Salem drops two to Blue Rocks

The Blue Rocks jumped to 3-0 early leads in both games and hung on to prevail in a Saturday night pair at Frawley Stadium, downing the Salem Sox 3-2 in the opener and 6-2 in the nightcap. Bryce Brentz blasted his 29th homer of the season in the sixth inning of game two, his solo shot failed to provide the necessary firepower to overcome the early deficit.

In game one, Wilmington broke through with three runs in the last of the third against Salem starter Chris Hernandez. Michael Liberto’s RBI single drove home Jared Dyer, and two more runs scored on Carlo Testa’s single to right and the ensuing Brentz throwing error. Despite the error, all three runs were earned against Hernandez.

Salem plated a unearned run of its own in the top of the fifth, then made it 3-2 on Shannon Wilkerson’s RBI single in the sixth, but the Sox could not deliver the equalizer in the seventh. Michael Mariot tossed five innings to improve to 8-3, while Bryan Paukovitz dealt a scoreless seventh to earn his sixth save. Hernandez became the first Salem pitcher of the season to register a complete game, but unfortunately, his six-inning CG also coupled as his sixth loss, with the southpaw falling to 10-6.

In game two, the Blue Rocks three-run rally kicked off the ballgame, with three of the first four Rocks reaching against Stolmy Pimentel. John Whittleman’s two-run double gave Wilmington a 2-0 lead, and Whittleman crossed the plate on Yem Prades’ ground ball that Heiker Meneses overthrew to first.

Whittleman picked up his third RBI by belting a solo bomb to lead off the third, surging the Blue Rocks to a 4-0 edge and becoming just the third Blue Rock ever to record 20 homers in a season. The Red Sox responded in the top of the fourth, with Alex Valdez singling to drive in an unearned tally against Tim Melville. But the Blue Rocks reassumed their four-run edge in the bottom of the fourth, manufacturing a run following Deivy Batista’s single. He advanced to second on an error, moved to third on a strikeout throw to first, and then scurried home on a wild pitch, making it 5-1.

Brentz’ bomb off Melville brought the Sox within three, but Batista scored his second run of the game on Carlo Testa’s two-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth. Up 6-2, Melville handed the baton to Dusty Odenbach, who pitched around a one-out walk in the seventh to preserve the victory.

Meneses led the Red Sox with three hits, connecting in both ballgames to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Valdez also chipped in three hits in the double-dip, while Wilkerson mustered two hits in game one but went hitless in the nightcap, snapping his streak at 10 games.

Sunday brings another doubleheader between Salem and Wilmington, with Ryan Pressly and Pete Ruiz scheduled to start for the Sox. The Blue Rocks will send Justin Marks and Elisaul Pimentel to the mound, with the first pitch of the day slated for 12:35.

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