Lynchburg led on two different occasions, tied the game in the eighth inning, and had five different players post multi-hit efforts, but Salem persevered to earn a 7-6 victory at Calvin Falwell Field Saturday night.
After Salem (30-31) erased two different deficits to take a 6-5 lead in the fourth, Lynchburg (31-31) finally knotted the score in the eighth with two triples. Kyle Wren hit the first one with a fly ball down the left field line that bounded off the wall away from a diving Kevin Heller. Levi Hyams followed with a triple to right-center field to tie the game with one out, 6-6, but Hyams was stranded on third base.
Salem quickly responded with its first three hitters reaching base in the ninth inning to regain the lead. Heller hit a single through the left side. Carson Blair hit a double to right field. Heller tried to score from first on the play, but a perfect relay from Will Skinner to Jose Peraza to Joe Odom nabbed him at the plate to keep the game deadlocked momentarily. One batter later, Mario Martinez knocked an RBI single to center field to give Salem a 7-6 advantage.
The Hillcats did not go down quietly. Trailing by one in their last at-bat, Edison Sanchez doubled off the left-field wall. Peraza was hit by a pitch, and Wren loaded the bases when he lined a ball off the field umpire. As a result of the batted ball hitting the umpire, the play was immediately called dead and all runners advanced one base to load them up for David Nick. Nick hit a high chopper to the second baseman, and Wren nearly beat out a toss to second for the force, but the out was recorded barely in time to end the game.
Alex Wilson (3-2) suffered the loss after allowing one run on three hits in the ninth. The right-hander saw his team-best scoreless innings streak come to an end at 15.1 frames. Kyle Martin (3-1) went 3.2 innings to earn the victory in relief of Pat Light. Martin struck out three while surrendering one run on three hits. Dayan Diaz entered to notch the final out and pick up his fourth save of the year.
Lynchburg struck first on the scoreboard with a three-run second inning. Hyams hit a leadoff double and scored two batters later on an RBI double by Daniel Castro. Castro increased his team-leading RBI total to 28 for the season. After Skinner reached on a single, Sanchez hit a line-drive, two-run single up the middle to give the Hillcats a 3-0 upper hand. Sanchez finished the game 2-for-3 with a walk to log his second-straight multi-hit game.
All three times Lynchburg scored in the game, Salem answered in the next half-inning. In the top of the third, the Red Sox posted four runs on four hits to surge ahead, 4-3. Matty Johnson hit a leadoff single and stole second base. After Heller walked, Blair hit an RBI single and Martinez followed with a two-run double. Aneury Tavarez capped off the frame with a two-out RBI double.
Lynchburg came right back with two runs in the bottom half of the inning. Peraza hit an infield single and stole second base. That set up an RBI single by Nick. Two batters later, Ahrens doubled to left-center field to drive home Nick. The Hillcats held a 5-4 lead at that point, but Salem responded again.
In the top of the fourth, Johnson walked to begin the inning. Michael Miller hit an RBI double and advanced to third on a throwing error by Nick. Martinez hit a sacrifice fly to center field, giving Salem a 6-5 lead that it would maintain until the eighth.
Peraza stole a base in the fifth inning for the Hillcats to become the first player in the Carolina League to reach 30 this season. He also went 2-for-4 in the game for his 29th multi-hit performance in 59 games played. Joining Peraza with multi-hit efforts were Ahrens, Hyams, Sanchez and Wren. Hyams was the only player with two extra-base hits, going 2-for-4 with a double and a triple.
Lynchburg will play its last home game before the All-Star Break Sunday afternoon at 2:05pm. The Hillcats will play their first rubber match since May 14 when they square off against Salem to determine the winner of the three-game series. The Hillcats will send Lay Batista (2-2, 4.75) up against lefty Corey Littrell (3-3, 4.09). Gates open at 1pm. Fans can also follow the action on 97.9 The Planet with coverage from City Stadium beginning at 1:40pm.