Martinsville hands Gastonia their first loss of the year

Updated June 08 2017

Coming off of a tough loss to Forest City last night, the Mustangs hosted the undefeated Gastonia Grizzlies. Martinsville trailed early but took the lead with a six run third inning which helped them to an 8-7 win. Martinsville improved to 3-3 while Gastonia fell to 7-1.

Martinsville sent Long Beach State freshman Dylan Spacke to the mound. Spacke, who had only thrown a few innings in the spring was on a tight limit according to head coach Danny Higginbotham.

“That’s why we kept his pitch count down,” he said. “He didn’t throw a ton in the spring and his pitch count was low for them. We’re excited to have him and we’re just trying to keep them healthy.”

Spacke ran into trouble in the second inning after Gastonia scored a couple of runs on three hits. Matthew McGarry and Ryan Cox both had RBI singles that made it 2-0.

The Mustangs responded with a big third inning. Six straight Mustangs starting with Connor Glick would reach base against Gastonia starter Jacob Breakfield (0-1).

Ryan Perkins walked and Davis Sims singled to load the bases. That brought up Zach Michalski who singled in the first run of the game for Martinsville. Lee Sponseller was next and he worked a bases loaded walk to tie the game.

Emilio Abreu kept the the line moving with a go-ahead RBI single. Later in the inning with two in scoring position, Julian Lopez singled in two runs and the Mustangs led 5-2. Keaton Weisz capped off the inning with another RBI single and it was 6-2.

The offense tacked on another run in the fourth inning. With two on Abreu continued his strong night with an RBI single. That gave Martinsville a 7-2 lead. Abreu finished 2-3 with two RBIs.

“A lot of us came in early to get work in and we took extra swings. We talked to the hitting coach [Kevin Soine] and made the adjustments we needed to make,” said Abreu.

Spacke was done after four innings and Cody Dooley came in from the bullpen. Spacke finished with four innings and two runs on five hits.

Dooley got through the fifth before the Grizzlies got to him in the sixth. The Grizzlies pounded out six hits and took advantage of an error in the outfield to push across three runs, trimming the lead to 7-5.

Martinsville would take advantage of a Gastonia miscue in the sixth as well. With Abreu and Sims on second and third, Andres Sosa struck out but the ball went back to the backstop allowing Sims to score.

Andrew Ciolli took over in the seventh for Martinsville and Gastonia struck once again. Two runs on three hits including another RBI single from Cox made it 8-7. The Mustangs defense was solid though as Lopez made a nice play to end the inning.

Mike Stephens the junior from Bucknell took the mound for the Mustangs in the eighth. He worked a clean inning and returned for the six-out save in the ninth.

With the tying run on second and one out, Stephens got Cox to fly out and Lawson McArthur struck out to end the game. Stephens picked up his first save of the year in the win while Dooley (1-0) got credit for the win.

He talked about his mindset with the tying run in scoring position after the game.

“I really just wanted to pound the zone, get ahead of hitters, and stay down in the zone,” he said. “I wanted to let my fastball work and get some good ground balls and let my defense make some plays. The changeup was working and got me that last strikeout at the end. I knew Connor was calling a good game behind the plate and my defense had my back.”

The Mustangs who almost blew a 7-2 lead had multiple plays throughout the game that allowed them to hold on for the win. Higginbotham looked back to a couple of tough plays Sosa made earlier in the game.

“The play that really stood out to me was the play of Sosa at third base. He’s the new guy coming in. Those choppers were big. If he doesn’t make those plays, those are guys on base. It’s good to see him assimilate with the team,” he said.

The Mustangs travel to High Point-Thomasville today before heading back to Holly Springs on Friday. Martinsville will return home on Saturday to face the Salamanders at home to close out the week. Higginbotham talked about the importance of the win with the Mustangs about to hit the road.

“It’s a team win. These guys know they’re one situation away from helping us win this game. It’s great to see a bounce back win,” he said.

Martinsville also got some good news earlier in the day as Perkins and Sims were named Freshman All-Americans for their play at Murray State this spring.

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Nathan Loprete