A good team can overcome two, maybe three obstacles on any given night. Unfortunately, there were four for the SwampDogs Thursday night.
In Fayetteville's second home game of the season's second half, the team found itself battling against what felt like four different headwinds, as their masterful pitching and timely hitting could not overcome Wilmington's hot streak, a weather delay, defensive miscues and the international tiebreaker system. More than four and a half hours after the initially scheduled start time, the SwampDogs finally succumbed to the Sharks, losing 4-3 in 10 innings.
The SwampDogs' pitchers did more than enough to put the team in the win column against Wilmington, allowing just one earned run on six hits while striking out 13, their second-highest total of the season. Starter DJ Moore (Huntington) went six innings strong before passing the baton to relievers Austin Goff (Middle Georgia State), Josh Avila (Cumberlands) and German Reyes (Mount Olive).
If it were not for two mistakes in the field and the placement of two runners on base to start every extra inning, Fayetteville could have easily found itself on the right end of a shutout.
As has been the case all season long, the SwampDogs continued to battle back from deficits late in the game. Trailing by two in the seventh, Fayetteville loaded the bases before recording an out. After grounding into a force-out at home, Brett Young (Delta State) tied the game with a double to left field. He finished 3-for-4 on the night with a walk and two RBIs.
But neither Young's big night nor Trent Franson's tenth inning RBI were enough to overcome a tough Sharks' pitching staff that has been the best in the league in the first week of July. Wilmington's starters have not allowed an earned run in 27 innings pitched since the start of the season's second half, and the Sharks have only allowed five runs total during that span.
The SwampDogs remain in second place in the East Division by the full-season standings and only trail the Sharks by three games in the second half. Fayetteville will look to make up ground starting Friday on the road in Morehead City before returning home Saturday for Country Night at The Swamp. The first 500 fans, 21 and over, will receive a commemorative mason jar courtesy of Deschutes and Healy Wholesale.