Despite a scorching hot day on Friday, fans were eager to get back into Salem Memorial Ballpark during the evening hours of Friday after a lengthy 11-days since last playing at home.
Playing host to the Carolina Mudcats, Salem Red Sox had intentions of holding on to the top spot in the Southern Division and they did just that, winning in walk off fashion.
Stating pitcher, William Cuevas (5-6), pitched seven total innings but quickly got into a hole after giving up a run in the first inning. Cuevas battled and kept the Mudcats scoreless in the next two innings before they scored one more run in the fourth, which would turnout to be their last run of the night. Cuevas notched a season-high with eight strikeouts on the night.
As there were a number of different little league teams in attendance, every mid-inning promotion guaranteed a show along with a good laugh - especially the Bojangles hat shuffle that had fans out of their seats screaming at the contestant which hat they believed was correct…needless to say, he got it correct (thanks to the crowd)!
But, back to baseball, Salem couldn’t seem to find their bats as they fell behind in the pitch count numerous times throughout the evening, as did Carolina, leaving fans with a back-and-forth defensive battle that turned out to be rather entertaining.
Knotted up at 2-runs apiece after the fifth inning, Salem took the lead in the sixth after a throwing error from the Mudcats that allowed Salem’s David Renfroe to steal home and put the Sox up by one.
With momentum on their side after the hometown crowd enjoyed the classic seventh inning stretch sing-along to “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” followed by the “Chicken Dance”, the Sox put runners in scoring position but, with an outstanding defensive play from Carolina third basemen, Zack MacPhee, the Mudcats were able to keep Salem scoreless in the seventh and escape the jam.
After two clutch doubles from Carolina in the top of the ninth, the Mudcats rallied with two outs and tied the game up at 3, sending the game into extra innings.
Pitcher Matty Ott sat down the Carolina hitters in order during the tenth, giving Salem another chance to capitalize with a runner in scoring position. Nick Natoli proved to be the man of the night with a walk-off single scoring Blake Swihart and sending a roar of excitement throughout the ballpark!
Following the game was another spectacular fireworks show that essentially put the cherry on top for the hometown crowd after a nail-biting win for Salem. And although it was a very close game, it was also a very entertaining game that gave fans an ending they haven’t seen since April 25.
Taking game one of three, the Sox will be back in action tomorrow evening hoping to take game two away from Carolina.