Salem rallies to beat Mudcats
Xander Bogaerts went 4-for-4 and drove in two runs, while Travis Shaw crushed his team-high 11th home run and finished a triple shy of the cycle, but the Salem Sox still saw their first-half title chances disappear when Winston-Salem wrapped up the Southern Division with a 9-5 victory over Wilmington.
At 41-27-1 with one game to play, Salem will own the second-best record in the first half of the Carolina League schedule, but the Sox will need to finish ahead of Myrtle Beach and Carolina in the second half to advance to the postseason for the first time since 1999.
The Sox and Mudcats traded barbs throughout the night, with runs being scored in every inning except for the ninth, when Salem’s All-Star closer Mike Olmsted emerged to record his league-leading 14th save. The Mudcats led 1-0 after one, 5-4 after four, and 6-5 after six, but the Sox went 7-for-14 with runners in scoring position and scored six of their eight runs with two outs to beat Carolina for the ninth time in 10 meetings.
The only runs that Salem scored with fewer than two outs came via one swing from Shaw, who crushed a two-run jack off Will Roberts in the third inning. His towering fly over the right-field fence gave the Sox a 4-1 lead, but the Mudcats would retaliate. In the top of the fourth, Carolina delivered a four-run rally that all came with two outs. Five straight Mudcats reached with two away, knocking Salem starter Miguel Celestino out of the game. Ronny Rodriguez jacked a two-run triple that inched the visitors within one, while Anthony Gallas’ RBI single tied the game and a steal and two wild pitches made it 5-4.
It was not the first or last time that Salem would trail, but Bogaerts had the right approach to bring the Sox back in the ballgame. In the last of the fifth, the 19-year-old shortstop smacked a two-out RBI single to bring home Shaw and tie the game. After the Mudcats reassumed a 6-5 lead in the sixth, Bogaerts brought the goods again as part of another ridiculous two-out rally. With Carolina’s All-Star reliever Shawn Armstrong on the mound, Shaw, Brandon Jacobs, Bogaerts, and Michael Almanzar combined for four consecutive two-out singles, scoring two runs to vault the Sox to a 7-6 lead. Shannon Wilkerson drove home Heiker Meneses with two outs in the eighth to give the Sox some insurance.
Up 8-6, Olmsted slammed the door shut, striking out two in his perfect ninth to bring to momentarily bring the Sox within a game and a half of the first-place Dash. If Wilmington had rallied to beat Winston, the Sox would have still been alive for the first-half Southern Division title heading into the final day before the All-Star Break. But the Blue Rocks fell short, and consequently, so did the Red Sox.
The Sox will look to finish the first half with nine consecutive victories on Sunday afternoon in the series finale against the Mudcats. Ryan Pressly will return from the disabled list to make the start, while Michael Goodnight will be on the mound for the visitors from Zebulon.