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Salem sweeps Wilmington, stays in hunt

The Salem Sox were down to the final out in Wednesday’s opener before Xander Bogaerts smacked a transforming two-run single that gave the Sox a 3-2 lead over Wilmington that stood for a one-run win. In the nightcap, Keith Couch dominated with six scoreless innings and the Sox blanked the Blue Rocks 3-0 to complete the sweep and stay within three-games of the first place Winston-Salem Dash.

Both clubs have four games to play in the half, with Winston traveling to Wilmington and the Sox returning to LewisGale Field to host Carolina.

Christian Vazquez and Travis Shaw both homered in Wednesday’s doubleheader, with Vazquez launching his second of the year in the fourth inning of the opener and Shaw belting his team-leading 10th in the first inning of game two. Both solo shots broke the scoreless stalemates and helped set the tone to a pair of victories. The Blue Rocks scored two-out runs against Jeremy Kehrt in the fourth and fifth innings in the opener to take a 2-1 lead, but the Sox loaded the bases in the top of the last, with Bogaerts delivering the clutch hit Salem desperately needed.

In the nightcap, Shaw drove in all three runs, with a solo homer in the first and a two-run double in the third providing all the offense Salem would need. Couch permitted just four hits, all singles, in six shutout innings, shrinking his ERA to 3.32.

Mike Olmsted emerged to earn his 13th save in as many attempts with a perfect bottom of the seventh, in which he struck out a pair to shrink his ERA to 1.50.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. did not manage a hit in the doubleheader, but drew four walks, increasing his Carolina League-leading total to 51. Heiker Meneses mustered hits in both games and has gone 4-for-10 in his first three games back with the Salem Sox.

The win improved Salem to 38-27-1, a season-best 11 games above .500.

Matt Barnes takes the mound on Thursday night as the Sox look to remain in the race for the first-half title. Francisco Jimenez makes the start for Carolina, with the first pitch at LewisGale Field set for 7:05.