Holly Springs manager Andrew Ciencin is finally getting a full roster for his Coastal Plains League team, and the results showed in a 5-2 victory over Wilmington on Thursday at the North Main Athletic Complex.
CPL rosters are filled with college players, but the Salamanders were missing players whose teams were in the collegiate playoffs. Two of those, pitchers Michael Elwell and Connor Johnson, came up clutch Thursday for Holly Springs (4-4).
“Finally, we’re starting to get our guys,” said Ciencin, the former N.C. State star. “Those two guys from Catawba, Elwell and Johnson, they’re going to help. It’s coming together. We’re starting to play together more, so it’s good to see.
“Our bullpen did a fantastic job – two guys who we just got today. Throw them right into the fire, and they answered their calling really well.”
Three who mattered
Devin Wenzel, Holly Springs second baseman: Went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored and made two nifty plays in the field, including a crucial pick in the seventh inning.
Pitchers had been getting Wenzel out on inside pitchers earlier in the season, so Wenzel sought Ciencin’s advice.
“When you were getting jammed, what did you do?” Wenzel asked Ciencin.
Do less, Ciencin told him.
“When you try and do more, you get a little long, and you’re slower to the ball,” Wenzel said. “So I just tried to do less, simplify the game and not think too much.”
Elwell, Holly Springs reliever: Elwell replaced Salamander starter Andrew Wantz in the second inning after Wantz left with a back strain, striking out seven in four scoreless innings.
Xyruse Martinez, Holly Springs shortstop: Went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI.
Behind the numbers
.194: Holly Springs came into the game next-to-last in hitting, but the Salamanders matched their season high with 12 hits against the No. 2 pitching staff, by earned-run average, in the league.
“It has been a struggle,” Wenzel said. “But we have some guys with some tools. We’ve got guys who are either going to hit their way to second or hit a single and steal their way to second. Anytime you have that combination of power and speed, you’re going to have the chance to put up some runs.”
1: Wantz, a 2014 Holly Springs High graduate, had to leave in the second inning after feeling pain shooting down his leg following a strikeout in the first. The UNC Greensboro freshman said he’ll get an X-ray Friday as a precaution.
With the tying run on third base and one out for Wilmington in the seventh, Holly Springs brought the infield in against No. 3 hitter Alex Destino, who hit a shot toward second base. But Wenzel made a stellar backhanded pickup to record the out, and Nick Rotola had to stay at third.
“That kid put a good licking on it,” Wenzel said. “You just try to be ready for every pitch and expect the ball to be hit your way. If you do that, you’re going to be successful more often than not.”
Johnson then struck out Joe Bialkowski to end the threat, and the Salamanders scored two runs in the bottom half to push the lead to 5-2.
They said it
Wantz on playing in his hometown: “If you wear a hat around town, it’s like you’re a celebrity around here. It’s pretty cool.”