Blue Crabs split in New Britain
Win in 11 followed by walk-off loss; Lombardozzi back to Nationals organization
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.