Wild­ness at Re­gency

Blue Crabs win se­ries fi­nale on balk, wild pitch

Maryland Independent - - Sports B - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com

A win’s a win. One out away from be­ing swept at the hands of Lancaster in a four-game, three-day se­ries to open up the 2016 At­lantic League sea­son, the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs some­how found a way of win­ning its first game.

Three straight walks, a balk and a wild pitch led to the ty­ing and game-win­ning runs scor­ing in the bot­tom of the eighth in­ning as the Blue Crabs took the sec­ond game of a dou­ble­header, 6-5 over the Barn­storm­ers on Satur­day night at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf. At­lantic League dou­ble­head­ers are two seven-in­ning reg­u­la­tion con­tests.

It was the first man­age­rial win for first-year Blue Crabs man­ager Jeremy Owens.

“In that bot­tom of the eighth I could feel some­thing stir­ring and guys just put in some good at bats,” Owens said. “We had to over­come some lit­tle things and guys kept grind­ing. Those type of wins helps build our con­fi­dence. If we didn’t find a way to win, that was go­ing to be a chal­lenge.”

Lancaster won the first three games of the se­ries, 5-2 on open­ing night Thurs­day, 11-5 Fri­day and 3-0 in the first game of Satur­day’s dou­ble­header.

South­ern Mary­land (1-3 over­all), which had Sun­day and Mon­day off, kicked off the first of a three-game, two-day home se­ries ver­sus Bridge­port on Tues­day. Wed­nes­day will fea­ture another dou­ble­header which be­gins at 10:35 a.m.

Des­ig­nated hit­ter Zach Wil­son flew out to start the bot­tom of the eighth, then Michael Sny­der struck out for the sec­ond out. Lancaster pitcher Mike Lee walked Bryant Nel­son and Ja­mar Wal­ton on full-count pitches and catcher An­gel Flores also walked to load the bases. Fred Lewis came up to bat to pinch hit for

right fielder Nick Akins and lefty Matt Reynolds came on to face him.

On a 2-ball, 2-strike count, home plate um­pire Bryan Childe called Reynolds for a balk and Nel­son came to home plate to tie the game at 5.

The next pitched got away from catcher Scott David and Wal­ton scam­pered home for the game-win­ning run.

“Any­thing can hap­pen. We got three walks in a row and we just stayed dis­ci­plined at the plate,” Wal­ton said. “I saw the ball get away and I just took off. This was a big win. It’s early, but we showed that we could bounce back.”

Lancaster took the lead in the top of the eighth as Josh Whi­taker scored from sec­ond base on a wild pitcher from Blue Crabs re­liever Cody Ep­p­ley.

The Barn­storm­ers (3-1) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first on a two-run home run by cen­ter fielder Travis Wither­spoon, who was 3 for 4 at the plate. Sny­der, who was 2 for 3 in the game, re­sponded with a two-run homer of his own for the Blue Crabs in the bot­tom of the frame to tie the game.

“The coolest thing was be­ing able to con­trib­ute to the first win for JO [Jeremy Owens],” Sny­der said. “It was spe­cial. It makes me feel good and re­ally up­lifted the team. It was a tough se­ries. We lost the first three games, so what, but it is a long sea­son.”

With two outs in the sec­ond, Wal­ton came home on a throw­ing er­ror by Lancaster starter Phil Coke. Whi­taker tied the game at 3

on an RBI dou­ble in the top of the fourth, scor­ing short­stop Kevin Ahrens.

The Blue Crabs went back on top 4-3 in the fifth when cen­ter fielder Gary Brown scored on a Wil­son sin­gle.

South­ern Mary­land was one out away fin­ish­ing the game in the sev­enth, but Ahrens hit a sin­gle, scor­ing Wither­spoon with the ty­ing run. Wal­ton then threw out Josh Bell at home plate to end the in­ning to pre­vent Lancaster from go­ing ahead.

Ep­p­ley got the win for the Blue Crabs, who used four dif­fer­ent pitch­ers, de­spite al­low­ing two runs on three hits over 2 1/3 in­nings with two walks and two strike­outs.

Lee got the loss for the Barn­storm­ers, pitch­ing twothirds of an in­nings, walk­ing all three bat­ters with one strike­out while be­ing on the hook for giv­ing up the ty­ing and win­ning runs.

In the first game of the dou­ble­header, Lancaster starter An­drew Al­bers pitched a com­plete-game, one-hit shutout with nine strike­outs. He al­lowed just a lead­off walk in the first to Brown and a one-out sin­gle to Nel­son in the sec­ond.

Al­bers picked off Nel­son at first and then went on re­tire the Blue Crabs fi­nal 16 bat­ters.

The Barn­storm­ers got RBI sac­ri­fice flies in the third and fifth from Jeff Kober­nus and Caleb Gindl to take a 2-0 lead. Kober­nus sin­gled in a run in the top of the sev­enth, scor­ing Wither­spoon, who dou­bled.

Starter Jon Le­ices­ter got the loss for the Blue Crabs, af­ter al­low­ing two runs, one earned, on four hits over 4 1/3 in­nings. Le­ices­ter walked one and struck out five.

Fri­day, Lancaster of­fense

had 17 hits while scor­ing in five of the nine in­nings, high­lighted by a four-run sev­enth.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx picked up the win on the hill for the Barn­storm­ers, al­low­ing one run on four hits while strik­ing out three over five in­nings. Brian Bur­res got the loss for South­ern Mary­land, giv­ing up four runs, two earned, on five hits with six strike­outs in 4 2/3 in­nings with six strike­outs.

Four dif­fer­ent Blue Crabs col­lected at least two hits each as left fielder

Lewis had a solo homer in the game and two runs scored and short­stop Steve Lom­bar­dozzi drove in two runs.

“We didn’t play bad at all this se­ries. We just ran into a Lancaster team that has their bats go­ing right now,” Owens said. The Barn­storm­ers had 48 hits in the four-game se­ries. “They had a good spring train­ing and that is go­ing to be a good of­fen­sive team all year and their start­ing pitch­ing is very solid.”

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

Blue Crabs out­fielder Ja­mar Wal­ton went 2 for 3 at the plate in the sec­ond game of Satur­day’s dou­ble­header ver­sus Lancaster. Wal­ton scored on a wild pitch to lead the Blue Crabs to a 6-5 vic­tory in eight in­nings.

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

Blue Crabs cen­ter fielder Gary Brown slides in safely to home plate elud­ing the tag in the bot­tom of the fifth in­ning to give South­ern Mary­land a 4-3 lead in the sec­ond game of Satur­day’s dou­ble­header ver­sus Lancaster at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf. The Blue Crabs went on to win the game 6-5 in eight in­nings.

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