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June 4, 2022 at 7:00 AM

Cup of Coffee: Hickey reaches base five times, drives in three in Salem win

6/4 Cup of Coffee:
A solid victory for Salem was a bright spot on an otherwise dreary day on the farm. Nathan Hickey (pictured) and Phillip Sikes went a combined 4 for 4 with 6 walks in a relentless win that saw 22 Red Sox baserunners. Worcester has been without Triston Casas and will now have to make do without Jarren Duran, who joined the major league squad on the West Coast. The post-Duran era got off to a shaky start. Greenville suffered a de facto sweep, falling in both the completion of Thursday's contest as well as Friday's regularly scheduled affair. 


Some good news came in the hours before the game when it was reported that Jarren Duran would join the major league club as Jackie Bradley, Jr. went onto the paternity list. Little else went right for the WooSox on Friday. Josh Winckowski struggled in his return from his first taste of the majors, allowing seven runs (five earned) on nine hits in four innings. Taylor Cole was also hit hard in relief as the Mets broke the game open at Polar Park. A bright spot came at the back end of the bullpen, as AJ Politi, Zack Kelly, and Kaleb Ort threw a hitless inning apiece to close things out. Kelly was particularly impressive, striking out the side on 14 pitches. Rob Refsnyder had two of Worcester's four hits. Connor Wong and Jaylin Davis added a double apiece.


Portland Sea Dogs @ New Hampshire Fisher Cats, postponed
The Fisher Cats planned to celebrate The Granite State with a 6:03 start time and New Hampshire-shaped foam fingers. Alas, Mother Nature had other plans, as heavy rain led to a postponement. The two teams will try for a doubleheader on Saturday. 


Thursday's game was suspended after two innings with a 0-0 tie, but the bats for both sides came out when play resumed Friday. Nick Northcut blasted a three-run homer in the third, his 16th of the season. Nick Decker followed with a solo shot in the fourth. After a very difficult start to the season, Decker has hit .258/.452/.548 in 12 games since returning from the injured list. Matthew Lugo also doubled as part of a two-hit effort.

Yusniel Padron-Artiles threw a pair of scoreless innings before the suspension, but the bullpen struggled upon the restart. Ryan Zeferjahn took the loss, allowing six runs on six hits in 2 2/3.

After the earlier offensive explosion, the bats went quiet in the regularly scheduled contest, with the two teams combining for just nine hits. Wyatt Olds allowed three runs on four hits in four innings, striking out five and walking one. Jordan DiValerio allowed just one hit in two scoreless frames out of the bullpen. Gilberto Jimenez, who doubled in the opener, had two of Greenville's four hits. Ceddanne Rafaela also picked up a base hit, extending his hitting streak to nine games.


A big six-run sixth inning powered Salem to the system's only victory of the day. Neither Nathan Hickey nor Philip Sikes recorded an out at the plate to pace the offense. Hickey doubled, drove in three runs, and walked twice as part of a 3-for-3 evening. Sikes tripled once and walked four times, scoring three runs, driving in two, and stealing a base. Niko Kavadas blasted a two-run homer, while Eddinson Paulino tripled and scored a pair of runs, going 1 for 4 with a walk. 

Angel Bastardo turned in another strong start, giving up just two hits across four scoreless innings, striking out five and walking one. The 20-year-old righty has given up one run or fewer in five straight outings, posting a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings during that stretch. Felix Cepeda allowed three runs in two innings but was the pitcher of record during Salem's offensive explosion, so he was able to get credit for the winning decision. 


Player of the Day: It has been a strong first full professional season for Nathan Hickey. The 2021 fifth-round pick out of the University of Florida continues to be a thorn in the side of Carolina League pitching, positioning himself as one of the toughest outs in the circuit. Hickey, who reached base five times on Friday, is hitting .296/.494/.500 in 18 games since the star of May, with 22 free passes in 77 plate appearances.  

Photo Credit: Nathan Hickey by Kelly O'Connor