Heading into the SwampDogs' doubleheader versus Wilmington Thursday night, it was clear how impactful the evening could be on the East Division playoff race.
With the entire division separated by just two and a half games and all four teams matched up against one another, Fayetteville had a chance to make up critical ground in the standings.
The SwampDogs did not waste that chance. Fayetteville earned a pair of victories over the course of two fiercely contested games in Wilmington, defeating the Sharks 3-2 and 2-0.
The SwampDogs got great production from the top of the lineup in game one, with the first four hitters combining for six of the team's eight hits. AJ Hrica (Campbell) and Trent Franson (Houston Baptist) formed an effective one-two punch, leading the SwampDogs with two hits apiece. They were backed up by doubles from Matt Kelly (Portland) and Logan Jarvis (Belmont) as well as an RBI from Brett Young (Delta State).
Building on his recent success on the mound, Jared Crews (Middle Georgia State) drew the game one start and cruised through five innings of one-run baseball to earn his first win of the summer. The righty needed just 47 pitches, recording twice as many strikeouts (four) as hits (two). Josh Avila (Cumberlands) struck out the side in a scoreless sixth before turning it over to Jimmy Reardon (Bloomsburg) for the save.
The SwampDogs pitching carried the team to victory in game two, as Harry Thomas (Campbell) was absolutely dominant in his third start with the SwampDogs. Thomas struck out 11 Sharks en route to a complete game (seven-inning) two-hitter, with the 11th punchout providing an exclamation point to close out the game.
With Thomas dealing, the SwampDogs didn't need a huge offensive output to get the win. Three straight hits from Natale Monastra (Xavier), Jay Hayes (Florida Gulf Coast) and Trevor Hafner (Ohio) yielded two runs in the fifth inning, giving Fayetteville's starter all the support he needed to complete the sweep.
The SwampDogs move to within a game and a half of first place in the second half while adding a half game of cushion to their second-place positioning overall. Fayetteville begins a two-game homestand against the Florence RedWolves Friday night at 7:05 p.m.