Hillcats roll over Salem Sox, 6-2

Salem’s bullpen kept the Sox within striking distance, but a rocky start from southpaw Manny Rivera created too large of a gap in Lynchburg’s 6-2 triumph on Tuesday evening at City Stadium.

Robby Hefflinger’s hot start continued for the Hillcats with a three-for-four performance that helped keep the Hillcats unbeaten at 4-0 on the young season. Lynchburg starter Aaron Northcraft allowed just one run and struck out seven in his Carolina League debut, earning the victory for the Cats.

After Salem stranded Jackie Bradley, Jr. at third base in the top of the first inning, the Hillcats pounced with five runs in the bottom of the opening frame. Matt Lipka received a walk to begin the inning, and Nick Ahmed’s single moved Lipka to third. Tommy La Stella drew a free pass to load the bases, and the first run scored on Evan Gattis’ sacrifice fly to left field. Edward Salcedo singled to load the bases again, and the Cats scored three times on Chris Garcia’s single to right field, with two runs scoring naturally and another crossing on a wild throw toward third on the relay. Garcia ended up at second, and Lynchburg made it 5-0 two batters later on Hefflinger’s double that knocked Rivera from the game after just eight batters. By the time reliever Marco Duarte struck out Braeden Schlehuber to end the inning, the Hillcats held a five-run advantage.

Schlehuber delivered an RBI single off Duarte in the bottom of the third that made it 6-zip, but the Sox bullpen excelled through the remainder of the evening, collaborating on seven and a third innings with just one run allowed. Duarte tossed three and a third before Jeremiah Bayer dealt three scoreless and Ruben Flores spun a perfect eighth inning for the Sox.

Alas, Salem’s offense managed seven scattered hits against Northcraft and two Hillcats relievers. Travis Shaw went two-for-four to lead the Salem sticks, belting an RBI triple in the sixth that broke up the shutout. In the top of the seventh, Adalberto Ibarra doubled with two outs and came around on Shannon Wilkerson’s RBI single, making the score 6-2.

But after Wilkerson’s hit, the Hillcats retired seven of the final eight Red Sox batters to wrap up the game, with Andrew Wilson recording four strikeouts in two innings to close it out. Collectively, the Hillcats trio of hurlers recorded 12 strikeouts on the evening, including three apiece of Sean Coyle and Brandon Jacobs.

At 1-3, the Red Sox will look to their lone winning pitcher, Keith Couch, to help right the ship on Wednesday. Couch earned the win on Opening Day with five strong innings out of the bullpen, and the righthander from Elmont, NY will oppose Lynchburg’s Cody Martin in the middle-matchup of the three-game series. First pitch on Wednesday is slated for 6:05.


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