Salem and Lynchburg in battle for Carolina first half playoff berth

Ricardo Andujar of the Frederick Keys slides into Salem catcher Austin Rei while scoring in Saturday’s game at Haley

The “460” series used to be for pride. This year, it’s for a spot in the playoffs.The Salem Red Sox and Lynchburg Hillcats will be battling to the wire for a chance to represent the Northern Division in the Carolina League playoffs. The first of the Carolina League split season ends on June 18 and as of the beginning of this week just one game separated the two teams.

Prior to this year, the Sox and their closest Carolina League rival weren’t division foes. Salem was in the Southern Division and Lynchburg was in the Northern, with the line separating the two cutting between the two Virginia cities.

This year the Carolina League added two teams in North Carolina, Buies Creek and Down East(Kinston). Both teams joined the Southern Division and the northernmost team of the old group, Salem, was bumped to the North with Lynchburg, Potomac, Frederick and Wilmington. The Southern now consists of Buies Creek, Down East, Winston-Salem, Myrtle Beach and Carolina(Zebulon).

Salem had a three game lead on Lynchburg heading into the current four games series, which was scheduled to run through Wednesday at Haley Toyota  Field. However, the Hillcats swept Salem on Sunday, 5-3 and 3-2, to pull to within just one game of the Red Sox with 13 remaining in the first half.

The Sox will hit the road tonight to begin a four game weekend series with Winston-Salem. On Monday Salem is back home to open a three-game series with Carolina, with all three games scheduled for 7:05 pm.