Local kid comes through in the clutch for Martinsville

Updated June 09 2017

Baseball players almost never forget the fields they grew up playing on. For Zach Michalski it was a memorable return to Finch Field against High Point-Thomasville as the junior tied the game in sixth with a home run and drove in the winning run in the eighth to lift the Mustangs to a 4-3 win.

Martinsville handed the ball to Troy Beckner who was making his second start of the summer. Coming off a no-decision against Asheboro in which he allowed five runs over four innings, the sophomore from Concord battled through a long first inning to go 4.2 innings.

The HiToms jumped out to a 3-0 after an error extended the inning which led to a couple of run scoring hits for High Point-Thomasville.

Beckner would work his way through the next few innings and keep the game at just a three-run deficit. Head coach Danny Higginbotham noticed the way the young right-hander settled in.

“It was good for him to bounce back after that,” Higginbotham said. “It was a rough first inning but he’s the type of kid where we know he’ll battle and he kept us in the ballgame.”

Beckner was taken out in the fifth with two outs and Josh Vincent took over. Beckner finished with another no-decision but only allowed three runs, none of which were earned.

“He kept the ball down better tonight and he made the adjustments he had to make. That’s something he worked with Coach Vruggink a lot,” said Higginbotham.

Meanwhile the Martinsville offense had struggled to get anything going until the fourth. With two outs in the inning, Lee Sponseller homered to right-center. His third home run of the summer was the first hit of the night for the Mustangs.

In the sixth Mustangs catcher Cody Hyler led the inning off with a double and advanced to third on a flyout from Ryan Perkins. That brought up Davis Sims who grounded out to shortstop and Hyler raced in to score the second run for Martinsville.

Michalski was next and he hit a ball to deep left that hit the top of the wall and went over. That tied the game at three.

Vincent was dealing as he kept the HiToms off the board and the game moved to the eighth.

“Obviously the flow…he’s got the hair but on the field he’s funky. The ball gets on guys and it helps change the pace during the course of the game,” Higginbotham said of Vincent.

With two outs Sims doubled and advanced to third on a passed ball with Michalski at the plate. Later in the at bat Michalski dumped a ball into center that scored the go-ahead run.

Michalski reflected on his return after the game.

“I have a lot of good memories playing here,” Michalski said. “I played legion ball here and I played in the state championship game here. I hit my first high school home run here so it’s definitely a lot of fun looking back.”

Omar Maldonaldo III took over in the eighth but struggled with his control as he walked the first three hitters he faced. Higginbotham went to his bullpen and brought in Mike Stephens who was coming off of a six-out save a night ago.

The first hitter he faced, Ty Adcock hit a ball to third that Andres Sosa fielded and threw home to get the first out. The next hitter Brandon Melendez hit a ground ball right at second baseman Josh Smith who looked up and tagged the runner crossing in front of him and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play.

Smith talked about the play that preserved a 4-3 lead for Martinsville.

“Honestly I didn’t have time to think. I just looked up and tagged the runner,” he said.

Stephens came back out for the ninth and retired the HiToms in order to complete the save. Vincent got his first win of the season.

Higginbotham talked about his decision to go back to Stephens.

“There was no hesitation there,” he said. “We have all the confidence in Omar but it was great to see Stephen’s come in and get the job done.”

The Mustangs improved to 4-3 on the year and Smith talked about the Mustangs second comeback victory in a row.

“Everybody is pulling for each other and we don’t give up on each other,” he said.

Martinsville will travel to Holly Springs today before hosting them on Saturday for Star Wars Night. The Mustangs are 2-0 against the Salamanders this season. Game time is set for 7:00.

The Coastal Plain League is the nation’s premier summer collegiate baseball league. Celebrating its 22nd season in 2018, the CPL features 16 teams playing in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The CPL has had over 1,450 alumni drafted and 111 of those – including 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander – make their Major League debut; while another notable alum – Russell Wilson – won Super Bowl XLVIII. For more information on the Coastal Plain League, please visit the league website at www.coastalplain.com and follow us via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @CPLBaseball..


Nathan Loprete