The first half of the Coastal Plain League season came to an end Saturday night. The night prior, the Mustangs were in Edenton for a pair of seven inning games. After Game 1, Martinsville sat at 8-16 on the year.
Since that Game 1 loss Friday night, the Mustangs have won four straight games and begun the second half of the season with two wins in a row. That’s important because in the CPL, the records reset in the second half, and the division winners for each half of the season reach the playoffs. If the same team wins both halves, then then it goes to overall record to find the second team in each division.
“It’s huge,” Martinsville Head Coach Kregg Snook said of Monday’s win. “To keep that confidence that we had in Edenton and Wilson the last two nights of the first half and then continue to build it for the second half. (Sunday’s) win showed so much resiliency in our team and that’s the thing that you love the most as a coach.”
The new season began Sunday night for Martinsville in High Point-Thomasville. The Mustangs rallied for three runs in the top of the ninth inning to force extra innings, and then exploded for five runs in the top of the 10th to earn a 14-9 win. That’s the type of game Martinsville fell on the wrong side of in the first half of the season.
“We lost a lot of those games in the first half,” said Martinsville infielder Casey Harford (UT-Martin). “So winning one like that... that’s everything for a team.”
“It boosts everybody’s confidence, especially going into the second half,” said Martinsville catcher Josh Killeen (Wichita State).
The Mustangs kept the train rolling Monday night back home at Hooker Field, taking down Forest City, 7-6. Martinsville fell behind after a couple of mistakes in the field, but rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth to regain the lead for good.
It was another one of those games where it wasn’t a complete effort, but when one part of the game falters, others step up and pick the team up.
“It’s awesome. It’s awesome when one group picks up the other, but it’s even more awesome when everybody picks each other up as teammates,” Snook said.
Becoming closer as a team
The first half of the season was a struggle for the Mustangs. Martinsville suffered through a six-game losing streak, and then a separate five-game losing streak.
In a season that’s long, tedious at times, and extremely hot, it would be easy for a team to crack in the midst of those losing streaks, but Martinsville has not. In fact, the losing streaks have actually helped the team bond and regroup from those tough stretches.
“We’ve got a loose group and it’s pretty easy to keep them locked in,” Snook said.
“I believe we’ve all been gelling together as a team” Killeen said. “We’ve been playing games on the bus, we’ve been doing everything that’s good for team baseball, and so I think that’s really what’s carried us into the second half.”
“Everybody’s getting to know each other. We had that tough stretch, six in a row we dropped early in the year, and nobody knew each other,” Harford said. “We’re all gelling. We’re all good friends now. Everybody’s closer and that’s what really helps the team win because you want it more.
“When it’s less individual and more about the team, it’s easier to win.”
The Mustangs will send four players to Savannah this weekend for the CPL All-Star Game, with Davis Palermo, Tyler Riebock, Hank Moore and Collin Allman all representing Martinsville.
“It’s so exciting,” Snook said. “I’m looking forward to see how our guys stack up. I know they’re hungry to prove that they deserve to be there and they deserve to play at even the next level.”
Palermo also represented the Mustangs on the CPL Select Team that traveled to face the USA Collegiate National Team in Cary, N.C. Monday night. Palermo allowed a run in an inning of relief, but it was still an experience Snook was glad he was able to have.
“He’s been lights out for us so far and he has a very bright future ahead of him. It’s exciting for him,” Snook said of Palermo.
Keep it rolling
The all-star break begins Sunday and goes for four days. The Mustangs are on the road at Savannah on Wednesday and at Asheboro Thursday before returning for games Friday and Saturday at home against Wilson and Edenton before beginning the all-star break.
“The message going into it we’ve got to keep going. These games are huge for us to be playing well right before the break,” Snook said. “We want to get into that break playing as well as we can and come out of the break picking back up right where we left off.”
The Mustangs will return from the break next Thursday at Gastonia and will have their first home game post all-star game next Friday against Holly Springs for 90’s night.
Chris Doherty is a Sports Reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him 276-638-8801 ext. 215. Follow on Twitter @BulletinSport