BIG BEGINNING: Charlie Madden cracked a three-run homer to cap a six-run bottom of the first inning, and the Salem Red Sox defeated the Lynchburg Hillcats 9-4 on Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 4,326 at Haley Toyota Field.

The Sox (50-59 overall, 25-17 second half) have won the first two games of this series against the Hillcats (50-58, 18-23).

READY TO RIP: After beating the Hillcats 6-3 on Friday night, the Sox wasted little time taking control of this game.

Singles by Ryan Fitzgerald, Keith Curcio, Victor Acosta and Jagger Rusconi staked Salem to a quick 3-0 lead. Up with two on and two out, Madden pounced on the first pitch he saw from Lynchburg starter Juan Hillman and drove it over the wall in left-center to make it 6-0.

MADDEN RATING: Madden played four seasons at Mercer before going to Boston in the 24th round of the 2017 draft. The catcher has split his time between Salem and Double-A Portland this season.

Madden’s home run was his first in the Carolina League and sixth in 100 games as a professional.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: Salem starter Jhonathan Diaz (7-6) was far from dominant, but he battled through five innings.

Diaz threw 102 pitches in his laborious outing, allowing six hits and one walk while striking out two. Only two of the three runs he surrendered were earned.

SEALING THE DEAL: Every time the Hillcats tried to battle back, the Sox had an answer.

Lynchburg plated two runs in the top of the third inning to cut the deficit to 6-2, but Acosta responded with an RBI single in the bottom half.

In the fifth, Wilbis Santiago drove in a run for Lynchburg that was accounted for in the bottom half by Salem’s Pedro Castellanos, who belted his sixth home run of the season to make it 8-3.

VICTOR’S VECTOR: Acosta finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs to raise his average to .307. The Venezuelan utility man had been in a 5 for 30 slump entering this series, but he’s racked up four hits and six RBIs in two games against Lynchburg.

Acosta’s effort on Saturday moved him up to second in the Carolina League in average. He trails only Lynchburg’s Oscar Gonzalez, who posted a .319 mark in 96 Carolina League games before being promoted to Double-A Akron on Thursday.

STANDINGS WATCH: Potomac defeated Wilmington 3-2 on Thursday night, keeping the Nationals 1.5 games behind the Sox in the Carolina League Northern Division with a month to play. All other teams in the division are at least five games behind, suggesting this could be a two-team race down the stretch.

The Sox and Nationals are not scheduled to play each other again this season, so there may be a lot of scoreboard watching in the coming weeks.

STRONG RELIEF: Salem relievers Dominic LoBrutto and Logan Browning combined for four innings of one-run work.

Browning, a 5-foot-8 left-hander drafted in the 24th round in 2018, was making his Carolina League debut. He went 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA over 33 appearances at Greenville ahead of his promotion to Salem, registering nine saves in the South Atlantic League.

LOOSE ENDS: The Sox roughed up Hillman (4-11) for eight earned runs on nine hits … Lynchburg third baseman Jonathan Laureano was the only player from either team with more than two hits … Nick Lovullo drove in an insurance run in the eighth with an RBI double … Curcio, Salem’s center fielder, made a sliding catch to end the top of the seventh and strand three runners.

ON DECK: The Sox and Hillcats close out their three-game series at 2:05 p.m. Sunday, with Salem RHP Thad Ward (1-1, 2.43) slated to face Lynchburg RHP Cody Morris (1-0, 3.74).

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