The first game of the series, a 3-2 walk-off victory over Salem, was just the Pelicans' fourth victory in 18 tries against the Red Sox as the Birds looked for a series victory on Wednesday.
To be honest, on Wednesday night, the results were the same as only the names had changed. For the second consecutive night, the Red Sox took a 2-0 lead in the middle innings only to see the Pelicans knot it up in the seventh and walk it off in the bottom of the ninth. Cody Johnson's double, which should have been a home run, gave the Birds the 3-2 win to hand a series victory to the Pelicans while giving the team a chance to sweep to the Sox tomorrow night.
Each team was kept off the scoreboard for the first four innings as Pelican starter Brett Oberholtzer and Salem starter Michael Lee swapped zeroes back and forth. Oberholtzer dealt with more traffic than Lee early, but he was able to escape thanks to some fancy defense from Mycal Jones and Jordan Kreke on a nifty double play turn that ended the fourth inning.
For the second consecutive game, however, the Sox drew first blood in the middle innings. In the fifth, Oberholtzer went 0-2 on the first two hitters in the frame, but allowed both to reach on a hit batter and a seeing-eye single. A walk to Ryan Dent loaded the bases with nobody out and Mitch Dening's single off the glove of Mike Jones got the Sox on the board. A sac fly from Alex Hassan made it a 2-0 game, but Oberholtzer escaped the frame without any more damage being done.
Lee hurled six shutout innings at the Pelicans, allowing just one hit while striking out a season high six, but he would not factor into the decision.
As the game went on, however, the Salem Red Sox experienced déjà vu from game number one. A 2-0 lead for the Sox evaporated once again when the Lee was removed from the ballgame, this time in the seventh inning. With Cesar Cabral coming on in relief of Lee, Mike Jones and Sammy Sime greeted Cabral with back to back base hits, and Jordan Kreke got the Birds on the board with a double to the right-center field gap. The following batter, Luis Sumoza knocked a ground ball to short, scoring Sime with the game's second run to tie the game at two.
The Sox threatened in the eighth inning, putting runners on first and third with just one out, but Luis Avilan (4-3) came on to retire Dan Butler on a shallow fly ball to center and Jon Hee on a ground ball to end the inning.
Going to the bottom of the ninth tied at two for the second consecutive night, the Pelicans once again found a way to exorcise their season-long demons against the Red Sox. Sime looped a one-out single to centerfield to set the stage for 2009 Carolina League All-Star Cody Johnson. Johnson, experiencing a renaissance back with the Birds, worked the count to 1-1 against reliever Pat Ryan (1-1) before the fireworks began anew.
Johnson crushed Ryan's next pitch to the deepest part of the park, dead center field, as the ball crashed off the top of the batter's eye with what should have been a walk-off home run for Johnson. However, field umpire Gus Curtis inexplicably ruled that the ball had not hit the batter's eye above the yellow line, ruling Johnson's ball in play. Thankfully for the Pelicans, Sime was hustling all the way around the bases, sliding in safely to home plate to give the Pelicans their second consecutive 3-2 walk-off victory.
The Pelicans' last three victories here at BB&T Coastal Field have all been of the walk-off variety as the team has now jumped ahead of Salem and into second place in the Southern Division.
The Red Sox and Pelicans have dueled all throughout the 2010 season, and the Thursday finale between these two teams will mark the final contest in their 20-game season series.