runs and four doubles. Leading 6-3, the Salamanders took command with five runs in the fourth.
Shortstop Cam Locklear rapped an RBI double in the first. In the second, Locklear, second baseman Dalton Martin, third baseman Chase Allen, center fielder Patrick Wheeler and first baseman Ben Highfield rapped successive hits, with Highfield ripping a double. The second inning would be the last for starting Tobs pitcher Jason Cornatzer, who dropped to 0-2 with the loss.
Designated hitter Trey McDyer slammed a three-run homer in the fourth. Left fielder Carter Williams doubled and trotted home on Martin’s single in the fiftgh. After striking out four times, catcher D.J. Laxton walloped a solo homer in the ninth.
Booker considers his Salamanders much more capable than their record implies.
“We’ve played a lot of tough games,” he explained. “Somehow, we have not been on the right end of one-run games. We’ve lost two in extra innings. I’m glad tonight happened; we got a taste of winning and maybe it will get us rolling.”
The Tobs managed just six hits and could not capitalize upon 12 walks from four Holly Springs pitchers. Wilson left the bases loaded in the second and fifth innings.
In Wilson’s three-run second, designated hitter Kevin McGowan laced a two-run single and second baseman Jacob Nester collected a run-scoring single. Third baseman Drew Brooks plated the other Tobs’ run with a bases-loaded walk in the fifth. Nester paced the offense at 2 for 4.
“As un-fun as this was to watch, it’s not as devastating as it seems,” Hill declared. “A lot of good can come from getting beat. We know we have talent and we are going to be pro-active and optimistic.”
After Monday night’s trip to Fayetteville, the Tobs return to Fleming Stadium at 7 p.m. Tuesday against the Wilmington Sharks.