BANG-BANG: Hip-hop music blasting on the clubhouse speakers. Ribs and mashed potatoes on the postgame spread. Smiles everywhere you look.
Who says minor league baseball is a grind? It sure isn’t when you have back-to-back games like the Salem Red Sox just did.
The Sox got to celebrate a walk-off victory for the second straight night, as Brandon Jacobs smashed a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Carolina 7-5 on Saturday and delight a crowd of 4,119 at Salem Memorial Ballpark.
TAKE COVER: Jacobs has hit 40 professional home runs since the start of 2011, but this was his first walk-off since middle school. He tossed his helmet after rounding third – he remembered guys always did that on TV – and headed home, where a sea of teammates was there to meet him.
As is the custom, they pounded him pretty good.
“I’m holding up all right,” he said with a smile. “A lot of people have started new routines, all kinds of stuff. I got some water tossed on me. The whole rip-the-jersey-off thing, I don’t know where that came from, but it’s all in fun. You don’t mind it when you do something like that.”
ROPE-A-DOPE? A 6-foot-1, 225-pound slugger who passed on an Auburn football scholarship, Jacobs almost seemed to bait the Mudcats into giving him a pitch to drive.
In his first two at-bats, he laced line-drive singles to the opposite field. But with a man on first and two outs in the bottom of the ninth, he admits a walk-off was in the back of his mind.
“He threw me first-pitch fastball away, then he threw me something in and I fouled it off,” Jacobs said. “I was kind of [ticked] about that. I was like, ‘I might not get another pitch. I missed my pitch.’ But he threw the same pitch back up there and I connected on it. It was a good feeling.”
LOOSE ENDS: The Sox tied the game with three runs in the seventh. Keury De La Cruz keyed the rally with an RBI double en route to going 3 for 4 with a walk…Virginia Tech alum Matt Price earned the win in relief to improve to 3-0 as a pro….Jacobs’ 10th homer tied Sean Coyle for the team lead…Henry Ramos went 3 for 5 for Salem.
ON DECK: Sunday’s 4:05 p.m. series finale features two of the Carolina League’s top arms, as Carolina RHP Cody Anderson (6-3, 2.50) faces Salem LHP Henry Owens (6-2, 2.74). –Aaron McFarling
QUOTES FROM THE CLUBHOUSE
BRANDON JACOBS, SALEM LEFTFIELDER, 3-FOR-4, 3 RBI, WALK-OFF HOMER
ON GOING OPPOSITE FIELD FOR SINGLES IN FIRST TWO AT-BATS…INTENTIONAL?
“No, I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, something to drive up the middle. Stayed inside pretty well on both of those pitches and was able to drive those balls the other way. But my intent is always to stay up the middle; I think that’s everybody’s goal, to stay up the middle.”
ON NINTH INNING AT-BAT
“It was just one of those things where getting up in the ninth inning, it’s a little different with a man in scoring position, but in a situation like that, just get a good pitch and try to get a hit. Most guys just want to drive in a run to walk off. Man on first, I just want to have a good at-bat, really, not try to get too big and just stay within myself and use the whole field. I got a pitch middle-in and put a good swing on it.”
IN BACK OF MIND CAN YOU SMELL WALK-OFF WHEN COMING TO PLATE?
“That’s always a thought going in. Everybody always wants to hit a walk-off home run. I hadn’t hit one since middle school, I think. I’ve hit a few game-winners, but that was the first walk-off home run I’ve had. It’s a good experience. It means a lot when your team’s fighting for it the whole game and you can bring them home a victory.”
HOW HOLDING UP AFTER OFT-VIOLENT CELEBRATION AT PLATE?
“I’m holding up all right. It’s the first time I’ve actually dealt with it this year. A lot of people have started new routines, all kinds of stuff. I got some water tossed on me. The whole rip-the-jersey-off thing, I don’t know where that came from, but it’s all in fun. You don’t mind it when you do something like that.”
NICE TO FINALLY TIE COYLE FOR TEAM HOME RUN LEAD GIVEN THAT COYLE’S BEEN ON DL SINCE MAY?
“He’s one of my good friends, actually. And when you’re seeing the ball great, good things like that happen. Hopefully he’ll be back pretty soon. But I guess it feels good to finally get to double digits; that’s always a big goal. Most people set individual goals, and I just wanted to get double-digit home runs. So that’s a good feeling.”
LAST YEAR TAILED OFF A BIT AFTER STRONG FIRST HALF; MAYBE DO OPPOSITE THIS YEAR?
“Hope so. That’s the plan. I’ve had a lot of at-bats thus far. I’m still growing as a hitter, still growing as a player, so I’ve still got a lot of things to work on. I think if I just continue to have good pregame intent in the cage and things like that, I think I’ll be better off.”
YOU HIT A LOT OF BP PITCHES TO OPPOSITE FIELD TODAY. SOMETHING WORKING ON?
“In BP, if I can hit every ball to right field, I’d love to do that. Right field, right-center. As hitters, it’s natural to hit the pitch inside and turn on it. That’s the pitch that a lot of hitters make a lot of money on. If I can do that as well as continue to get to the inside pitch, that’s how I’m going to become a great player.”
PITCH YOU HIT OUT?
“Honestly, I don’t even know. Might have been a hanging slider, not even sure. But he threw me first-pitch fastball away, then he threw me something in and I fouled it off. I was kind of [ticked] about that. I was like, ‘I might not get another pitch. I missed my pitch.’ But he threw the same pitch back up there and I connected on it. It was a good feeling.”
KNEW IT WAS GONE?
“Yeah, I knew it was going to get out of there.”
CHUCK HELMET BEFORE REACHING HOME?
“Yeah, I made sure I remembered to do that. I’ve seen that plenty of times on TV. Gotta remember to hit third base, take a couple steps and toss it in the air.”
WHAT’S BETTER – WALK-OFF IN MIDDLE SCHOOL OR WALK-OFF IN PRO BALL?
“Oh, definitely pro ball. But it’d definitely be better in the big leagues.”
RIGHT SHOULDER WRAPPED – EVERYTHING OK?
“Shoulder’s doing good. We’ve been throwing a lot lately. It’s just precautionary. Just got to make sure I stay healthy.”