SALEM, VA (Friday, April 6) - The Salem Red Sox pulled off an improbable comeback Friday night, scoring three runs in the bottom of the ninth and taking a 4-3 walk-off victory over the Buies Creek Astros at Haley Toyota Field in Salem.
The Red Sox (2-0) had only three hits through the first eight innings of the game and struck out 16 times, but posted four hits to power their ninth-inning surge. The Astros (0-2) wasted a sterling effort from their starting pitcher and fell for the second straight night. The magical comeback gave the Sox a walk-off win on the second night of the season for the second year in a row. Salem scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth on April 7, 2017 to beat the Down East Wood Ducks 11-10.
Salem got things going in the bottom of the first against Buies Creek starting pitcher Hector Perez, who allowed consecutive singles to Santiago Espinal and Brett Netzer to start the frame. Netzer was caught stealing second, but Bobby Dalbec lofted a fly ball to center field, and it was deep enough for a sacrifice fly to plate Espinal and put the Sox in front 1-0. Perez settled down from there and didn't allow another hit, recording 10 strikeouts.
The Astros drew even in the top of the third against Sox starter Jake Thompson (ND). With one out and the bases empty, Anibal Sierra shredded the first pitch he saw and sent it over the left field wall for his first homer of the year to tie the game at 1-1.
Buies Creek moved ahead in the top of the fifth inning. Chas McCormick singled on a soft grounder to the left side, and moved up to second when Dalbec's throw was wild. Kristian Trompiz followed with a bouncer to third; Dalbec slipped while fielding the ball, and his throw skipped away from Jerry Downs at first. The throwing error allowed Trompiz to reach safely, and McCormick to move to third. The Astros then successfully executed the double steal, bringing McCormick home with the run to give the visitors a 2-1 lead.
The Astros tacked on one more in the top of the sixth, as leadoff man Josh Rojas worked a walk and stole second. With two outs, Troy Sieber hit a fly ball up the left field line that twisted away from left fielder Tyler Hill in the wind. The ball dropped in for an RBI double, scoring Rojas and extending the lead to 3-1.
With the deck stacked against them, the Sox made their move in the ninth inning. Brandon Bielak (BS, 1; L, 0-1) had been magnificent through his first three frames of relief, but Dalbec took the first pitch he saw deep over the wall to center, bringing the Sox within a run. Ryan Scott followed his heroics with a double to left field, putting the potential tying run in scoring position. Kyri Washington fanned for the first out, but Tyler Hill hit a dying quail into center that fell for a single and moved Scott to third base. Jerry Downs came through in the clutch for the Sox, lacing a single to center to plate Scott, and Ronnie Dawson's throw to third went way over Abraham Toro's head. With Hill having rounded second, the ball skipped into the Salem dugout, and Hill was waved home by the umpires for the walk-off win.
Thompson took a no-decision, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks while fanning four in 5.2 innings; it was his first professional start of more than two innings. Jared Oliver allowed one hit and fanned two over 1.1 innings of relief. Joan Martinez (W, 1-0) gave up a hit and a walk but nothing else in two innings, whiffing four and recording the win.
The Sox will try for their third straight win to start the season on Saturday night, with lefty Darwinzon Hernandez getting the ball for Salem against Astros righty Carson LaRue. First pitch is at 6:05 p.m., and the pregame show with Ben Gellman and Suzie Cool begins at 5:45 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.