By Brain Hoffman
The Salem Red Sox are four games out of first place in the second half of the Carolina League’s North Division standings as the league breaks for the Major League All-Star game this week. There were no Carolina League games scheduled for Monday through Thursday with the Sox returning to action Friday to host Lynchburg for a weekend series in Salem.
Last week the Sox returned from a 12 game road stretch to host Kannapolis for six games and Salem took four of the six to climb back over .500 in the second half at 11-10. Sunday’s getaway game was a thriller as Salem took a 2-1 win over the Cannon Ballers in 11 innings.
Salem took a 2-1 lead in the second inning when Jose Garcia drove in Bryan Gonzalez and for a long time it looked like that would be enough. Thad Ward, in Salem for a rehab stint, started and pitched three shutout innings, striking out six. Graham Hoffman pitched a scoreless fourth and Gabriel Jackson held the Ballers scoreless through the eighth before yielding a run with two outs in the top of the ninth to send the game into extra innings.
Neither team scored in the 10th and Luis Guerrero, who relieved Jackson after Kannapolis tied the game in the ninth, allowed no hits in his two and a third inning stint as Salem came to bat in the bottom of the 11th. Tyson Messer came on to pitch the 11th for the Ballers and didn’t record an out, walking two before allowing the winning run to score on a wild pitch for the walk-off win.
Salem is now 46-41 overall with Lynchburg coming to town for the big weekend series at Salem Memorial Ballpark. Game time is 7:05 pm Friday, 6:05 pm Saturday and 5:05 pm Sunday.
Then, after a day off Monday, the Sox will head to Fredericksburg for a big six games series. The Nationals currently lead the second half with a 15-6 record and Salem has an opportunity to gain some ground on the leaders in their last head-to-head series until September. Coming into the week the Sox were four games behind the division leading Nationals in the second half standings of the Carolina League split season.