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May 29, 2021 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Groome returns to form; Northcut highlights wild Salem rally

5/29 Cup of Coffee:
Despite one rainout and one non-competitive blowout, it turned out to be a notable Friday night on the farm. Jay Groome (pictured) was brilliant in his best start in years, though Greenville failed to capitalize, falling in extra innings. Salem nearly completed an epic ninth-inning rally, working three straight bases loaded walks and waiting through an extended delay as they tried to turn the stadium lights back on. Johan Mieses has been a one-man power surge in Portland, as he homered yet again in the Sea Dogs loss.


Worcester Red Sox @ Lehigh Valley IronPigs (PHI), postponed (rain)
A chance for the WooSox to even up their series with Lehigh Valley will have to wait another day. Friday's contest was postponed due to rain and will be made up on Saturday as part of a doubleheader.


Even the awesome power of Johan Mieses was not enough to make up for Hartford's seven-run fifth inning. Mieses blasted his 10th home run in the 22nd game of the Portland season, giving him the share of the minor league lead with Jo Adell. The two-run shot in the first unfortunately was the entirety of the Sea Dogs' run production. Frank German struggled in the starting role, allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. Durbin Feltman got back on track after allowing runs in four consecutive outings. The 2018 third-round pick pitched a hitless ninth inning.


The Greenville bullpen was unable to protect the lead after Jay Groome turned in his best start in nearly four years. The 2016 first-round pick fired five innings, allowing one run on just one hit. Groome struck out four, did not issue a walk, and hit a batter. It was the first time since August 2017 that Groome completed five innings and the first time in his career that he threw more than three innings without walking a batter. At the plate, Tyler Dearden had a double and walk to continue his strong May performance. Kole Cottam and Cole Brannan added doubles for the Drive in the loss.


Salem fell short despite a wild, unbelievable five-run rally in the bottom of the ninth. Entering the inning trailing 10-4, things did not look promising after a Jecorrah Arnold pop out gave no indication that there was nearly an hour left of baseball to be played. Alex Erro walked, followed by singles by Ceddane Rafaela, Matthew Lugo, and Jaxx Groshans, to bring the deficit to four runs. A walk to Joe Davis loaded the bases and ended the night for Myrtle Beach hurler Jake Reindl. 

Tyler Suellentrop came on out of the bullpen, and Nick Northcut (pictured, right) worked a 3-2 count. As Suellentrop delivered the payoff pitch, half of the stadium lights at Haley Toyota Field shut down. Northcut attempted to step out of the box and was not granted the time out, a decision that he benefitted from as the pitch missed for an RBI walk. The game was delayed for 10 minutes with the score 10-7 with one out in the bottom of the ninth. When play resumed, Nick Yorke and Wil Dalton--both hitless on the night--were walked with the bases loaded for the eighth and ninth runs. Alas, pinch hitter Stephen Scott struck out for the second out. Despite the fact that Suellentrop had recently walked three straight runs home, Erro came out swinging at the first pitch. The aggressive approach did not pay off, as he grounded to second to put an end to the marathon contest.

Nearly five hours earlier, Jeremy Wu-Yelland got the start for Salem. The 2020 fourth-round pick allowed two runs on two hits in three innings, striking out five and walking three. Aaron Perry struck out one and allowed two hits in a scoreless inning in his first outing since May 16. Myrtle Beach pitching could not solve Northcut, who reached base five times with a double, two walks, and two singles. Davis doubled twice, twice, and singled in his five trips to the plate. Rafaela tripled and walked as part of his two-hit night, while Groshans was 1 for 2 with three free passes. 


Player of the Day: It was a rare split decision on Friday night, as top players honors go to both Jay Groome and Nick Northcut for performances that were both excellent and notable. Groome flashed the potential that made him look like a top pick in 2016 but hadn't been seen in game action since his first full season. Tommy John surgery and a global pandemic limited the big lefty to just four innings of game action from 2018 through 2020, and he entered the day with a 10.64 ERA through four starts. He then allowed just two baserunners in five innings while striking out four. A few hours later, Nick Northcut was capping a perfect offensive night with one of the strangest plays of the inning. After already reaching base four times on the night, Northcut drew a bases loaded walk that shut off the stadium lights and forced umpires to convene to issue him first base. Beyond the wackiness of the ninth inning, Northcut raised his OPS on the year from .726 to .810. 

Photo Credit: Jay Groome, Nick Northcut by Kelly O'Connor