Blue Crabs split in New Bri­tain

Win in 11 fol­lowed by walk-off loss; Lom­bar­dozzi back to Na­tion­als or­ga­ni­za­tion

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­

One sea­son after they ad­vanced to the At­lantic League cham­pi­onship se­ries, the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs are cur­rently sit­ting in fourth place in the league’s Free­dom Di­vi­sion, 10 games be­hind the front-run­ning York Rev­o­lu­tion.

But South­ern Mary­land first-year man­ager Jeremy Owens re­mains op­ti­mistic that this year’s squad can turn things around in the sec­ond half of the sea­son. Saturday evening, the Blue Crabs ral­lied from a 4-1 deficit, all with two outs, against the New Bri­tain Bees in Con­necti­cut to tie the game at 4 be­fore fall­ing in the bot­tom of the ninth on a walk-off, two-out dou­ble.

The Blue Crabs (15-27) con­tin­ues its road trip in Sugar Land this week, a three­game se­ries that be­gan Tuesday.

“One thing about this team is we will never give up,” Owens said on Sun­day af­ter­noon after the fi­nale of the week­end three-game se­ries against the Bees was post­poned un­til July 1 when it will be part of a dou­ble­header. “We were down 4-1 go­ing to the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning and we wanted a chance to spoil their evening. We got to their closer and tied the game. Then they hit it to a part of the park where no one can get to.”

South­ern Mary­land has a pair of former major lea­guers on the ros­ter this sea­son in Bryant Nel­son, who played one sea­son with the Bos­ton Red Sox in 2002 and Steve Lom­bar­dozzi, who played a to­tal of 289 games for the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als, Baltimore Orioles and Pitts­burgh Pi­rates where he bat­ted .263 (207 for 788) with 33 dou­bles, five triples and five home runs.

Last Thurs­day in the Blue Crabs’ 4-0 win over the Som­er­set Pa­tri­ots in their fi­nal game be­fore em­bark­ing on a road trip, Nel­son, 42, col­lected the 1,000th hit of the At­lantic League ca­reer. He is cur­rently bat­ting .309 (42 for 136) with nine dou­bles and 12 RBIs. In 34 games with the Red Sox in 2002 he went 9 for 34 with three dou­bles, scored six runs and drove in two more.

“Hav­ing ‘Nel­lie’ as part of our lineup is a great plus,” Owens said. “He brings such a great at­ti­tude to the park ev­ery day. He works hard and he loves play­ing the game. He’s been in this league a long time, but he’s great for the younger guys here. He knows what it takes to make it day-in and day-out.”

Lom­bar­dozzi cur­rently leads the Blue Crabs in hit­ting with a .367 bat­ting av­er­age (61 for 166) with eight dou­bles, one triple and 20 RBIs, but Owens ad­mits the num­bers do not tell the en­tire story with the former Na­tion­als and Orioles player.

“Steve is def­i­nitely the hard­est work­ing player that I’ve been around,” Owens said. “It’s a treat to watch him work as hard as he does ev­ery day. I had a rep­u­ta­tion for

be­ing a hard worker when I played and he works harder than I ever did. Just the pro­fes­sion­al­ism that he brings to the ball­park ev­ery day can­not be un­der­stated.”

One night be­fore the Blue Crabs nearly posted a come­back vic­tory they opened the road swing with a 6-5 tri­umph over the Bees. South­ern Mary­land scored four runs in the top of the sec­ond, capped by a twoout, two-RBI dou­ble from D’Arby Myers (3 for 6), but the Bees ral­lied with three in the bot­tom of the sev­enth and an­other in the eighth to draw even at 4. Each team scored a run in the ninth, but the Blue Crabs took the lead for good with a run in the 11th. Zach Wil­son reached on an er­ror to con­tinue the in­ning, then scored on a sin­gle by Michael Sny­der.

“That game on Fri­day night to start the road trip showed me a lot,” Owens said. “We jumped out early, but then they came back and tied it. But we didn’t get down on our­selves. We scored, then they tied it, but we an­swered with a run and then shut the door on them. A win like that tells me it’s only a mat­ter of time un­til we put some wins to­gether and get on a lit­tle roll.”

While Mon­day af­ter­noon

was a league off day for many of the the Blue Crabs play­ers and coaches, it proved to be an en­light­en­ing one for Lom­bar­dozzi (5 for 10 in the two games ver­sus New Bri­tain). The former major lea­guer was signed to a mi­nor league con­tract by the Na­tion­als and des­ig­nated for as­sign­ment with the Triple-A Syra­cuse Chiefs.

“Steve has been a solid hit­ter and an ex­cep­tional leader in the club­house,” Owens said. “We’ll miss him, but we are ex­cited he is one step closer to the show.”

Coin­ci­den­tally, Lom­bar­dozzi is not the only former Blue Crabs player to be­gin his jour­ney back to the major leagues. Former South­ern Mary­land player Bran­don Sny­der was called up by the At­lanta Braves last week and made an im­me­di­ate im­pact by go­ing 1 for 4 with a solo homer in his first game back in the major leagues fol­low­ing a three­year ab­sence.

Sny­der, who played four sea­sons with the Baltimore Orioles, Texas Rangers and Bos­ton Red Sox from 201013 where he bat­ted .243 (37 for 152) with eight dou­bles and six homers, spent much of the 2015 sea­son with the Bowie Baysox, the Dou­ble-A af­fil­i­ate of the Baltimore Orioles after play­ing a grand to­tal of one game for the Blue Crabs last spring.

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