Improbable Potomac rally results in 8-7 Salem setback

salem red soxUp 7-3 after eight and a half innings, the Salem Sox could taste their 50th win of the season. But a furious rally from the Nationals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, handing the Sox a demoralizing 8-7 loss on Sunday evening at Pfitzner Stadium. Potomac scored five times against Matty Ott in the last of the ninth, erasing the four-run gap and taking their first lead of the night on Billy Burns’ walk-off bloop single to right, igniting a raucous celebration of Nationals between first and second base.

Potomac’s ninth inning began with an innocent Caleb Ramsey single, but Michael Taylor walked to put two men on with nobody out. Matt Gedman made a diving stop on Adrian Nieto’s grounder for the first out of the frame, but then Kevin Keyes smoked a two-run single into the right-field corner to make it 7-5. One batter later, Cutter Dykstra ripped a double into the left field corner, advancing Keyes to third, and the Nationals had the tying runs in scoring position. It became 7-6 on Adrian Sanchez’ sac fly, and with two outs, Mike Gilmartin hammered a single to center to bring in the tying run. Randolph Oduber pinch-ran, stole second, and scored when Burns muscled a looper into shallow right field. Matty Johnson fired a one-hop strike to the plate, but the ball bounced off Blake Swihart’s glove.

The ridiculous rally denied Mike Augliera his seventh victory and spoiled Salem’s otherwise solid performance, which included three home runs. Mookie Betts and Stefan Welch each went yard for the second straight day, crushing two-run missiles in the second and fourth innings, respectively. Matt Gedman joined the homer-fest when he crushed a solo shot for the Sox in the fifth.

Augliera tossed five innings and allowed two runs on six hits, striking out five and walking one on 89 pitches, 63 strikes. He departed with a 5-2 lead, and the Sox led 7-3 when Kyle Kraus completed his three frames out of the bullpen. But Salem’s insurance runs in the eighth and ninth innings did not prove to be enough.

Nick Natoli led the Red Sox with three hits from the bottom of the lineup, while Burns, Dykstra, and Sanchez all had three hits apiece for the Nationals, who outhit the Sox 14-9.

The game started 29 minutes late because of a pregame shower through the region.

The Sox will look to bounce back with Henry Owens on the mound on Monday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05, and Owens will throw opposite Potomac’s Blake Schwartz.

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