I took in some Carolina League baseball Friday night as the Salem Red Sox faced the Wilmington Blue Rocks in Salem, Virginia. The Salem Red Sox are clinging to a slim lead in the race for the final Carolina League playoff spot, so Friday’s game was an important contest. The Sox prevailed in extra innings on a walk off hit from first baseman Jantzen Witte.

Salem starter Heri Quevedo had a rough second inning when he gave up three runs, but he limited the damage after that. He finished allowing three runs on five hits over six innings, and struck out seven. The Salem bullpen managed to hold the Blue Rocks scoreless for the rest of the game, giving the Salem offense a chance to tie it up and then win it in extras.

Carlos Asuaje has had a breakout season. Photo by Kelly O'Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com

Carlos Asuaje has had a breakout season. Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com

The prospects I was most interested in seeing, Manuel Margot and Carlos Asuaje, had quiet nights offensively. Asuaje went 1-5 on the night, and played a solid left field. He did score a run after a fielding error by the Blue Rocks in the fifth inning, and had a hit during the game winning rally in the 10th. Asuaje leads the Red Sox minor league system with 92 RBI between Greenville and Salem.

Margot didn’t show much at the plate, going 0-4 on the night. He did show some good speed running to first, and charged in to make a nice play on a weak fly ball to center. He’s the youngest player on the roster at age 19, and just earned promotion to Salem after tearing up Low A Greenville.

Infielder Reed Gragnani was the offensive star for Salem, going 3-4 on the night with two RBI. He came up with runners on first and third with no outs in the bottom of the tenth, and was intentionally walked, which gave Witte the chance to be the hero. Gragnani, a University of Virginia graduate, is hitting .302 for Salem this season.

Shortstop Jose Vinicio hasn’t done anything with the bat this year, but he made two incredible plays in the field to rob the Blue Rocks of hits. He ranged up the middle past the second base bag in the top of the fourth, then charged a weak chopper past the mound in the eigth. He showed tremendous range and a strong arm on both plays. Unfortunately he’s still very thin physically, and has only hit .193 at Salem this year.

Relievers William Cuevas and Jonathan Aro looked strong in their two innings of work a piece. Cuevas pitched two perfect innings with one strikeout. Aro pitched two innings giving up one hit and striking out three, and he earned the win when Witte delivered the walk off hit.

The ballpark sits in a beautiful spot with the Blue Ridge Mountains clearly visible from the stands. It was Star Wars night at LewisGale Field, and characters from the movie wandered among the crowd. With the Red Sox victory and the wonderful setting, it was a terrific night of baseball.