Pitcher Zack Austin of the GreenJackets throws a pitch during the ninth inning against Salem at SRP Park in North Augusta, SC. on Sept. 3, 2023.  Mike Adams/Augusta Good News
Pitcher Zack Austin of the GreenJackets throws a pitch during the ninth inning against Salem at SRP Park in North Augusta, SC. on Sept. 3, 2023. Mike Adams/Augusta Good News

GreenJackets hold off Red Sox for Saturday win

(Story courtesy Augusta GreenJackets)

NORTH AUGUSTA – The GreenJackets sourced early offense from the bottom of the order and a fantastic start from Adam Maier, before allowing the game to close in a nerve-wracking result in favor of the home side Saturday.

Two well-tested starters in Maier and Matt Duffy went toe to toe and posted zeroes in each of their first two innings, but it was the GreenJackets who ignited the spark first with a three-run third inning off of Duffy. Jacob Godman and Jace Grady each knocked one out singles, with Grady advancing on the throw to put two men in scoring position.

He passed the baton to Luis Sanchez, who laced a line drive just over the leaping glove of second baseman Marvin Alcantara for a two run single. Sanchez would score one batter later on a backside double from Drew Compton. Augusta would add another run on a Joe Olsavsky single to knock Duffy from the ballgame in the fourth inning.

Maier was coming off his first career quality start, where he took a tough luck loss allowing 3 runs in 6 innings. He would match that career high in innings pitched against Salem, but find a new level of success back at home. Maier punched out a career-high eight Red Sox and did not walk a batter across his six innings of work, mixing a sinker and slider to consistently keep hitters off balance.

Augusta appeared to put the game out of reach in the bottom of the 6th against Danny Kirwin, who had cruised through his fourth professional relief outing up to that point. With two outs and facing the bottom of the order, Kirwin walked P-O Boucher, Olsavsky, and Godman in quick succession to load the bases for Jace Grady. The powerful leadoff man went down 0-2, but hammered a hanging slider to dead center field to clear the bases and put the GreenJackets up 7-0.

Salem refused to go quietly, and attacked Zack Austin in the eighth after the righty had worked a hitless seventh inning. A single and two walks loaded the bases with one out for dangerous leadoff man Miguel Bleis, who roped a two-strike triple into the left field corner to clear the bags and put Salem on the board. The Red Sox added one more on another walk and a Nelly Taylor single, chasing Austin from the game. With the tying run at the plate, LJ McDonough was summoned to the mound and retired Jhostynxon Garcia to neutralize the threat.

The ninth inning was far from calming, with Salem adding an early run in the inning when Natanael Yuten singled and scored on an Andy Lugo double, once again putting the tying run at the plate. McDonough received a calming visit from pitching coach Elvin Nina, and retired Juan Montero on a popup for the second out. Tension built further when Bleis stepped up with two outs, riding a five-game hitting streak and possessing three RBIs in the game already. McDonough and Bleis dueled well, but the closer’s slider got Bleis chasing for an emphatic strikeout to end the ballgame.

Maier earned the win, and jumped to 2-1 while Duffy drops to 1-2 with the loss. It’s the third save in five tries for LJ McDonough, and second in the last two series. The series finale with the Salem Red Sox comes Sunday with two top 30 prospects battling on the bump as Augusta’s Garrett Baumann locks horns with Salem’s Elmer Rodriguez-Cruz at 1:35 p.m.

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