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Late Salem runs stun ‘Cats

Down to their final strike in the ninth inning, the Salem Sox found new life.

On a 1-2 pitch, Brandon Jacobs crushed a picturesque, majestic, game-tying, two-run homer, the culmination of a four-run top-of-the-ninth. One frame later, five straight Sox reached to begin the tenth and Salem hung on for a wild and crazy 10-8, 10-inning triumph over the Lynchburg Hillcats, handing the homestanding Hillcats their first loss of the season.

The Sox offense piled up a remarkable 20 hits, 12 of which came in the game’s final three innings, to carry Salem into its home opener on Friday with some great momentum.

The pivotal ninth inning began with Salem trailing 8-4, but the gap was quickly trimmed to three on Shannon Wilkerson’s solo bomb over the center-field fence. Carson Blair, pinch-hitting for Adalberto Ibarra, followed up Wilkerson’s homer with a double to the right-field wall, and after a James Kang strikeout, Jackie Bradley, Jr. punished a line drive single into center field to score Blair and make it 8-6. When Sean Coyle struck out and Jacobs worked a 1-2 count, the outlook appeared bleak, but Matt Chaffee’s next offering was eviscerated by Jacobs, his first Carolina League round-tripper, to even the score at eight.

In the top of the tenth, Wilkerson and Blair once again delivered base hits to begin the frame, smacking consecutive singles to put runners at first and second. Kang dropped down a sacrifice bunt, and the Hillcats attempt to nab the lead runner was unsuccessful, loading the bases for the top of the order. Bradley and Coyle each singled with the bases juiced, driving in a pair of runs collectively, to surge the Sox in front for the first time since the second inning.

And in the bottom of the tenth, Pete Ruiz surrendered a pair of hits that brought the winning run to the plate for Lynchburg. But Tommy La Stella grounded out to end the game, and Salem snapped its four-game losing streak in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion.

Travis Shaw led Salem’s 20-hit barrage with four hits in five at-bats, while Xander Bogaerts, Bradley, and Wilkerson each delivered three hits on the night. Coyle went 2-6 with two RBI, including his first Carolina League home run, a solo shot in the first, and Blair went 2-2, scoring runs in the ninth and tenth innings after pinch-hitting in the ninth and remaining in the game at catcher.

Evan Gattis led Lynchburg with two hits and four RBI, including a two-run dinger in the fifth that gave Lynchburg a 6-3 edge. While Salem took a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and second innings, Lynchburg scored eight of the game’s next nine runs, including two more in the last of the seventh that extended the Hillcats lead to five.

Undeterred, Salem used back-to-back two-out doubles from Shaw and Bogaerts in the last of the eighth to inch within four, before the magnificent rally in the ninth put the Sox in position to prevail. The comeback took Ryan Pressly (4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 K, 4 BB) off the hook and made a winner of Ruiz, who tossed two scoreless out of the pen. Scott Swinson also pitched well for Salem, gobbling up three and two-thirds innings out of the bullpens with just two runs allowed.

With bookending victories on their season-opening six-game road swing, the Salem Sox return to LewisGale Field for the 2012 home opener on Friday evening. Major League rehabber Rich Hill will be on the mound for Salem, while Myrtle Beach will counter with former Red Sox farmhand Roman Mendez, a righthander who was sent to the Rangers in the Jarrod Saltalamacchia deal. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 as the Salem Sox commence a six-game homestand.

augusta free press
augusta free press