Back-to-back doubles by Kevin Ahrens and Dan Carroll in the fifth inning tied the game, 3-3, and an RBI single by Levi Hyams gave the Lynchburg Hillcats the lead for good in a 5-3 victory against Salem Saturday night at Calvin Falwell Field.
Lynchburg (11-15) trailed on two separate occasions against the Red Sox (15-12), but each time the Hillcats used a two-run inning to take the lead. The first instance happened in the bottom of the third after Salem took the initial lead on a solo home run by Kevin Heller.
Trailing 1-0, Jose Peraza pushed a bunt to the right side to reach first and extend his hitting streak to a season-high eight games. Peraza then stole his 14th base of the year, which trails teammate Kyle Wren by one for the carolina league lead. Consecutive walks issued to Wren and Josh Elander loaded the bases for Ahrens. Peraza scored on a wild pitch, which allowed Ahrens to bring home Wren on an RBI groundout to shortstop and give the Hillcats their first advantage, 2-1.
Salem responded immediately with two runs in the fourth thanks to a double by Tim Roberson, a triple by Reed Gragnani, and an RBI single by Aneury Tavarez. Both runs came against Zach Jadofsky (2-1), who surrendered the lead, 3-2, but eventually received the victory when the Hillcats regained the upper hand in the fifth.
Jadofsky went 3.0 innings in relief of Lay Batista, who made his Hillcats debut and limited Salem to one run on two hits while striking out one in a three-inning start. Matt Chaffee saw the Red Sox load the bases with no outs in the seventh, but he struck out three consecutive hitters to keep Lynchburg in front. Brandon Cunniff struck out six in two scoreless innings to earn his third save of the year. The closer now has 21 strikeouts in 15.2 innings, and he has yet to allow an earned run this season.
Lynchburg added its final run in the sixth inning. Joe Odom struck out, but he reached first after the pitch in the dirt skipped away from Jayson Hernandez. Odom then advanced to second on another wild pitch. That allowed Wren to pick up an RBI single and make the final score 5-3.
Simon Mercedes (1-3) suffered the defeat for the Red Sox after giving up three runs on six hits in 3.2 innings. The right-hander struck out six and walked two. Cody Kukuk pitched the first four innings in his Advanced-A debut, conceding two runs on two hits. The southpaw struck out four, but he also walked four, hit a batter and threw four wild pitches.
Lynchburg will try to claim the series by winning its third straight contest against Salem Sunday afternoon. Greg Ross (2-1, 2.88) will start for the Hillcats in the 2:05pm contest. He will be opposed by RHP Luis Diaz (2-2, 2.91). The gates will open at 1 pm for Lynchburg Little League Day, and the first 1,000 fans will receive a team photo giveaway courtesy of Lynchburg Camera Shop and WYYD.