A complete team needs to be able to score runs and keep the other team off the scoreboard. Being solid on the mound or at the plate can be enough to win games, but the ability to fall on one element when the other is lacking separates the good teams from the great ones.
Over the course of a short road trip with the first half of the season winding down, the SwampDogs began to show some signs of this type of synergy.
Just 15 hours after Fayetteville pitched its way to a shutout victory in Holly Springs, the SwampDogs' bats carried the load Wednesday afternoon in Wilmington. Despite the quick turnaround and multiple comeback efforts from the Sharks, Fayetteville continually had the answers at the plate, swinging their way to an 11-8 victory.
"Sometimes there are quick turnarounds, so you just gotta roll with it and be ready to go every day," said infielder Matt Kelly, who drove in three runs Wednesday. "I think we have some good momentum going right now, and we just have to ride it out for as long as we can."
The 11-run outburst was the second-best offensive output of the season for Fayetteville, who showed off an ability to score both by manufacturing runs and by hitting the long ball.
"I think a lot of the guys are finally starting to come around," said catcher Tanner Piechnick, whose second-inning home run put the SwampDogs in control of the game. "The switch from metal bats to wood can take a little time to get used to, but I think we're starting to get more comfortable at the plate as a team."
Six different SwampDogs got onto the box score by driving in runs, including multiple RBIs by Kelly (Portland), Piechnick (Ohio), and Tyler Shuck (Florida Gulf Coast). Kelly, who leads the team with a .358 batting average, had a double and two singles to go with his three RBIs.
"From my experience, hitting and offense is contagious," Kelly said. "When guys would start off innings with good at-bats, usually other guys would follow it up with more good at-bats, and we just kept rolling today."
Jay Hayes (Florida Gulf Coast) joined Piechnick and Shuck to produce Fayetteville's three home runs, which marked the team's single-game high and pushed the 2018 home run total from eight to 11.
"The pitcher threw a well-located curve in a 2-1 count and made me look silly when I swung. So I stepped out and had a good feeling that it was coming again," Hayes said about his solo shot. "I got the pitch I wanted and just tried to square it up."
Even when Wilmington erased a four-run deficit to tie the game in the seventh, the SwampDogs just kept hitting and reclaimed the lead with a two-run rally in the top of the eighth. An extra insurance run in the ninth and shutout relief appearances from Austin Goff (Middle Georgia State) and Josh Avila (Cumberlands) sealed the deal for Fayetteville.
"We're starting to see more success because of the reps," Hayes said. "A lot of guys stepped up today with runners in scoring position in some big situations."
Thanks to Wednesday's contest being a rare day game, the SwampDogs and Sharks will have a little extra time off before a Thursday night rematch at The Swamp.