Hillcats hang on for 9-8 win against Salem

Salem cut Lynchburg’s lead to one run on three different occasions, but the Hillcats held off a pesky Red Sox squad to ultimately cut Salem’s lead in the Northern Division standings to one with a 9-8 victory at City Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Hillcats improved to 28-20, just one game behind the Red Sox record of 30-20.

lynchburg hillcatsAfter a 33-minute weather delay prior to first pitch, Salem stormed out of the gate with three runs in the first inning against Shao-Ching Chiang. A two-run Josh Ockimey single highlighted the frame. The Hillcats answered immediately with two runs on two hits in the home half, including an RBI single by Yonathan Mendoza.

Lynchburg used a three-run second to take the lead and remain in front the rest of the afternoon. Anthony Miller and Daniel Salters had back-to-back doubles to tie the game at 3-all. Ka’ai Tom walked, and Sicnarf Loopstok doubled to score Salters and push the Hillcats ahead, 4-3. A sacrifice fly by Connor Marabell capped off the scoring in the second.

After Salem trimmed it to 5-4 in the top of the fifth, Jodd Carter hit a two-run homer to stretch the margin to 7-4 in the next half-inning. It marked Carter’s team-leading fifth deep fly of the season and his first with men on base this year. Mike Meyers made it a one-run game again with a two-run homer in the top of the sixth.

Leading 7-6, Marabell and Mendoza drew consecutive walks to lead off the bottom of the sixth. They scored later on a passed ball and wild pitch, respectively. A fielding error in the top of the eighth allowed Salem to plate two unearned runs and make it a 9-8 game entering the ninth.

Argenis Angulo struck out the league’s best hitter in Michael Chavis to begin the ninth, but a 31-minute rain delay forced Angulo from the game. Billy Strode recorded the final two outs, including a strikeout of Trenton Kemp to preserve the 9-8 win and earn his first save of the year. Chiang (7-2) notched his league-leading seventh win after going five innings and tying a season high with seven strikeouts.

Seven consecutive games at City Stadium have been decided by one run, and the Hillcats have claimed victory in six of them. Lynchburg walked a season high 12 times as an offense in the game. Loopstok had the lone multi-hit game for Lynchburg on a 2-4 day that included his team-leading 12th double.

Lynchburg has a chance to pull into a tie for the Northern Division lead in Monday’s series finale against Salem. The Memorial Day contest will start at 2 p.m. Matt Esparza (3-3, 3.26) will take the mound for the Hillcats. Fans can listen to the game live at www.lynchburg-hillcats.com with pre-game coverage beginning at 1:50.

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