The Salem Fair is gone and the Salem Red Sox are back. The Sox are in the midst of an eight game homestand after spending 11 on the road while the fair was in town.
Salem went 7-4 during those 11 road games, going 2-2 against Lynchburg, 2-2 against Wilmington and sweeping three from the Mudcats in Carolina. That’s impressive in a league where the players ride a bus.
During that stretch Salem was able to maintain a hold on second place in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. Through Monday Salem was two games behind Lynchburg, and that’s important as the Hillcats won the first half of the CL’s Northern Division season. Salem needs to win the second half, or finish second to Lynchburg, to make the Mills Cup playoffs.
The Sox were off on Tuesday for the Major League All-Star game, scheduled to return Wednesday for a four game series with the Potomac Nationals. Friday is Willy Wonka Night, featuring a “mystery bobblehead.” On Sunday the Carolina Mudcats come in for three games.
The Sox returned Monday to host Lynchburg in the final game of a four game series with the Hillcats, with the first three in Lynchburg. Salem suffered an extra-innings letdown, allowing six runs in the 10th inning to fall 8-2 at Salem Memorial Ballpark.
The Sox (11-8, 51-37) tied the game in the eighth inning but left the bases loaded, and couldn’t earn a series split against their local rivals. Lynchburg (13-6, 53-35) guaranteed themselves at least a split of the season series, as they’ve moved three games ahead of Salem head-to-head with three games remaining between the clubs.
Lynchburg opened the scoring in the top of the third against Sox starting pitcher Mike Shawaryn (ND). Daniel Salters led off with a hard ground ball to first that Jordan Betts mishandled; the error allowed Salters to make it to second. Sam Haggerty then singled Salters to third, and stole second. Ka’ai Tom then lofted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Salters and putting Lynchburg ahead 1-0. The Hillcats doubled their lead in the top of the fourth, as Gavin Collins rapped a one-out double and came home on a two-out single by Andrew Calica to make it a 2-0 lead.
Salem finally got on the board in the bottom of the seventh inning against Lynchburg starter Brock Hartson (ND). Jose Sermo led off with a double to right, and scooted around to score on an RBI single by Jordan Betts to trim the lead to 2-1.
The Sox drew even in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Lynchburg reliever Jared Robinson walked Josh Ockimey (for whom Bryan Hudson entered as a pinch runner) and Austin Rei (replaced by Jhon Nunez), putting runners at first and second. New reliever Leandro Linares (BS, 2; W, 2-1) entered and tried to get out of the jam, but Tate Matheny knocked a single up the middle to plate Hudson and tie the game at 2-2; the throw from Calica was knocked away, and Nunez reached third while Matheny made it to second. The Hillcats intentionally walked Sermo, and Linares fanned Betts and Victor Acosta to end the inning. The Sox got two more on base in the ninth, but couldn’t score, sending the game to extra innings.
Things fell apart for the Sox in the tenth inning. Reliever Gerson Bautista (L, 2-2) gave up a leadoff double to Tom before whiffing Sicnarf Loopstok for the first out. However, Bautista walked Connor Marabell and Willi Castro, loading the bases. Collins hit a bouncer to second that Nick Lovullo mishandled for an error; Tom scored from third and the bases remained loaded. Consecutive doubles by Martin Cervenka and Jodd Carter scored three more runs (Collins was cut down at the plate trying to score on Cervenka’s double), and chased Bautista from the game. New reliever Stephen Nogosek was greeted rudely by Salters, who blasted a two-run homer to right on the first pitch he saw from the new arm. Sermo singled with one out in the bottom of the frame, but reliever Billy Strode set down the Sox to secure the 8-2 win.
Shawaryn didn’t factor in the decision, surrendering two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk in 6.2 innings while fanning six. Daniel McGrath struck out the only batter he faced in relief. Jordan Weems gave up one hit while whiffing one in a scoreless frame. Bautista was touched up for five runs (two earned) on five hits and two walks in 1.2 innings, recording three strikeouts. Nogosek gave up one run on one hit and recorded one out.