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April 28, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Downs and Fitzgerald homer, Walter continues impressive run to begin season

4/28 Cup of Coffee: It was an action-packed Wednesday for Boston affiliates, who went 3-3 across the system. Worcester and Salem both split doubleheaders after rainouts on Tuesday, Portland received another strong starting pitching performance from Brandon Walter (pictured), and Greenville was shut out as they lost their seventh straight game. 

Worcester returned to Polar Park and kicked off their second homestand of the season by taking Game 1 of a seven-inning doubleheader against Buffalo. Connor Seabold ran into some early trouble when he served up a two-run home run in the second inning. But the right-hander was otherwise solid in his fourth start of the season as he allowed just those two runs on six hits, no walks, and six strikeouts over six innings of work. Zack Kelly picked up his first save of the season, slamming the door on Buffalo in the final frame. 

After falling behind early on, Worcester received a boost from Jeter Downs in the fourth inning. Downs hit his third home run of the season to make it a 2-1 game. Franchy Cordero tied things up with a sacrifice fly in the sixth and Christin Stewart followed by clubbing a game-winning, two-run home run over the Worcester Wall. Downs went 2 for 2 with the solo shot and a walk, Stewart went 1 for 3 with his third homer of the year, and Ryan Fitzgerald went 2 for 2 with a double. 

In the second game of the twin bill, Darwinzon Hernandez made his fifth start of the year for Worcester and had another interesting outing. The 25-year-old southpaw yielded two runs on three hits, one walk, and one hit batsman to go along with four strikeouts over two innings pitched. 26 of the 47 pitches he threw went for strikes. In relief of Hernandez, Kyle Hart was tagged for two runs across three innings, Josh Taylor struck out one in a scoreless fifth inning as he continues his rehab assignment, Darin Gillies surrendered a three-run home run in the sixth, and Kaleb Ort worked his way around a fielding error in an otherwise clean top of the seventh.

A Cordero RBI single and Grant Williams sacrifice fly was all the offense Worcester could manage through the first six innings. In the seventh, Stewart drew a leadoff walk and Yolmer Sanchez followed with a softly-hit single to put runners at first and second base for Fitzgerald, who crushed a three-run home run. Fitzgerald's sixth big fly of the season cut Worcester's deficit down to two runs at 7-5 but their rally was cut short after Cordero struck out with the bases loaded. 


Portland came into play Wednesday leading the Eastern League in starters ERA at 2.39. Brandon Walter showed why that was the case by striking out seven, walking one, and scattering four hits over six strong one-run innings. The left-hander retired 10 of the final 11 batters he faced and 56 of the 73 pitches he threw went for strikes. Out of the bullpen, Joan Martinez, Jacob Wallace, and A.J. Politi combined for three scoreless frames to preserve the win. Offensively, Izzy Wilson scored Portland's first run on a Tyler Dearden RBI single in the second and their final run on a solo homer in the ninth inning. Wilson registered his first multi-hit game of the season by going 2 for 4 with his first home run of 2022. 


Not much went right for Greenville on Wednesday as they dropped their seventh straight game. Shane Drohan suffered through the worst start of his season thus far, surrendering eight earned runs on 10 hits, one walk, and two strikeouts across five dismal innings. Jacinto Arredondo allowed all three of his runs on a three-run homer while Robert Kwiatkowski put up a zero in the eighth. As a team, Greenville went 0 for 1 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base. Tyler McDonough and Jaxx Groshans, who also drew a walk, each had two-hit games. 


Brainer Bonaci returned to Salem's lineup for the first time in 10 days and went 2 for 3 with a triple, RBI, and run scored in the day cap of Wednesday's doubleheader. Bonaci got the scoring started for Salem by driving in Tyler Miller on a third-inning sacrifice fly and later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Miguel Ugueto in the fifth inning. Eddinson Paulino went 1 for 4 with a run scored out of the leadoff spot while Nathan Hickey reached base three times via one single and two walks.

Tyler Uberstine made his second start and third overall appearance of the season for Salem. The 22-year-old right-hander allowed four hits and two walks to go along with five strikeouts over four solid innings of work. Osvaldo De La Rosa allowed one run in the fifth and Jacob Webb was charged with both the loss and blown save by giving up three runs in the seventh. Attleboro native Nate Tellier struck out the lone batter he faced. 

Bonaci picked up where he left off in Game 1 by going 2 for 5 with an RBI in Game 2. Ugueto went 3 for 4 with his first triple and stolen base of the season while also scoring twice. Blaze Jordan came through with an RBI single and RBI double as part of a 2-for-4 day at the plate. Miller scored Jordan on his first home run of the season in the fourth inning. Phillip Sikes, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Wednesday, went 2 for 4 with a pair of singles and one run scored. 

Joey Stock led the way on the mound for Salem by tossing three scoreless, no-hit innings in his first start and sixth overall appearance of the season. Maceo Campbell and Blake Loubier followed with two shutout frames each out of the bullpen to salvage the doubleheader split. 


Player of the Day: The transition from High-A to Double-A has not proven to be a difficult one for Brandon Walter. Following Wednesday's outing, the 25-year-old owns a minuscule 1.17 ERA through his first four starts and 23 innings pitched for Portland. He has also punched out 29 of the first 85 batters he has faced this season without issuing a single walk. 

Photo Credit: Brandon Walter by Kelly O'Connor