MOREHEAD CITY, NC – There were fireworks on Friday night at The Rock. Both literally and figuratively. Midway through the sixth inning, the Salamanders were leading the Marlins, 11-4.
But as hall-of-fame catcher Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Morehead City scored nine runs in its final four trips to the plate, six of them in the bottom of the eighth inning, en route to a 13-12 walk-off win over Holly Springs to send the 2,522 fans that packed The Rock home happy.
“I need to go home and go to bed,” Marlins head coach Jesse Lancaster jokingly said after the game. “This was special. We were down late and it just never felt like we were out of it. We have to pitch it so much better, you’d think by this time in the year we’d be in a groove on the mound, but we’re not. Our offense is tough, man. It’s really hard to get us out for nine innings. Really tough.”
Just like the last time Holly Springs came to Big Rock Stadium, they struck first blood early. Benjamin Miller hit a solo home run in the top of the first inning. Two batters later, Easton Waterman did the same thing, giving the Salamanders an early 2-0 lead. Jack Harris (Newberry) answered in the bottom half of the first, with a 435-foot solo home run of his own, his CPL-leading 12th of the season.
The scoring kept going in the second for both sides. The Salamanders scored their run on an RBI double from Justin Quinn, while the Marlins answered with Jack Casbarro scoring off an error.
Holly Springs would the only one to answer in the top of the third. Jake Gitter’s RBI groundout to second base made it a 4-2 ballgame, in favor of the visitors. Morehead City’s answer came in the bottom of the fourth. Jeff Wehler (Pittsburgh) scored off an error to put the Marlins within one.
The show kept going on in the fifth. Caleb Denny hit a solo home run in the top of the fifth for the Salamanders, but the fish would respond in the bottom half. Hunter Shepherd (Catawba) hit a solo home run of his own to make it 6-4 Holly Springs lead.
Things got crazy in the sixth, especially for the Salamanders.
Holly Springs scored a whopping six runs in the top half. It started with an RBI single from Cash. Holly Springs got a huge break from Caden Miller two batters later. The second baseman hit a 2-run RBI triple, winning an eleven pitch battle against Marlin lefty Jordan Morales (La Salle). Benjamin Miller kept the inning going with a 2-run RBI single, followed by an RBI double from Alex Barker. The Marlins countered, with a 2-run single from Conner VanCleave (Pittsburg State). VanCleave had three hits on the night.
The Salamanders would not stop in the seventh. Holly Springs scored its twelfth and final run with a sacrifice fly from Caden Miller.
The Salamanders erupted in the sixth, but the Marlins had their own eruption at the perfect time.
Morehead City stormed back, scoring a colossal six runs in the bottom of the eighth. Jordan Johnson (Arkansas-Monticello) and Casbarro scored back-to-back RBI singles, followed by a 2-run RBI double by Robbie O’Neal (UNC Greensboro). Wehler kept the rally going, scoring an RBI off an error by Salamanders shortstop Tanner Roach. Sean Johnson (Belmont Abbey) tied the game with an RBI bunt single.
The Marlins held their ground in the top of the ninth inning. A 6-4-3 double play got Trey Jernigan (Appalachian State) and Morehead City out of the inning, holding Holly Springs to a goose egg. The Marlins held the Salamanders scoreless in only three trips to the plate.
When the bottom half came around, it was Joe Mason (Mount Olive) that played hero. The outfielder reached base on an error that scored Harris, capping off an eight-run comeback.
There were plenty of guys that stood out for the fish.
Harris went two for five in six plate appearances hitting a home run and a double. Shepherd has a monster day at the plate as well. The first baseman went four for four with two walks in six plate appearances, hitting three singles and a home run.
VanCleave got the rally going for Morehead City. The designated hitter went three for six, with three singles and two RBIs. Casbarro also had a great night against his former team. The shortstop went three for five with three singles and an RBI.
Jernigan got the win, pitching a scoreless 9th. These two teams are back at it tomorrow at Ting Stadium in Holly Springs.