SALEM, Va. (June 13, 2016) - After a 28-year-long wait, the Salem Red Sox clinched the Carolina League's Southern Division First-Half Championship for the first time since 1988 with a 7-1 win over the Potomac Nationals Monday night at LewisGale Field.
The Red Sox (41-23) jumped out to an early lead in the first inning, when Yoan Moncada doubled to lead off the inning against Dakota Bacus. Mauricio Dubon laid down a bunt single, and then a Rafael Devers groundout plated Moncada to give Salem a 1-0 lead.
The Nationals (30-32) struck even against Matt Kent in the top of the third when Osvaldo Abreu singled to left with one out to plate Dale Carey, who led the inning off with a single of his own, to tie the game at one.
With Bacus out of the game in the sixth, the Red Sox rallied against reliever RC Orlan (2-2) to pull ahead. Using just one hit, Salem took advantage of five free passes to score two runs - one on a Deiner Lopez RBI groundout, the other on a wild pitch - to retake the lead at 3-1.
Kent (6-3) tossed yet another quality start for the Red Sox, lasting 6.1 innings, allowing just the one run on five hits, striking out five while walking only one. Kent won his fourth-straight decision, and notched his fifth quality start with Salem.
With runners on the corners and one out in the top of the seventh, Jamie Callahan relieved Kent and promptly retired the next two P-Nats batters. Callahan remained to toss a scoreless eighth inning.
Salem added four insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth against Justin Thomas, who allowed back-to-back triples to Lopez and Bryan Hudson, and a wall-ball double to Moncada. Two batters later, Devers singled home Moncada before Nick Longhi lofted a sac fly to score Dubon to put the game out of reach 7-1.
Simon Mercedes finished off the Nationals to secure the victory in the ninth and begin the championship celebration at 10:03 pm. The Sox officially clinched the half championship at 9:57 pm when the Frederick Keys defeated the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, 7-3.
By securing the first half Southern Division championship, the Red Sox have clinched a spot in the 2016 Carolina League playoffs, beginning Wednesday, September 7. It marks Salem's first trip to the playoffs since 2014, and its first division crown since winning the second half in 2013.
The Red Sox continue the series against the Potomac Nationals at LewisGale Field Tuesday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 pm. Salem will hand the ball to Travis Lakins (5-2, 5.77) while Potomac counters with Matthew Crownover (0-2, 7.35). For tickets and more information call (540) 389-3333 or slide to www.salemsox.com/tickets.