NIP AND TUCK: The crucial Carolina League series between the Salem Red Sox and Myrtle Beach Pelicans opened with extra innings — and rain.
The tarp came out after neither team scored in the 10th inning, leaving the score tied 4-4. The game was suspended and will be completed at 5:05 p.m. Saturday, with a nine-inning, regularly scheduled game to follow.
HIGH-STAKES SERIES: The Sox (32-27 second half) entered the game with a one-game edge on Wilmington in the Carolina League’s Northern Division, but the real battle is with Potomac, which was 1.5 games back heading into Friday.
Because Wilmington won the first-half title, the second-place team would make the playoffs if Wilmington finishes on top.
Myrtle Beach also has postseason aspirations. The Pelicans (32-27 second half) entered this three-game series a half-game behind Fayetteville for second place in the Southern Division, needing to overtake the Woodpeckers to make the playoffs. That division is currently topped by first-half champion Down East.
ON THE ATTACK: The Pelicans entered this game having won eight of 10, and their pitching had been the driving force. The Myrtle Beach staff had posted a 2.17 ERA over that span.
Salem, though, greeted the Pelicans rudely.
The Sox collectively hit for the cycle in the bottom of the first inning, scoring four runs thanks to a double by Tanner Nishioka, a single by Ryan Fitzgerald, a triple by Keith Curcio and a home run by recent roster addition Kole Cottam.
WALKING WOUNDED: If the Sox make the playoffs, they’ll have to do it with an undermanned group.
In the past week and a half, catcher Nick Sciortino, outfielder Edgar Corcino and first baseman Pedro Castellanos have all hit the injured list. That trio has combined for 831 at-bats in the Carolina League this season.
Sciortino has been battling concussion issues, which were aggravated when he was hit in the head by a pitch. Corcino suffered a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch against Frederick. Both players will not return this season.
Castellanos — Salem’s leader in runs, hits, doubles, RBI, homers (tied) and total bases — joined the fallen during the series at Wilmington when he was injured on a defensive play.
GETTING ACCLIMATED: Sciortino’s absence created an opportunity for Cottam, a catcher who was drafted in the fourth round last year out of the University of Kentucky.
Cottam joined the Sox last Saturday and has hit safely in four of his first five Carolina League games. Listed a 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, he hit 19 home runs in his final college season.
Cottam batted .255 with six homers and a .787 OPS in 76 games for Greenville ahead of his promotion. His home run on Friday — a soaring two-run shot to left center — was his first in the Carolina League.
GRINDING IT OUT: Sox starter Daniel Gonzalez could not hold the early 4-0 advantage, but he did give the Sox six innings.
The right hander allowed four earned runs on eight hits, striking out five and walking none. He departed after throwing 104 pitches.
LOOSE ENDS: Myrtle Beach tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth inning on a solo homer by Miguel Amaya, who’s rated as the No. 2 prospect in the Cubs system by MLB.com. … Grant Fennell also homered for the Pelicans, a two-run shot in the fourth. … Both teams bunted their “free” runner over in the 10th inning but could not bring him home.
ON DECK: After the completion of the suspended game, Salem LHP Enmanuel De Jesus (7-9, 3.98) is slated to face Myrtle Beach RHP Javier Assad (4-9, 3.99).