WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — | The Carolina League’s Southern Division Championship Series is headed to a deciding third game on Friday at BB&T Ballpark.
The Winston-Salem Dash defeated the Myrtle Beach Pelicans 5-3 Thursday night in a game delayed 45 minutes by threatening weather to extend the best-of-three series.
“These guys are free and easy and I think that they’ll respond [Friday] without a problem at all,” Myrtle Beach manager Jason Wood said.
The Pelicans, who took the series opener 4-1 Wednesday, took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh Thursday on a Vinny DeFazio home run.
But the Dash scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh off reliever Zach Osborne. Courtney Hawkins, 18, the White Sox’ first-round draft pick in June, homered for the second consecutive night to tie the game at 3, pulling a breaking ball off the top of the fence in left-center.
Singles by Chris Curley and Daniel Wagner put runners at first and second with one out, and a double down the left field line by Marcus Simien scored both runners to put the Dash ahead 5-3.
Friday night’s winner will face the winner of the Northern Division Championship Series at home Saturday and Sunday in the first two games of the best-of-five Mills Cup championship series. The final games of the series will be played at the Northern Division champion’s park beginning Tuesday. Lynchburg and Wilmington are also headed to a deciding third game Friday.
The Pelicans have the best ERA in the Carolina League, and their pitching held up against the league’s most prolific offense through 14 innings in the series, when the Pelicans allowed just two runs on nine hits.
Starter Joe Van Meter allowed two runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings Thursday, striking out seven without a walk and throwing an impressive 72 strikes among his 94 pitches.
But the Dash offense struck for four runs and nine hits in its final three at-bats, largely against relievers. “[Winston-Salem] is a team that fights tooth and nail, they have all year,” Wood said. “They grind every at-bat out. We matched up the way we wanted to. The pitches weren’t there, obviously, but it wasn’t for lack of effort.”
Winston-Salem struck first on Simien’s 15th home run of the season down the left field line in the first inning after Van Meter struck out the first two batters he faced.
The Pelicans managed to plate two runs in the third inning without the benefit of a hit. Edwin Garcia and Jeremy Williams were walked by Dash starter Scott Snodgress to lead off the inning, and a throwing error by Curley at third base on Chris Grayson’s well-placed bunt allowed Garcia to score and left runners at second and third.
Snodgress nearly escaped the inning without further damage following a strikeout and lineout, but he threw a two-strike wild pitch before striking out Hanser Alberto that allowed Williams to score.
Snodgress, who entered the game 4-0 with a 1.50 earned-run average, exhibited mastery over the Pelicans in two previous starts against them since joining the Dash in late July. He didn’t allow an earned run in 12 innings and struck out 14 while allowing seven hits.
He gave up three runs – just one earned – in 6 2/3 innings Thursday on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Winston-Salem tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the sixth on a leadoff infield single by Wagner, two-out RBI single by Cyle Hankerd and bloop single by Michael Earley that chased Van Meter in favor of Osborne with runners on first and third. Osborne induced a grounder to end the inning.
Winston-Salem manager Tommy Thompson wasn’t in the dugout to see his team’s comeback. He was ejected from the game in the bottom of the third after it appeared the Dash tied the game at 2 on a sacrifice fly to center field that plated Curley, who led off the inning with a double.
Teodoro Martinez’ throw was high but online, and DeFazio stepped behind the plate to reach and catch it before applying the tag to Curley, who appeared to be sliding across the plate. But Curley was called out. Thompson vehemently argued with home plate umpire Rich Gonzalez to earn the ejection, then slammed his helmet on the ground in front of Gonzalez, got in a few more choice words and threw his helmet down a corridor through the dugout before exiting.
Myrtle Beach’s starter Friday, Nick McBride, who grew up about 10 miles from BB&T Ballpark, can knock his hometown team from the playoffs and propel the Pelicans to the Carolina League championship series.
“I’m looking for big things out of McBride tomorrow and hopefully he’ll answer the call,” Wood said. “I think tomorrow will be a true challenge for him, but he’s a guy that has come here this year and he’s done some stuff out of the bullpen, he’s done what we asked, and for him to step up tomorrow and start, we’re looking for big things out of him, obviously, to keep this season going.”
Contact ALAN BLONDIN at 626-0284.