Bulletin Sports Writer
An early five-run hole was too much for the Martinsville Mustangs to climb out of — Florence starting pitcher Travis Felax made sure of that — as RedWolves beat the Mustangs 11-4 Wednesday at Hooker Field.
Felax (2-2) weathered a three-run third inning for the Mustangs and held on to pick up the win in a complete-game effort, allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out six batters. He threw 86 pitches in the game.
“I felt good,” Felax said. “I had a little rough patch there right in the third and fourth innings, but settled back down and finally dialed in and started pitching instead of throwing … I found a couple of pitches I didn’t have at the beginning of the game. Makes it a little easier to pitch when you have your arsenal.”
The Mustangs (9-17) got off to a solid start, turning a 4-6-3 double play to end the first inning. But Martinsville starting pitcher Taylor Hart got that five-run hole started in the second inning, and the Mustangs never recovered.
Hart (0-4) got his first batter faced in the second inning to ground out, then allowed two hits to put runners on first and second base. Hart looked ready to finish off the inning after a strikeout, but he walked the next two batters, including Florence’s No. 9 hitter.
The Mustangs felt the reverberations of that the rest of the game.
The RedWolves’ No. 1 and 2 batters each hit two-run knocks into the outfield to push the Florence (12-14) lead to five runs.
“I think he did a great job,” Duffy said. “He kept us in the ball game through seven innings. He was upset after that second (inning), and I told him, ‘You can’t lose your poise right now. You’ve got to get back in there and battle.’”
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Hart settled down and finished another 42?3 innings. Duffy visited the mound in the second inning, but said he never considered pulling Hart.
Martinsville responded in the third inning with five hits and three runs, saving what could have been a momentum-burying inning after the Mustangs hit into a 5-2-3 double play when the bases were loaded with no outs.
Martinsville recovered with runners on second and third with exactly what it wanted from its 3, 4, 5 hitters — consecutive RBI singles from Jake Stone, Ian Harvey and John Faircloth.
Hart gave up his sixth run in the fourth inning on a wild pitch that scored Florence third baseman Gyear Zephen. The Mustangs’ starting pitcher gave up six runs on eight hits in 62?3 innings pitched.
Martinsville scored a run in the bottom of the fourth inning to bring the score to 6-4. Adam Pendleton walked to start the inning and designated hitter Derrick Hopkins, hitting in the No. 9 spot, blasted a towering double into deep left-center field. Pendleton scored on the shot.
Martinsville called on Steven Ball to pitch the ninth inning after 11?3 scoreless innings from Kyle Neely, but pulled Ball after he recorded just one out in his first five batters faced. That lone out was a sacrifice bunt to advance Zephen, whom Ball hit with a pitch, to second base. Matt Helms and Daniel Oliver each knocked in two runs later in the ninth to give the RedWolves an 11-4 lead.
“They started getting them broken-bat hits that just of blooped over shortstop and second base,” Faircloth said. “I mean, that just happens. Can’t really defend that too much. The leadoff guy got on, and when the leadoff guy gets on in that situation, stuff starts to roll.”
All told, the RedWolves scored five runs on four hits in the ninth inning.
The Mustangs only sent three batters to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning to end the game.
“We lacked a little bit of plate discipline, but we’ll come back,” Duffy said. “We’ve had three good nights, and we were due for a night like this.
“We were chasing some balls in the dirt, chasing stuff. The kid (Felax) threw a heck of a game. He threw a great game.”
The Mustangs were on a three-game winning streak, including a non-league win against Catawba Valley on Sunday, before Wednesday’s loss.