An afternoon that began with police officers and firemen battling it out on the diamond ended with the Sox battling not just the Potomac Nationals but also the umpires yet came up short, 6-4.
Honoring those who serve around the valley, the Guns & Hoses softball game gave us a chance to see them still in uniform but, off the clock and on the diamond. In what was a surprisingly close match-up, the Guns came away with the win and bragging rights until they meet again.
Salem also hosted the ASA (Amateur Softball Association) opening ceremonies on LewisGale Field before the Sox players took the field.
There were teams being represented from all around the States. Texas, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee –there was a sea of different colors inside the ballpark! Each team sort of migrated to their sections giving the stadium a very unique appearance due to the color coordination of each different team.
And though it was a very crowded and eventful pregame, the Sox still had the P-Nats on the slate for the first game of their three game series.
(Oh and since it was Sunday…everyone’s favorite animal, dogs, would be in the ballpark too!)
The Sox came out of the gates with a purpose, swinging the bats very hard!
They sent P-Nats starting pitcher, Brian Raugh, to the bench before he could even get out of the first inning (this was by far the quickest I’ve ever seen a pitcher get benched).
Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts both recorded an RBI in the first inning and this got the Sox started off on the right foot. Matt Gedman and Keury De La Cruz both chipped in as well as they each cranked solo homeruns.
With the offense flowing, it was up to the defense to hold on to the lead and with the Ace, LHP Henry Owens, on the mound Salem was more than poised.
(Owens has held opponents to a .182 average throughout this entire season. This is the best average in the Carolina League and fourth best in the minors. Put it simple: the dude can throw!)
Heading into the eighth inning, the recent video of Red Sox mascot, Mugsy, doing the “Dougie” was played on the video board. If you’ve never seen the “Dougie” you should stop reading this right now and go watch it!
Anyways, the video sent Sox fans in a “Dougie” frenzy and a lot of the younger people in the crowd started to do their own “Dougie”. It was particularly funny to me because you could see the older people in the crowd looking around in confusion at why people were dancing so oddly.
It was also in the eighth inning when the umpires made an absolutely terrible call that got Sox manager, Billy McMillon, out of the dugout rather quickly.
A ball that clearly landed to the left of the third baseline (a foul ball) was ruled a fair ball and this lead to runners on the corners for Potomac. At this point, the umpires had clearly gotten Salem off of their game by making an incorrect call that set up the P-Nats to score.
In spite of human error, the umpire behind the plate, Morgan Day, gave Salem an obvious make-up call when he called “strike three” on a pitch that was a clear ball (sure it was nice of the ump to do that but, I disagreed with a number of his rulings).
For good reason, though. Salem led all game and it wasn’t until the first terrible call from the umpire in the eighth inning that disrupted the Sox flow. Just after the second terrible call, the “make up” call, the P-Nats were able to load the bases up and just after, Kevin Keyes stepped in the batters box and belted a grand slam well over the fence! (There’s nothing like a grand slam to ruin the other team's momentum, if it wasn’t already).
Watching the ball soar out of the park, almost in awe, I immediately knew how difficult it would be for the Sox to respond.
The Sox did have two more chances at the plate in the bottom of the eighth and ninth innings but failed to produce. The P-Nats came away with the win and sent Salem home with something to think about for the remainder of the night.
But, back in action tomorrow, Salem will have a chance to prove themselves against the P-Nats again on Monday evening. LHP Mickey Pena is the probable starter for the Sox.
Even though the Sox have been playing exceptional baseball, they haven’t been able to close out games recently and with the season winding down, the team will surly have an emphasis on finishing out games for the remainder of the season.
This should make for very interesting next couple games…we’ll see.