SALEM, VA. - The Salem Red Sox (28-23) swept the six-game series against the Columbia Fireflies (14-37) at home. The two teams will meet again in Columbia for another six-game series starting on Aug. 23 with it concluding on Aug. 29.
Salem uses pitching to secure the series opener
With both teams not receiving a rest day following their road series, the pitching from each side did not skip a beat out of the gate. Juan Encarnacion got the start for the Red Sox and delivered a solid five innings of work by allowing four hits and zero earned runs to give him the win. After making the call to the bullpen, the Salem relief staff of Adenys Bautista, Christopher Troye, Jhonny Felix and Miguel Suero tossed a near perfect four innings allowing only one hit and two earned runs.
For the Fireflies, Ben Hernandez made his first start off the Injured List, but was quickly replaced by Wander Arias after one inning of work. Arias started out strong but ended up allowing three runs in his 4.2 innings pitched and was handed the losing decision.
After a slow start offensively, it was Blaze Jordan who started the scoring with his first triple of the season, a 2-RBI three-bagger to give the Red Sox the lead in the fourth. He eventually scored later in the inning thanks to an Eduardo Lopez sacrifice fly.
Having a three-run advantage, the Red Sox sought to put away the Fireflies. With the heart of the order coming to the plate, Marcelo Mayer, Nathan Hickey and Jordan hit three consecutive doubles to build their lead up to six. Columbia added some consolation runs off two wild pitches by Felix in the eighth, but they never imposed a threat as the Red Sox took the opener, 6-2.
Tyler Uberstine tosses a gem on his 23rd Birthday
As Uberstine celebrated another trip around the Sun, he delivered possibly his best performance of the season for his third win of the year, with only one Firefly reaching base safely in his five innings pitched. Alongside the dominant performance on the mound, the Red Sox used a much better offensive start with four runs coming across the first three innings.
The first run of the game gave us a preview of the sloppy contest as Eddinson Paulino scored from first base off a stolen base and two throwing errors by the Fireflies. As the Red Sox led 3-0 in the bottom of the third, Blaze Jordan scored from third after a throwing error committed by Columbia third baseman Enrique Valdez.
Niko Kavadas put the Red Sox out of distance with a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to give themselves a six-run advantage in back-to-back nights.
The Fireflies got their first run of the game in top of the seventh with a Rubendy Jaquez single, but similarly as in Game One, the Red Sox were in no risk of losing their lead, and grabbed consecutive victories with a 6-1 final score.
Salem uses big third inning to win rain-shorted contest
In contrast to the first two games of the series, the Fireflies struck first in the third game of the series as River Town doubled in the third inning to give Columbia the 1-0 edge and their first lead over the Red Sox on the week.
That did not last long, as the Red Sox responded with four runs in the bottom half of the third. With the game tied at one apiece, Mayer ripped his 12th double of the season down the right field line to score two runs and give Salem their first lead of the night.
Columbia did not back away as they slimmed the margin to two runs as Valdez scored on a double steal from third to bring the Fireflies back within striking distance. They never got a chance to complete the comeback as the tarp came out in the bottom of the fifth.
After a 40-minute rain delay, the game was called, and the Red Sox picked up their third win of the week with a 4-2 final.
Salem overcomes early deficit; uses six-run sixth to clinch series
After four scoreless innings to start the contest, the Fireflies were looking for a chance to have another strong start after Game 3’s lead slipped away. Their prayers were answered with a three-run top of the fifth inning, which did not only give the Fireflies their largest lead of the week, but their most runs in a single game.
While the Red Sox managed to get one run back in the bottom half in the fifth, it was the sixth where Salem took over the contest with six runs in the frame. With the bases loaded, Hickey drilled 0-1 pitch down the right field line to clear the bases and give the Red Sox a two-run edge. Kavadas got in on the fun as he hit a home run in the next at-bat to cap off the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Red Sox showed off their wheels as Paulino and Sikes tripled in back-to-back plate appearances to move Salem's unanswered run count up to 10. Columbia had a little fight in the ninth with two runs, but the deficit was too difficult for the Fireflies as Salem picked up their fourth straight win, 10-5.
Late offense leads Salem to victory, again
After a big offensive night from the Red Sox, all eyes were on the mound as Bryan Mata made his first minor league appearance since 2019 where he gave up one unearned run in the top of the second inning.
As Mata exited the game, the Red Sox were once down early in the game, but they found another way to get out of the deficit with Sikes scoring on a double steal and Kavadas’ RBI single in the fourth.
In the most tightly contested game of the week, the Red Sox were leading the nail-biter 3-2 in the bottom of the eighth. Hickey was in the right place again with a 2-RBI double to give Salem the three-run edge while Jordan capped off the night with a double to bring the game to its final score of 6-2.
Two-run blasts from Belen and Paulino clinch sweep
Hunter Dobbins, an eighth round pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, made his Red Sox organization debut with three innings pitched. He gave up four hits and two runs while striking out one.
The offense came through in the middle innings to overcome the rough start. As the Fireflies led 2-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth, the bottom half of the Red Sox order came alive as Karson Simas tied the contest at two with an RBI double.
Darel Belen came into the game starting the season cold, but that did not stop him from crushing a 2-run blast over the right field wall to give Salem a 4-2 advantage in the fourth inning.
Later in the sixth, Paulino joined in on the long-ball festivities as he clanged the 1-2 pitch off the right field foul pole to move the Red Sox advantage to five runs.
Columbia responded with two runs in the top of the seventh and brought the tying run to the plate in the top of the ninth, but Jacob Webb closed out the contest for his third save of the season, and gave Salem the 7-4 win. With the result, the Red Sox home-winning streak improves to eight and their six-game winning streak is now tied their longest of the year.
With that win streak, Salem are tied with Carolina with half a game out of first place from Lynchburg. The Red Sox travel to Charleston for six games starting Tuesday at 7:05 p.m.