Red Sox ChampionsForgive the blurry shot - they were all too excited to stand still!
"One of the beautiful things about baseball is that every once in a while you come into a situation where you want to, and where you have to, reach down and prove something." –Nolan Ryan
The Salem Red Sox did just that, plus more!
With a 51-56 losing record on July 30, the Sox flexed out of their slump to play some of the best ball that’s every been played on LewisGale Field inside of Salem Memorial Ballpark.
After stealing the first two in Potomac, game three-of-five was on Tuesday evening and the Sox finally closed out their excursion to the top spot against league foe, the Potomac Nationals; proving to be the best Carolina League team in 2013, winning 6-4.
With the crowd on their feet, noisemakers in full effect and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Matt Price threw the last pitch of the Carolina League season. A sharp grounder was hit to Stefan Welch that caused no problems and before first basemen, David Chester, could glove the ball completely, the Sox bench stormed the field, mobbed each other and hoisted the Mill Cup shortly after.
“In my first year in Greenville we missed the playoffs by about a half game on the last day of the season, so to make the playoffs here and just sweep through it is really a blessing, it’s unbelievable,” said MVP Sean Coyle.
Ringleader and renowned base stealer, Mookie Betts (just 20 years old) also experienced his first championship as a professional.
“It feels awesome, it may not happen again but I’m glad I got it once,” said Betts.
After falling behind by a single run in the top of the third, Salem responded with two of their own in the third. Leading the way for Salem was the recently activated (in game one of the final series), Sean Coyle, who came through once again finding the gap in left center, notching two RBI giving Salem their first lead of the night, 2-1.
Adding to the lead, Mookie Betts dashed home on a throwing error from Potomac and then Coyle (MVP) stepped in and repeated his first at bat. He cranked yet another ball to left center field, allowing David Chester and Nick Natoli to score, bumping his RBI total up to four on the night. Contributing to the rally next was Henry Ramos, as he beamed a liner right past the Nationals first basemen; this brought Coyle home and gave Salem a commanding 6-1 lead.
The P-Nats showed some life in the fifth, scoring two runs. Adrian Nieto manufactured a two-out, two-run double that scored both Michael Taylor and Cutter Dykstra; narrowing Salem’s lead down to 6-3.
It wasn’t again until the seventh that Potomac threatened again but, there were only able to plate one run on a Red Sox error, making the score 6-4 in favor of Salem.
Virginia Tech graduate and closing pitcher, Matt Price came in during the eighth and ninth innings to close out the season for the Sox. Not giving up any runs, Price was throwing strikes consistently and proved himself as one of the best closers in the Carolina League.
Finishing off 30-8 in their last 38 games, the Red Sox essentially rebranded themselves in the month of August and rode the energy all the way through the playoffs making for an amazing experience for the players, managers, fan and even myself!
“It’s been a journey the whole year, man,” said Coyle. “We used to play some games where the stands were pretty empty and I know it’s a big stadium but the turnout and the support of the fans has been unreal so, I tip my cap to them they helped us out.”
In a historic year for Salem, I consider myself lucky to be able to have covered them all summer long. If it wasn’t for the great coordination and hospitality from the entire Salem Red Sox organization, I don’t think I would have had quite the same experience and I commend them for that.
For the Salem Sox Insider and The Roanoker blog, we’ll be back in 2014 awaiting a Salem Red Sox repeat.