“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
Perhaps that was something the Frederick Keys said to themselves all night. After getting romped on by Salem last night (Thursday) 10-1, the Red Sox picked right back up where they left off on Friday evening with superb batting and impeccable defense.
With one of the best crowds I’ve seen all season on hand and Star Wars characters hovering all around the ballpark, it was tough not to say, “WOW!”
Salem’s David Chester also made a comment about the large crowd…
“Since I’ve been here that’s been the most I’ve seen. It was awesome and it’s fun when people come out to watch you play because we do go off of that, we get excited when people are there and we want to put on a show for them” said Chester.
And as the fans were still filling up AND into the seats, the Sox refused to wait around for them. Notching five runs in their first at bat, Salem was able to set the tone early – this has been a key to success for Salem all season long!
After the first two Salem batters reached base (Johnson and Ramos) the Aussie, Stefan Welch belted a three-run homer to get things started for his teammates. Following up with three straight singles were Gedman, Swihart and Chester; loading up the bases. Nick Natoli then grounded out allowing Gedman to score to put Salem up 4-0. Cody Koback was the second out of the inning, flying out to deep right-field allowing Swihart to score, tacking another run onto the scoreboard.
The next three innings (2,3,4) went by about as fast as Mookie Betts steals bases. Well, maybe not that fast but, even though Betts had the night off, he still deserves a shout out. After all, he was the Player of the Week twice in August.
Prior to the fourth inning was a new promotion…a very, very funny promotion. In a competition between two babies, yes babies, the crowd determined which baby made the funniest face after drinking lemon juice. What made it so funny was that one of the babies actually seemed to enjoy the juice while the other didn’t, AT ALL.
While the starting pitcher for Salem, LHP Brian Johnson, was in his first start of the season, he came out and blanked the Keys in the first three innings. Though he gave up two runs in the fourth, it could’ve been a lot worse but after a visit mound visit from pitching coach, Kevin Walker, Johnson was able to escape. Coming back out in the fifth, Johnson made quick work of the Keys’ batters and this turned up to be the end of his night.
(The most exciting part of the night, for me, was during the middle of the fifth inning. Thanks to the new “Press Box Peanut Plop” promotion, I had about seven bags of peanuts to launch out into the sea of Salem fans! At first, fans seemed to be a bit confused but after my first few throws landed really close to a number people, they naturally turned around and proceeded to beg for the peanuts, like they do for free T-shirts.)
The Sox struck again in the sixth scoring two more runs, matching the Keys who scored two runs in the previous inning. It started when Henry Ramos ripped an RBI triple off the top of the wall. Two batters later, Matt Gedman was able to reach first base; all Ramos to score and push the lead to 7-2, Salem.
Nefi Ogando came in during the sixth to relieve Johnson. Ogando posted three scoreless frames and I’m not sure the pitching staff could have asked much more from him.
It was David Chester though, putting the cherry on top of the win for the fans and his teammates. On his third homerun of the WEEK, Chester took one solid swing and tattooed a ball well over the center field fence to give Salem an 8-2 lead, which would end up being the final score for the night.
I spoke with Chester after the game about his hitting and bringing momentum into Wednesday's game one playoff.
“Just keep trying to have the same approach everyday, not try to change it up because that’s the hardest thing. You know it’s a playoff game and some guys try to do too much. We try to focus on another at bat and another game, not try to put things in a category as I have to do this or I have to do that” said Chester.
Closer, Nate Striz came in to finish off the Keys from the mound. But after falling into a bases loaded, one out jam, Stirz was able to get Frederick's right-fielder, Trent Mummey, to groundout into a 6,4,3 double play to finish off the night for Salem!
None less than 90 seconds after the Sox players could shake each others hands, the lights over Salem Memorial Ballpark were killed and fireworks lit up the sky. And with the Star Wars theme song over the loud speaker, all you could see were the firework and Darth Vader swords glowing throughout the stadium.
Until Saturday's 2:05 first pitch, “May the Force be with you.”