Salem knocks off Lynchburg in series opener

Bryce Brentz and Mark Wagner each belted two-run bombs that bookended Salem’s scoring, blasting the Red Sox past the Hillcats 7-1 in the series opener on Thursday night at LewisGale Field. Derrik Gibson also drove in a pair with a two-run double to the wall, more than enough offense from the duo of Chris’, who teamed up to hold Lynchburg without an earned run over nine innings. Chris Hernandez improved to 9-5 and struck out five Hillcats over five innings, while Chris Martin set down 12 of the 13 men he faced during four overwhelmingly dominant frames, earning his fourth save for Salem this season.

Though the game felt like a rout by the late innings, the first frame belonged to the visitors, who assumed a 1-0 lead thanks to a Salem error. Andrelton Simmons reached on Kolbrin Vitek’s throwing miscue to begin the ballgame, scoring three batters later on Joey Terdoslavich’s ground-out to short. The Hillcats sent five men to the plate in the first; over the final eight frames, four Hillcat hitters in an inning was the maximum.

Lynchburg starter Blaine Sims harnessed his inner Tom Glavine over the first three innings, setting down nine of the ten men he faced for the Braves-affiliate. But with the Hillcats still ahead 1-zip heading to the last of the fourth, Salem’s offense awakened with back-to-back singles from Vitek and Jorge Padron. The latter base hit was negated since Padron was thrown out in his attempt to stretch it into a double, but Brentz soothed the pain of the baserunning out, swinging swiftly to send a missile over the left-field fence for his tenth Carolina League homer. The two-run laser surged Salem in front, and the Sox would not relinquish the lead the rest of the night.

Salem stretched its edge with three runs in the fifth, plating a pair on Gibson’s deep drive double to the base of the wall in left-center that made it 4-1 before Padron’s second single of the night let Gibson score to give the Sox a four-run lead. Padron’s knock chased Sims from the game, but not before the Red Sox mustered eight hits, with seven of them coming in the fourth and fifth innings.

In the bottom of the eighth, Wagner’s two-out blast was the cherry on the sundae, giving Salem seven unanswered runs on the night. Wagner finished 3-4 with the two-run jack, his fourth of the season. Gibson, Padron, and Shannon Wilkerson each had two hits to help pace the dozen-knock night for the Red Sox.

Hernandez induced nine ground-outs in five innings, throwing 52 of his 75 pitches for strikes to pick up his team-leading ninth victory. In relief, Martin extended his scoreless innings streak to 18.1, retiring 11 in a row before Joe Leonard’s two-out single in the top of the ninth interrupted his perfection. After Lynchburg’s lone hit, Martin induced a game-ending ground-out from Shawn McGill to complete his superb performance, picking up his fourth save.

The Red Sox will try to make it three straight victories on Friday night in the middle-matchup of the three-game series with Lynchburg. Ryan Pressly starts for Salem opposite Aaron Shafer, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:05.

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