Written by Mike Mueller
Jerome Pena knew his leadoff hit into the right-center gap in the bottom of the ninth would be a double when it left his bat.
With score locked at 2-2, the Frederick Keys’ second baseman beat Salem center fielder Henry Ramos’ throw into second base with a headfirst dive. Two batters later, Pena would score the game-winning run on shortstop Sammie Starr’s sacrifice fly to right, sending the Keys’ to a 3-2 walk-off victory Saturday afternoon at Harry Grove Stadium.
“My mindset (leading into my at-bat) was, ‘gotta see some pitches and gotta have a good at-bat and have a leadoff guy on here in the bottom of the ninth in to start us off so we can win the ballgame,’ ” said Pena. “Once I hit it into the gap, I was going two. I felt pretty confident I was going to make it there.”
Jason Esposito moved Pena to third when he was thrown out on a dribbler in front of the plate and Starr hit a high fastball from reliever Nate Striz, who took the loss, in the air toward the right field line. It was fairly shallow, but Keury De La Cruz’s throws was off-line and Pena scored easily, much to the delight of the 4,743 in attendance.
Frederick (2-0) trailed Salem (0-2) 2-0 in the sixth, when three consecutive singles resulted in two runs. Travis Adair’s base hit through the right side scored Glynn Davis and Mikey Planeta, who moved to second on a throwing error by De La Cruz. Salem’s starter Henry Owens held the Keys scoreless through five innings, striking out four and allowing two hits and two walks. But for the second day in a row, the Red Sox bullpen failed them and allowed the Keys to plate runs.
“Today was one of those kind of grind-it-out games,” said Keys manager Ryan Minor. “Their starter (Owens) did an excellent job of not letting us get anything going early. ... But when we came back with those runs in the sixth, that was huge. If we don’t come up with those runs there we might not score the rest of the game.”
Tyler Wilson started for the Keys Saturday and went six innings, allowing two hits, two runs, three walks while striking out seven. He allowed a leadoff home run to second baseman Sean Coyle to start his season, but settled in after that, giving up his other run of the game in the third inning. The Keys’ bullpen did the rest. Lefty Zach Fowler threw scoreless seventh and eighth innings and right-hander Eric Beaulac pitched a scoreless ninth-inning -- despite allowing a lead-off double -- and picked up the victory.
To start the season, Frederick’s relievers have thrown six scoreless innings.
“The bullpen’ s been sensational,” said Wilson. “We kind of knew that coming in. We had some pretty high hopes for them coming into the season. We have some outstanding arms out there and I’m not gonna name everyone, but everyone we’re trotting out there is working ahead in the count and throwing quality strikes.”
Pena went 2-for-4 in his first start of the season and Adair went 3-for-4 with three RBIs hitting third and playing third base after going hitless on Friday. Planeta and Davis registered the Keys’ other two hits.
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