Salem tops Frederick in season opener

Michael Almanzar’s three-run homer surged the Salem Sox in front and served as the loudest highlight to a great 9-7 opening night triumph over the Frederick Keys at Harry Grove Stadium.

Almanzar’s seventh-inning blast off Frederick reliever Kenny Moreland transformed a 7-5 deficit into an 8-7 advantage, and the Red Sox would not trail again. Every member of the Salem starting nine registered at least one hit, while eight Red Sox scored runs and six players recorded at least one RBI. Keith Couch tossed five innings in relief to earn the victory in his Carolina League debut, while Mike Olmsted dealt a scoreless ninth, stranding the tying runs in scoring position, to earn the save.

Salem pounded 14 hits and overcame multiple deficits en route to upending the defending Mills Cup Champion Keys, many of whom received their championship rings before the game. Frederick’s 2-0 lead after two innings was quickly vanquished when Salem rallied for three in the third, however the Keys’ offense responded with three more in their half of the third to lead 5-3. Salem sliced the two-run gap in half in the top of the fourth, but Frederick scored twice more in the last of the frame, surging in front 7-4 on Ronny Welty’s solo home run off Couch.

But after a bumpy first inning of relief, Couch found a groove and held the Frederick offense scoreless through the eighth. Starter Ryan Pressly struggled after a seven-pitch 1-2-3 first, surrendering five runs in three innings and receiving a no-decision.

Trailing 7-4 in the seventh, Travis Shaw snapped a stretch of eight straight Sox retired by singling with two outs. Xander Bogaerts and Christian Vazquez followed with consecutive singles, the latter of which plated Shaw to make it 7-5. Then, on the first pitch of the next at-bat, Almanzar unloaded on a hanging breaking-ball, smashing a three-run missile over the left-center field fence to put the Sox on top. Adalberto Ibarra delivered Salem’s fifth straight two-out hit on the next pitch, singling to left, before Shannon Wilkerson struck out to finally end the rally.

Entering the eighth with an 8-7 lead, only Brandon Jacobs resided without a base hit. That changed when Jacobs laced an RBI double into the right-field corner, scoring Jackie Bradley, Jr, and providing the Sox with a crucial insurance run.

Up 9-7 heading to the last of the ninth, Olmsted pitched around a walk and a single to escape with the save, stranding a pair of Keys at second and third. Three hours and eight minutes after the contest began, Olmsted struck out Welty looking to end it.

No competitor on either team registered three hits, but five Sox and three Keys finished with multi-hit efforts. Shaw, Bogaerts, Almanzar, Ibarra, and Wilkerson all contributed multiple hits for the Red Sox, while Welty, Ty Kelly, and Chris Tremblay recorded two hits apiece for Frederick.

Salem and Frederick reunite on Saturday for the middle matchup of the three-game set, with Drake Britton and Scott Copeland slated to be the starters. First pitch is scheduled for 2 PM.


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