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June 19, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Greenville clinches first-half title, Salem falls just short

6/19 Cup of Coffee: The Drive clinched the Southern Division first-half title, but Salem saw their chance at a title slip away. Both Blake Swihart and Nick Longhi (pictured) launched home runs, while Henry Owens and Travis Lakins had successful starts despite some control issues. Rusney Castillo continued to hit well, and Mitchell Gunsolus knocked in the winning run for Greenville. 


After some early trouble, Henry Owens settled into a groove, but it was not enough for the PawSox. He allowed two runs on three hits with three walks over the first two innings, but then retired 14 batters in a row. He finished with seven innings of two-run ball with four walks and five strikeouts. SoxProspects.com Director of Scouting Ian Cundall tweeted that Owens was pitching mostly off his curveball and changeup when he was having success. Kyle Martin took the loss after allowing a solo home run in the top of the eighth.

Blake Swihart gave the PawSox the lead in the fourth inning with a two-run home run, his third of the year. SoxProspects.com Assistant Director of Scouting Chaz Fiorino reported that the pitch was an 86 mph fastball that Swihart pulled to right field. Both Rusney Castillo and Sam Travis collected two hits, with Castillo also being hit by a pitch.

Rochester Red Wings (MIN) 2, Pawtucket Red Sox 1 (Game Two)
It was another narrow victory for the Red Wings in the second game as the PawSox offense fluttered again. Edgar Olmos had his longest outing of the season as he fired six innings while allowing two runs, though both were unearned. He struck out four and walked one. Ty Buttrey did not allow a hit while striking out one in his lone inning of work. Castillo once again had two hits, and he also added two stolen bases to give him 11 on the season.


Akron RubberDucks (CLE) 3, Portland Sea Dogs 2
The tough losses kept coming, as the RubberDucks walked off on Portland. Top prospect Francisco Mejia hit a pinch-hit double off of Luis Ysla to win it. Travis Lakins started and allowed only an unearned run over 4 2/3 innings, with four walks and four strikeouts. Though the control was still suspect, this was the best start by Lakins in a Portland uniform. Bobby Poyner followed with 3 1/3 strong innings, striking out four while allowing one run.

A two-run home run from Nick Longhi in the top of the first got Portland on the board, but they could not push another run across. Longhi and Danny Mars both ended up going 3 for 4, while Mike Olt added the only other hit, It was only the third time in 15 games this month that Rafael Devers did not get a hit, going 0 for 4 with a strikeout.


Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC) 3, Salem Red Sox 1 (Game One)
Wilmington got three runs off of Dedgar Jimenez in the fourth, and that proved to be all they needed. Jimenez turned in a quality start, allowing only the three runs over six innings while walking one and striking out six. It was only the second loss for him this season, and he finishes the first half with an ERA of 3.38. The offense was quiet, striking out 10 times in seven innings, with Jeremy Rivera getting two of the team's four hits.

Wilmington Blue Rocks (KC) 5, Salem Red Sox 0 (Game Two)
The offense was even more stagnant in game two, getting only two hits while striking out nine times. Tate Matheny reached base twice on a double and a walk, and Jose Sermo had a pinch-hit single to account for all the offense. Michael Chavis combined to go 0 for 6 with three strikeouts over the two games. Matthew Kent took the loss after allowing five runs over four innings, and Gerson Bautista added two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. With the Lynchburg Hillcats losing, Salem only had to win one of the two games to clinch, but the Blue Rocks were able to play the part of the spoiler.


Greenville Drive 4, Rome Braves (ATL) 3
A late comeback propelled the Drive to a first-half title. Down by one in the eighth, the Drive pushed two runs across on a throwing error by the pitcher. The Braves came back with a solo home run in the bottom of the inning, but the Drive came back with a run in the ninth on a double by Mitchell Gunsolus. Nick Lovullo was on base three times with a single, double, and a walk, and Lorenzo Cedrola added a single and a walk. Jhonathan Diaz tossed four scoreless innings with four strikeouts, while Stephen Nogosek picked up his league-leading 13th save with a clean ninth. The Drive will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010.


Player of the Night: Nick Longhi went 3 for 4 with his fifth home run of the season as he raised his June batting line to .309/.367/.564. Longhi is hitting for significantly more power this month, with the batted ball detail showing that his line drive percentage of 32 percent is much higher than last month's number of 11 percent. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues, as even with the recent hot streak, his OPS this season is only .707, which would be down from his prior seasons.

Photo Credit: Nick Longhi by Kelly O'Connor