Augusta GreenJackets
FILE PHOTO Mike Adams/Augusta Good News
Augusta GreenJackets FILE PHOTO Mike Adams/Augusta Good News

Sox spoil Oat Milkers’ night at SRP Park

(Story courtesy Augusta GreenJackets)

NORTH AUGUSTA – Playing as the Malmo Oat Milkers for the first and only time in 2024, the Augusta GreenJackets scored three early runs but were unable to hold on as the Red Sox came back for a 5-3 victory Friday night at SRP Park.

Facing starter Blake Wehunt, who had been nearly unhittable to start his first professional season, the GreenJackets took a two run lead in the second inning, the first time they’ve scored first in four games this week. Robert Gonzalez led off the inning with a walk and promptly stole second to begin a threat, when Diego Benitez hammered a breaking ball over the video board beyond the left field fence and onto the terrace of the apartment building behind the wall. The bomb was Benitez’s second home run of the year and first at home, and the first given up by Wehunt as a pro.

The GreenJackets would add another in the bottom of the fourth, using two walks and a single to load the bases with one out. Joe Olsavsky bounced a grounder to third that spun to second, but beat the return throw to first to avoid a double play and give Augusta a 3-0 lead. Wehunt was subsequently replaced by reliever Conor Steinbaugh, who was greeted by a Jacob Godman line drive to the fence that was ran down by Natanael Yuten for the third out of the inning.

Salem would begin their comeback in the following frame against starter Davis Polo, who had gone through four scoreless in his return to the rotation after a week in the bullpen. Polo allowed his first and only run of the night in the top of the fifth after three men reached with two outs, the last of which was Nelly Taylor with an RBI single that brought home the speedy Miguel Bleis.

Polo was supplanted by Reibyn Corona in the sixth, who went hitless with a pair of Ks and seemed set up for success. Disaster struck in the seventh, however, as Corona found himself consistently ahead of hitters but unable to put them away. Taylor brought a run home with another single to bring the deficit to one, and on the next batter Freili Encarnacion drilled a back-breaking triple to the wall to score a pair and give Salem its first lead. Fraymi De Leon added a run with another single, but the damage was already done.

Augusta wouldn’t put a runner on base after the sixth, as the combination of Steinbaugh and closer CJ Weins held Augusta to just one hit in their combined 5.1 innings of relief. GreenJackets’ reliever Giomar Diaz retired all seven batters he faced, but it was not enough as the offense was unable to mount a late rally.

Corona takes the loss and falls to 2-2 on the season in eight outings with Augusta. Steinbaugh earned his first professional win in season number one in the organization, while Weins claimed his first pro save in three tries with a pair of hitless innings where he struck out five of the six batters he faced. Salem will go for a series-clinching victory at 6:05 p.m. Saturday, as Matt Duffy takes the hill for the Red Sox against Adam Maier, who is coming off his first career quality start in a 3-1 loss to Myrtle Beach.

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