Salem Red Sox win Southern Division second half championship

salem red soxFor the first time since 2009, the Salem Sox are headed to the Carolina League playoffs to battle for the Mills Cup. Salem trounced Frederick 10-1 on Thursday night to clinch the second half title in the Southern Division, capping an amazing stretch of baseball that has seen the Sox win 21 of their last 29. The Red Sox will host game one of the Southern Division Championship Series against Myrtle Beach at LewisGale Field on Wednesday, September 4 at 7:05 PM.

Luis Diaz dominated in seven brilliant, shutout innings on the hill, striking out six and throwing 52 of his 89 pitches for strikes. He scattered five hits, all singles, and improved to 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA in two starts in a Salem jersey.

Offensively, the Red Sox pounded Keys starter Brady Wager, cracking 11 hits on him before he was chased in the fourth. Matt Gedman went 3-for-5 with three doubles and four RBI, while David Chester went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBI in the ballgame. Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts both chipped in with two hits and a walk each, combining to score five runs.

The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Gedman’s RBI double, and Salem plated four more in the third on Gedman’s two-run double, Chester’s RBI single, and Nick Natoli’s bouncer to the mound that Wager threw away. Up 5-0 after three, the Sox were far from done.

In the fourth, Salem used Betts’ RBI ground-out, Gedman’s third consecutive RBI double, and Chester’s towering two-run jack to score four again and lead 9-0. Chester now has 17 round-trippers on the season, the last four of which have come in a Salem jersey.

Salem scored its final run in the sixth, with Gedman driving in his fifth run of the night. But technically, Gedman finished with four RBI because the last tally scored on a 4-6-3 double play off his bat to give the Red Sox a 10-0 lead.

The Keys broke up the shutout with a run in the top of the ninth, but Kyle Stroup, making his first relief appearance of the season, struck out Johnny Ruettiger with two runners on to punctuate the victory, igniting an excited celebration in front of the pitcher’s mound.

The Red Sox will battle Myrtle Beach in a best-of-three series starting on Wednesday for the right to advance to the Mills Cup Championship Series, but first Salem hosts Frederick and Lynchburg in the final four regular season tilts. The series finale with the Keys is scheduled for 7:05 on Friday night, with postgame fireworks on tap after the ballgame. Brian Johnson, Boston’s 2012 first-round pick out of Florida makes his LewisGale Field debut opposite Frederick righty Zach Davies.


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