Salem takes finale with Wilmington

Miguel Celestino tossed six strong innings and Jackie Bradley, Jr. went 4-for-4 at the top of the Salem lineup to help the Red Sox earn a split of their four-game series with the Blue Rocks, prevailing 4-1 on Thursday night of LewisGale Field.

With intermittent rain sprinkling the field at various intensities throughout the night, the game was played at an Usain Bolt-pace, with the two teams completing nine innings in two hours and four minutes. Ironically, Salem also won 4-1 on Wednesday, and the game took two hours and 52 minutes despite the teams combining for one less hit than Thursday’s speedy finale.

Wilmington took an early 1-0 lead on a pair of first inning doubles from Whit Merrifield and Brian Fletcher, but Celestino handled his business with ease after the opening frame, permitting just three more hits over the duration of his brilliant six-inning performance. After Fletcher’s RBI double made the score 1-0, Celestino retired the next ten batters he faced. He struck out three and did not walk anyone, shrinking his ERA to 3.00 as he improved his record to 2-1.

Down 1-0, the second inning belonged to Xander Bogaerts. First, he made a spectacular diving defensive play at shortstop to rob Jake Kuebler of a hit, firing to first for the final out of the top of the frame. Then, on the very next pitch, he launched a towering solo homer over the left-field fence to tie the game at one. Bogaerts’ blast off Blue Rocks starter Leondy Perez was his second dinger of the season.

An inning later, Salem surged in front with three straight hits to begin the inning. Adalberto Ibarra singled to commence the rally, scoring one batter later on Carson Blair’s double into the gap. The lead became 3-1 on Bradley’s scorched ground-ball into center field, bringing Blair home from second.

Bradley collected his third hit with a one-out bunt single in the fifth. Two batters later, he scored on Travis Shaw’s RBI double that gave the Sox their 4-1 advantage. It was the eighth straight game that Bradley has scored a run for the Salem Sox, and a two-out single in the seventh represented his career-best fourth hit. Over the past 12 games, Bradley is batting a ridiculous .457 (21-for-46) with nine walks and 11 RBI, all from the leadoff spot in the batting order.

Jeremiah Bayer dealt two scoreless innings out of the Red Sox bullpen, while Mike Olmsted entered in the ninth to earn his third save in as many attempts. Salem’s record evened at 9-9, while Wilmington fell to 9-10.

The Red Sox and Blue Rocks will play each other four more times in Delaware beginning on Monday, but first Salem welcomes the Carolina Mudcats to LewisGale Field over the weekend for a three-game series. On Friday at 7:05, Brandon Workman will make his second start of the year against Carolina’s Francisco Jimenez.

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