Wildness at Regency
Blue Crabs win series finale on balk, wild pitch
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.”
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.
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.