Six losses in six tries, and an overall scoring margin that looked like an early season college football game for a powerhouse against a cupcake: Salem 49, Myrtle Beach 14.
Not anymore after Thursday. Myrtle Beach exorcised some first-half demons with an 8-2 dismantling of the Red Sox at Salem Memorial Ballpark, again capitalizing on a strong J.J. Hoover outing to stifle an opponent and gain a victory.
Four times in their previous six meetings, the Pelicans had taken the early lead against Salem in the first inning, so Myrtle Beach tried something different in Thursday's series opener. The Red Sox took the game's first advantage when Ryan Lavarnway led off the bottom of the second inning with a solo shot homer off of Hoover to hand his team a 1-0 lead. Not another runner would reach against Hoover until the fifth, and no one would reach via hit against the big right-hander until the sixth.
In the meantime, Hoover's offense came alive. Behind Samuel Sime's one-out double in the fourth, the Birds gradually took the night over. Sime came around to score on a Jesus Sucre RBI single to even things at one run apiece. Sucre then went to second on a Calvin Culver base hit, and the pair advanced to scoring position on a Fabian Williamson wild pitch to set up Ryan Barba who drove a two-run single to center field to give Myrtle Beach its first lead in the top of the fourth inning at 3-1. Salem starter Williamson (4-3) didn't last after the fourth having allowed three Myrtle Beach runs, all earned, on five hits. He matched a season high with three walks.
Hoover (3-3) was his usual dominant self when it came to command. For the third straight start, the Calhoun (AL) Community College product did not issue a walk and became the sixth Pelicans starter in Myrtle Beach's last seven games to accomplish that feat. Hoover struck out six while allowing two runs, both earned, on four hits over six and two-thirds.
When Salem's second tally scored with two outs in the seventh to cut the Pelicans lead to 4-2, it ended Hoover's day, and the Red Sox turned to reliever Zach Hammes for a shutdown inning. Hammes, and his defense, could not come through. Salem committed its third and fourth errors of the night in the top of the eighth inning, and the Pelicans capitalized for four more runs to bust the game open, the big blow coming on a Travis Jones two-run double down the right field line that scored Cole Miles and Travis Nelson. Jones scored when Samuel Sime reached on the second defensive miscue of the inning, and the damage was officially done at 8-2. The Pelicans scored eight times on the night. Three of their runs went as unearned.
Luis Avilan and Yeliar Castro tossed a combined two and a third innings of perfect relief for the finishing touches. The Pelicans have now won five of their last six while Salem has lost five straight.
Friday night's game two of this four-game set features Pelicans right-hander Randall Delgado (2-4, 2.62) against Red Sox righty Caleb Clay (2-3, 4.68) with first pitch set for 7:05 PM. The Pelicans return to Myrtle Beach on Monday, June 7 for the first of three against the Winston-Salem Dash. The first game of the series will be another installment of Kids Eat Free Monday in which all kids ages 12 and under receive a coupon for a free hot dog, chips, and a drink with the purchase of a game ticket.