Matt Hollod was trying to instill some confidence in one of his pitchers with the Fayetteville SwampDogs locked in a tight game against Morehead City on Thursday night.

But a one-run deficit quickly turned into a six-run deficit as the Swampdogs dropped an 8-3 contest to the Marlins, who sit atop the Coastal Plain League standings.

“Sometimes to get guys going, you have to put them in those situations,” Hollod said.

With the SwampDogs (4-6) trailing 3-2 heading into the ninth inning, the Marlins (9-2) tagged relief pitcher Cole Gnetz for five runs to blow the game open, highlighted with a pair of two-run hits by Danton Hyman and Brendan Dougherty.

"He's yet to find it. He’s got to get in the zone because if he does he has really good stuff," Hollod said of Gnetz.

"We had a rough inning there and that put us in a hole."

Garret Rogers, who was tagged with the loss, got the start on the mound and pitched 6 1/3 innings before being pulled in favor of German Reyes. Hollod mixed and matched his bullpen over the final three innings with Kyle Klotz, Logan Carter, Gnetz and Jared Crews

"Gnetz is a guy that has really good stuff, but he’s had command issues," Hollod said. "At the same time, we were down. If we were up, I’d probably go with someone else who’s been pitching well. But we need to get him going. He’s a back-end type of guy who has had a lot of strikeouts. We need him.”

Matt Kelly, a junior at the University of Portland, tallied three of Fayetteville’s six hits on the night and sparked an eighth-inning rally.

Kelly, who put the SwampDogs on the board with an RBI single in the third inning, logged his third hit of the night in the eighth with a two-out triple to the right-field wall. Joey Wiemer followed with an RBI single through the left side of the infield to trim the deficit to 3-2.

“I’m just trying to stay in control of my at-bats,” Kelly said. “I’ve been seeing the ball well, so that’s helpful. Baseball is a crazy game. Sometimes you see it well and sometimes you don’t. I’m going to ride that out as long as I can.”

Octavio Mirabal pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Marlins to notch the win. Dawson Moser, Brandon Marklund and Garrett Letchworth provided relief to keep the SwampDogs at bay.

The Marlins took the lead in the second inning when Hunter Shepherd blasted a two-run homer off the scoreboard in right field. Morehead City would add an insurance run in the eighth inning before pulling away with the offensive explosion in the ninth.

The SwampDogs loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth and scored a run on a hit by pitch for the final tally.

Despite the loss, Kelly is confident his group will continue to get better in each facet of the game.

“Everyone on this team does a good job of coming in to get extra work," he said.

"I think that speaks to the culture here. I’ll keep putting the work in and trust the process.”

Fayetteville will travel to Holly Springs tonight for a 7 p.m. first pitch before returning home on Saturday to face the Salamanders.

Staff writer Rodd Baxley can be reached at rbaxley@fayobserver.com or 486-3519.