The Salem Red Sox let a five run lead slip away in a game they needed to win to make the Low-A East playoffs, and missed out on a chance to host two playoff games this week. Instead, the Down East Wood Ducks grabbed the second playoff spot and will meet top-seeded Charleston in a best-of-five league championship series this week.
Salem had it right there for the taking. The Red Sox had a one game lead over Down East with each team finishing the regular season with a six game series, Salem at home against Delmarva and Down East hosting Charleston. Salem owned the tie-breaker, so if the two teams finished dead even the Sox would be in the playoffs.
Both teams won their opening games on Tuesday and lost on Wednesday, so Salem maintained the one game lead. But the Sox lost on Thursday, 6-2, and Friday, 13-4, while Down East won both nights to pass the Sox and go one game up. Salem then won on Saturday while the Wood Ducks were shut out by Charleston, 6-0, to put the teams dead even at 71-48 with one to play. However, since Salem held the tie-breaker all the Sox had to do was win on Sunday to make the playoffs.
Salem was in a great spot Sunday after taking a 6-1 lead after five innings. However, back-to-back errors by thirdbaseman Antoni Flores put two on to open the top of the sixth for the Shorebirds. Robert Kwiatkowski opened the inning in relief of starter Bradley Blalock, who had allowed just one earned run over the first five innings, and Kwiatkowski was the victim of six unearned runs while allowing three hits and a walk. When the smoke cleared Delmarva had a 7-6 lead.
The Sox tied the game in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases and scoring the tying run on a walk. However, the Oriole farmhands got out of the inning without further damage and it was 7-7 after six innings with a spot in the playoffs on the line.
Jacinto Arredondo pitched a scoreless seventh for Salem and Devon Roedahl did the same in the eighth, but Salem failed to scratch as well. Then, in the top of the ninth, Delmarva’s Billy Cook blasted a two-run homer off Roedahl to give the Ducks a 9-7 lead. Salem put two on in the bottom of the inning but could not score, and when the news came in that Down East beat Charleston, 5-2, the Wood Ducks finished one game ahead of Salem for the coveted playoff spot.
The Red Sox finished their first season in the Low-A East league with a final record of 71-49. They were 33-27 at Salem Memorial Ballpark and 38-22 on the road.