Mustangs sweep Copperheads on the road

Updated June 23 2017

Martinsville hit the road for the backend of a four game series with Asheboro. After a split at home yesterday, Martinsville got two strong performances from their starting pitchers and the offense came through in some big spots to power the Mustangs to a sweep.


In the first game the Mustangs sent Dylan Spacke, the freshman from Long Beach State to the mound. Spacke was making his third start of the year and he had his best outing of the year for Martinsville.

After a scoreless first inning, Spacke fell behind Vito Friscia and the Copperheads catcher made him pay with a solo home run to open the scoring. Spacke settled in after that and finished the inning with his fourth strikeout of the game.

The Mustangs offense picked him up in the third against Copperheads starter Nick Rathke who struggled with his control. Rathke issued a walk to Keaton Weisz before hitting Davis Sims with a pitch. That brought up Lee Sponseller who walked and the Emilio Abreu worked the third walk of the inning to tie the game.

Spacke had his best inning in the fourth when he struck out the side giving him seven for the game.

“From my last two starts I left the ball up a lot and gave up a lot of hits. I was just trying to keep the ball down,” Spacke said. “I was putting my fastball where I needed it to and they were hitting into outs. I had a lot of strikeouts in the beginning.”

The Mustangs offense broke through in the fifth inning. After a single by Sponseller, the Mustangs had two outs with Zach Michalski at the plate.

The junior from NC Central got a break after a foul ball down the right field line dropped and the slugger took advantage of the opportunity. Michalski turned on a pitch from Rathke and went deep to give the Mustangs a 3-1 lead. That was his fourth home run of the year.

Asheboro got a run back in the bottom of the fifth which ended the night for Spacke. Omar Maldonado III came in and got Clark Brinkman to ground out with the tying run on base.

Spacke (1-0) went 4.2 innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits. He walked two and struck out seven.

Mustangs Pitching Coach Ryan Vruggink talked about Spacke after the game.

“He kept the ball down really well today and really competed in the zone,” he said. “He had all three pitches for strikes which was big for him. He’s got a pretty live arm so having that fastball to work with is big for him.”

In the sixth, Marshall Gei led off with a double and Josh Smith followed with a triple that made it 4-2 Martinsville. That was the first triple of the year for the Mustangs. Smith has three RBI’s over the past two games is trying to get his average up after a slow start.

“We knew he would be fine and I think he just needed to get back in the swing of things,” said Mustangs Head Coach Danny Higginbotham.

Later in the game with two outs, Abreu smacked an RBI double which scored Smith and it was 5-2 Mustangs.

The Copperheads responded with back-to-back home runs against Maldonado in the sixth. Russell Schwertfeger and Friscia both went deep against the hard-throwing right but he was able to end the frame with Martinsville still leading 5-4.

Mike Stephens came out for the bottom of the seventh with Martinsville leading by a run. Stephens, who had been roughed up a couple of times by Asheboro earlier in the year came out and closed the game out for his third save of the year.

“He got rid of his “Copperhead curse” but he worked ahead a little more today,” said Vruggink. “The other day was kind of a fluke thing where in four pitches the wheels were already spinning a little bit. Today he came in a little more settled down and was ready to go from the start.”


The second game was a pitchers duel between the two starters. Jason Foster (1-1) of Martinsville outdueled Mason Fox (2-1) who threw well for Asheboro. Foster took the loss in relief last week against Forest City but he was in control from the start.

In the second inning Martinsville manufactured a run after Ryan Perkins walked and Kyle Wilkie doubled with two outs. That gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead.

Foster got a little insurance in the sixth inning courtesy of a Sponseller home run off of Copperheads reliever Jacob Craver.

Foster was in a rhythm as he retired eight in a row starting in the third inning and ending in the sixth with a double by Devon Ortiz. The redshirt-sophomore from Wright State got the next two outs to end the inning. 

In the seventh after a one out double by Kirby Lambert, the Mustangs stuck with Foster.
“Since his pitch count was so low, we felt that he had earned the opportunity to get the complete game. We kept giving him opportunities and he got the job done,” Higginbotham said.

Facing Friscia, the Ohio native got the Copperheads slugger to fly out and the Kyle Smith grounded out to complete the 2-0 shutout.

Foster got 13 ground ball outs and only struck out three and he talked about what was working the best after the game.

“I threw a lot of sliders and changeups down in the zone,” he said. “I got my sinker down in the zone and got a lot of ground balls out of it.”

Vruggink talked about Foster’s efficiency on the mound and how he was able to go the distance.

“He was really close to getting the “Greg Maddux,” which is where you throw less than 10 pitches an inning and get a complete game,” he said. “Up until that double that got through the right side he was on pace for it. He had 13 ground balls and he threw to contact to keep his pitch count really low.”

The Mustangs who dropped the first game yesterday finished the series with three straight wins. Higginbotham talked about his team who is now 10-8 and tied with High Point-Thomasville in the standings.

“They focused on detail. It was pitch to pitch and it was close games. You never really felt any panic and you felt as if they knew they were going to get the job done,” he said.

Martinsville will host Faith and Family night on Friday night at 7:15. Gates open at 6:00.

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 and follow us via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @CPLBaseball..


Nathan Loprete