Avant drives in 4 runs as Tobs rally for 4th straight win

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HOLLY SPRINGS — Christian Avant doubled in a pair of runs in the top of the first inning for the Wilson Tobs in their Coastal Plain League game Monday at Holly Springs.

Then, for an encore, the Wilson right fielder singled in two more runs in the top of the eighth inning to propel the Tobs to a 7-6 victory, their fourth in a row.

Left-handed reliever Taylor Soper pitched around a double by Itchy Burts and a walk to Ian Bailey with one out in the ninth to finish the game and earn his second save. 

The victory boosted the Tobs into first place in the North Division by a half game over the Edenton Steamer and Peninsula Pilots, who delivered a 12-0 thrashing to the Steamers in seven innings Monday. Wilson, the first-half North winner, climbed to 20-14 overall while the Salamanders, languishing the East second-half cellar at 4-7, slumped to 15-21 on the season. It was the Tobs’ 10th win without a loss against East Division foes in 2019.

Avant, who hit safely in his fourth consecutive game, made Holly Springs starting pitcher Hayden Thomas pay immediately for walking the first two batters of the game, Tobs third baseman De’Andre Pitts and center fielder Jared Carr. Avant poked a double to right field at Ting Stadium, scoring both runners. Avant then scored on shortstop DeShawn Lookout’s grounder.

The Salamanders got two of those runs back in the bottom of the second on left fielder Nick Lucky’s two-run home run off Tobs starter Sebastian Martinez.

Wilson scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings. Marquise Lanier drew a lead-off walk in the fourth and then, with two out, raced home on Kevin Jordan’s triple. The Tobs struck again with two outs in the fifth as Reese Farmer singled in Lookout, who had doubled to start the inning.

The Salamanders showed they could score with two outs as well in the bottom of the seventh inning. Left-hander Mason Medlin, the fourth of seven Wilson pitchers, sandwiched a walk to Matthew Turino in between a pair of outs. But Holly Springs second baseman Burts roped a double to left field and Bailey lashed a two-run single  to end Medlin’s mound stint.

Alex Hart took over and hit the first batter he faced to load the bases. After a passed ball brought in Burts from third, Jake Holtzapple, who played for the Tobs in 2017, ripped a single to center field to score two runs and put the Salamanders in front 6-5.

No problem for the Tobs. Catcher Chase Wullenweber drew a lead-off walk and Jordan singled him over. That brought University of Mount Olive rising senior and C.B. Aycock High product Kyle Davis out of the bullpen. Davis got a groundout and a line-out before Avant ruined his save opportunity with a single to center that scored Wullenweber and Jordan.

Avant and Jordan each had two of Wilson’s seven hits while Burts and Crabtree paced the Salamander with three hits each.

The Tobs return to Fleming Stadium on Tuesday to face North foe Peninsula with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.

Score by innings:

Wilson 300 110 020 7

Holly Springs 020 000 400 6

WP-Alex Hart (1-0) 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO. LP-Andrew Tillery (0-2) 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO. S-Taylor Soper (2) 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO.

LEADING HITTERS — Wilson: Christian Avant 2-4, 2B, R, 4 RBIs; Kevin Jordan 2-4, R, 3B, RBI; DeShawn Lookout 1-4, 2B, R, RBI. Holly Springs: Itchy Burts 3-4, 2 2Bs, R; Chris Crabtree 3-4, 2B, R; Nick Lucky 1-4, HR, 2 RBIs; Ian Bailey 1-4, R, RBI.