The Salem Red Sox will not be heading to the inaugural Low-A East Championship Series.
Facing a must-win situation in their final regular-season game, the Sox squandered a five-run lead in the middle innings and fell to Delmarva 9-7 on Sunday at Haley Toyota Field.
Salem reliever Devon Roedahl put his hands on his head as he watched Billy Cook’s tie-breaking two-run homer soar over the left-center wall in the top of the ninth. The Sox got the potential winning run to the plate in the bottom half, but Brainer Bonaci flied out to left field to end it.
The loss dropped Salem (71-49) out of a tie for second place in the league with Down East (72-48). The Wood Ducks will host the first two games of the best-of-five championship series on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, then travel to Charleston (82-38) for the final three games Friday-Sunday.
The Sox knew they had to win to qualify for the playoffs after Down East defeated Charleston earlier Sunday afternoon. Recent results would have given the Sox the tiebreaker had they finished knotted with Down East.
Salem appeared poised to breeze to victory, leading 6-1 through five innings. But back-to-back fielding errors by third baseman Antoni Flores opened a disastrous top of the sixth for the Sox, who saw their entire lead disappear.
Darrell Hernaiz plated the tying and go-ahead runs on an infield single deep in the hole at short, just beating a valiant, one-hop throw to first from shortstop Brainer Bonaci. All six runs the Shorebirds scored in the frame were unearned.
The Sox tied the game 7-7 in the bottom half on a bases-loaded walk by Nick Decker – the fourth consecutive walk issued by Delmarva pitcher Leonardo Rodriguez.
The Sox scraped a run across in the first against Delmarva southpaw Ty Blach, who has 92 games of big-league experience. Tyler Miller hit a two-out single to drive home Tyler McDonough and tie the game 1-1.
Salem scored four more times in the second. Antoni Flores and Ceddanne Rafaela drove in runs before Flores scored on a double steal – a play that saw Ceddanne Rafael race around from second to score on a throwing error by catcher Logan Michaels.