Salem wins third straight

Bryce Brentz homered for the second straight day and the Salem Sox won their third consecutive game, downing the Wilmington Blue Rocks 5-3 on Thursday night at Frawley Stadium.

Brentz blasted a three-run dinger in the top of the first off All-Star righthander Jake Odorizzi, and Chris Hernandez, buoyed by a dominant performance from the bullpen, pitched well enough to earn his sixth win of 2011. Kendal Volz retired all seven men he faced over two and a third scoreless innings, while Will Latimer tossed a perfect ninth to earn his third save.

Hernandez allowed a pair of runs with two outs in the first, but then settled in and held the Rocks scoreless over the next four innings. Although Joey Lewis doubled home John Whittleman to scratch Hernandez once more in the sixth, the All-Star southpaw improved to 6-5 with five and two-thirds innings pitched, allowing three runs on nine hits, with four strikeouts and two walks. In relief, Volz stranded a pair of inherited men in the sixth to preserve the two-run lead, initiating a seven-batter onslaught of domination. Volz induced two fly-outs before striking out five consecutive Blue Rocks in the seventh and eighth innings. Latimer created two ground-ball outs and one shallow pop-up in the ninth to slam the door shut.

Offensively, Brentz’ three-run bomb set the tone, and Salem added one more in the second when Shannon Wilkerson’s two-out single plated Alex Valdez to make it 4-2. Brentz nearly crushed his second homer of the night in the sixth, but his leadoff blast remained in the yard, deflecting off the top of the wall for a double. After Dan Butler singled him to third, Brentz scored on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Miles Head.

Brentz finished 2-4 with two runs scored and three RBI, while seven of his eight comrades in the Sox lineup chipped in with one hit apiece. Both squads finished with nine hits overall, with Wilmington paced by Nick Van Stratten, Tim Ferguson, and Lewis, who all went 2-4.

Following an 0-5 start to the second half, the Salem Sox have won three in a row to finish June strong. It’s the first three-game winning streak since Salem took three consecutive one-run decisions from Myrtle Beach on May 5, 6, and 7 at LewisGale Field, a stretch that brought the Sox to 20-7 on the season.

Salem is gunning for the sweep of Wilmington in Friday’s series finale, as Ryan Pressly is set to duel with Justin Marks. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.

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