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Donathan mashes in Spinners debut

Jun. 4—Welcome home, Ashton Donathan.

The former Southern Lee High School standout made his return to local baseball Saturday evening, playing in his first game for the Sanford Spinners after a fine freshman season playing for Conference Carolinas champion UNC-Pembroke this spring.

Donathan, catching and batting second for the Spinners in their season opener at Bogeys Ballpark in Pinehurst, reached base four times in five plate appearances. He went 2-for-3 with two runs scored, four RBI, walked once and was hit by a pitch. After falling behind 1-0 after one inning of play, the Spinners put up six runs in the second inning and dominated the game, with five pitchers combining on a one-hitter with 11 strikeouts.

Donathan was the first baserunner of the night, walking with one out in the top of the first, but was left stranded. In the bottom half of the inning, the Bogeys' Jacob Johnston led off with a walk off Spinner starter Cranz Smelcer, then stole second and scored on a pair of groundouts.

Then the Spinners started to roll. With one out in the second, former Southern Lee star Pierce Bouwman walked. A second walk to Kaden Ethier followed before Abi Kandangot lined a single into left and allowed Bouwman to score the first run of the 2024 season. The Bogeys got the second out, but then AJ Ciaccio walked to load the bases for Donathan.

While Donathan was at the plate, Ethier scored on a passed ball. Donathan then smashed a line drive to left to drive in the other two runners, and after a walk to Cade Martinez, both runners advanced and then scored on a two-RBI single by Coleman McGinnis.

Smelcer set the Bogeys down 1-2-3 in the second, third and fourth innings. In the Spinners' fourth, Will Newton and Donathan were both hit by pitches and both came in to score.

Cole Bowie pitched a scoreless fifth with a single allowed for the Spinners. Donathan pushed the lead to 10-1 with a two-RBI single in the sixth. Bowie sailed through a scoreless sixth, and Austin Renn worked around two errors in a scoreless seventh for Sanford. Tucker Webb pitched a scoreless eighth, and Kaden Varela-Payne sailed through the ninth.

Former Southern teammates Bouwman and Donathan combined for three of the Spinners' five hits. The two players started for the NCHSAA 3A East Regional runners-up a year ago, and Donathan went on to have a strong freshman season, starting 15 games for Pembroke and hit .304 with an .879 OPS. In one of the regional games, he homered against Catawba, a team ranked No. 9 in the nation in Division II and which is now playing in the D2 College World Series.

Bouwman's freshman year at USC Upstate never really got off the ground and he played in only a few games before entering the transfer portal. Due to this, he will have four years of eligibility at his next college stop. A strong season with the Spinners could punch his ticket to a more promising destination. He started at third on Saturday and got on base twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk.

Ciaccio, in his second year with the Spinners out of Catawba Valley, scored twice, as did Kandangot, a rising sophomore from Lenoir CC who hit .250 in 21 games for the Lancers this past spring.

Smelcer was making his post-high school debut after pitching to a 1.56 ERA in 40.1 innings for Apex High School this spring. He earned the win under ONSL rules after allowing no hits and striking out four in his four innings of work. Smelcer will enter the Air Force Academy this fall.

The Spinners remain on the road today for a 7 p.m. road game at the Oak City Gliders, and will play there again Wednesday night before coming home Friday night at 7 for a rematch with the Bogeys.