Salem catcher Jake Romanski’s controversial two-run blast in the top of the 10th inning gave the Salem Red Sox a 3-1 victory over the Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the first game of the Southern Division Championship Series. Numerous Pelicans vehemently argued that Romanski’s low, line-drive blast was foul, and three of them, including Manager Joe Mikulik, were ejected following extensive shouting at the four-man umpiring crew. But third-base umpire Rich Grassa emphatically ruled it fair upon initial look, and the Red Sox prevailed to move within one more win of a return trip to the Mills Cup Finals.
Looking at the video after the game, it was truly impossible to tell whether the ball was fair or foul. It just narrowly cleared the fence, and it either snuck inside the foul pole by inches or sailed outside it by a similarly small measure. But it will go down in history as a game-winning two-run homer for Romanski, who helped three Red Sox pitchers hold the Pelicans to just four hits in the 10 inning contest.
The hoopla in the 10th inning overshadowed a brilliantly pitched baseball game, with Salem starter Jacob Dahlstrand slightly outdueling Myrtle Beach righty Sam Wolff, who was also fantastic. Dahlstrand set down 20 of the 22 batters he faced over seven scoreless innings, in which he struck out eight and did not walk anybody. After he yielded back-to-back singles to begin the second inning, Dahlstrand did not allow another baserunner, retiring 17 straight Pelicans to conclude his outing. It was a masterpiece.
Salem scratched a run off Wolff in the first inning, when Carlos Asuaje singled home Matty Johnson to give the Sox an early 1-0 edge. But Wolff locked in after that, permitting only one hit over his final five frames on the hill.
The Sox held their one-run lead into the last of the eighth, with Madison Younginer replacing Dahlstrand on the mound. With two outs and the bases empty, Lewis Brinson launched a missile over the left-center field fence to tie the score at one. Younginer proceeded to walk the next two batters, but Kyle Martin took over and stranded both runners aboard.
The Pelicans put the winning run at second base in the bottom of the ninth against Martin, but the Salem reliever escaped unscathed again, setting the table for the bizarre and unruly top of the 10th.
Mario Martinez led off the frame with a single, and Dreily Guerrero pinch-ran for him. With the runner at first, Romanski clocked the low deep drive down the left field line, and it is unlikely anyone will ever agree about where exactly it landed. After the home run, it took more than 10 minutes before the next pitch was thrown, with all the arguing, ejections, and quite simply, digesting what had just happened.
Martin earned the win for the Red Sox with two and a third scoreless innings in relief, retiring the side in order in the last of the 10th to preserve the 3-1 lead.
The Sox can complete a sweep in the short best-of-three series with a win on Thursday night. Salem will send Pat Light to the mound opposite Pelicans lefty Luis Parra, with the first pitch slated for 7:05.