The mental toughness had to pay off eventually.
After three straight games in which ninth-inning offense was not enough to get the win, the SwampDogs scored two runs in both the first inning and the ninth inning to support a lights-out bullpen as Fayetteville defeated Holly Springs, 5-4.
"That was a great team win for us, especially moving forward," said Natale Monastra (Xavier) after the game. "I really believe those clutch at-bats and innings out of our pitchers down the stretch will benefit us big time heading into the next week."
The SwampDogs did some damage right away in this one, scoring twice before the cleanup hitter even came up to bat. Matt Kelly (Portland) and Joey Wiemer (Cincinnati) led off with back-to-back singles and were immediately driven in on a double by Monastra.
When the Salamanders broke through to take a 4-2 lead after four, the SwampDogs found themselves trailing late in the game once again.
Unlike the previous three tries, though, Fayetteville's perseverance paid off Saturday. A couple of singles by Matthias Carter (Methodist) and Javon Martin (Charleston Southern) set up a Kelly RBI in the seventh, cutting the deficit to one.
After a scoreless eighth, the SwampDogs went into the final frame needing a run to survive. Brett Young (Delta State) opened up the inning with a pinch-hit single then came around to score on a Willis McDaniel (Florida A&M) base hit, and Wiemer drew a bases-loaded walk to give Fayetteville a lead it would not relinquish.
"It's never over, especially with some of the bats we have up and down our order," Monastra said of the late rallies. "I think we can swing it with the best of the teams in this league when we're locked in."
Jared Lembcke (North Greenville) and Austin Goff (Middle Georgia State) walked none and allowed just five hits in six scoreless innings of relief, keeping the Salamanders off the board while their teammates worked at the plate.
"It takes pressure off our hitters," Monastra said of the relief efforts. "We can trust that our bullpen can keep leads for us and keep us on the offensive."
The SwampDogs have a day off Sunday before hosting the Wilson Tobs at The Swamp Monday night at 7:05 p.m.