Headed to the all-star game
Blue Crabs earn five selections for tonight’s Atlantic League event
The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs will be represented by five players in the Atlantic League AllStar game at Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pa., this evening.
Pitchers Brian Burres and Cody Eppley, infielders Bryant Nelson and Michael Snyder and outfielder Jamar Walton were chosen for the Freedom Division roster. The team will be coached by former Blue Crabs manager and current New Britain Bees skipper Stan Cliburn.
Burres and Eppley have been among the few bright spots on a Blue Crabs pitching staff that ranks last in the league in team ERA. Burres, who has pitched in the majors for Baltimore, Toronto and Pittsburgh, has been their most reliable starter this season. He leads the team in wins (6), strikeouts (78) and innings pitched (88 1/3), and his 2.75 ERA is good for fourth in the Atlantic League. In his most recent outing, Burres threw six shutout innings against Long Island, surrendering just two hits in the victory. The win snapped an eight-game losing streak for Southern Maryland.
“He’s been our number
one,” Blue Crabs manager Jeremy Owens said. “He wasn’t our opening day starter but he’s been our number one guy basically from the start. He’s kind of like our stopper, when we need a win he gets it for us.”
Eppley earned the save in that game against Long Island, his 13th of the season. The closer has solidified the back end of the Blue Crabs’ bullpen, and has allowed just two runs in his last 15 appearances. Eppley leads all Blue Crabs relievers with a 2.41 ERA. He’s played for Cliburn the past two seasons, and is looking forward to reuniting with him.
“I had Stan last year as a manager and a little the year before as a hitting coach from Lancaster so he’s always fun to play for,” Eppley said. “It’s always good when he’s in the clubhouse.”
The Southern Maryland offense has struggled for most of the year, ranking last in runs scored and second from the bottom in team batting average. Yet, the middle of their order has been productive, and has been a force when completely healthy. Snyder leads the team with 13 home runs, despite missing time with an injury. The first baseman’s .305 batting average would be good for seventh in the league if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
“I knew [Snyder] could hit, I didn’t know he was going to be as explosive as he has been,” Owens said. “Now that he’s healthy, he’s been a spark plug for us.”
Snyder was not with the Blue Crabs last season under Cliburn, but said that he was instrumental in bringing him to the team.
“He’s actually the first guy I talked to and he helped me a lot getting here,” Snyder said. “I’m very grateful for that.”
This will be the second consecutive All-Star appearance for Walton. The outfielder is second on the team with 31 RBIs and is tied for second in home runs. Walton has played solid defense all season and leads all Blue Crabs’ outfielders in assists.
“It’s a good accomplishment,” Walton said. “I was hoping the team as a whole was doing a lot better but individually it’s a good accomplishment.”
Nelson entered the season at 42 years old, but his numbers don’t reflect his age. The third baseman has played in all but five games for the Blue Crabs and leads the team with 71 hits, including his 1,000th earlier in the season. Currently at 1,030 career hits, he is two hits away from overtaking Ray Navarrette for the second most in league history. This marks the second All-Star selection for Nelson, but it might not be his last as he continues to produce despite his advanced age.
“Can’t say enough about what [Nelson] has done at the age that he is, getting it done the way he does,” Owens said. “It’s fun to watch somebody go about their business that way.”
The Blue Crabs finished last in the Freedom Division in the first half, and have gotten off to a 1-6 start in the second half. The team will head to Lancaster after the All-Star break, and although they have struggled, Southern Maryland will having a strong showing at the All-Star game.
“They’re going to represent themselves, represent us and this community,” Owens said. “I think the Blue Crabs are fortunate to have those five guys.”
Cody Eppley, left, Bryant Nelson, Jamar Walton, Michael Snyder and Brian Burres (not pictured) are the five Southern Maryland Blue Crabs selected for tonight’s Atlantic League All-Star game in Lancaster.