Blue Crabs fin­ish up home slate with win over New Bri­tain

Blue Crabs eke past New Bri­tain

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com

When New Bri­tain’s Cole Garner hit a solo home run to lead off the top of the ninth in­ning Wed­nes­day night, cut­ting the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs’ lead that was six in the fourth to just one run, Cody Ep­p­ley knew he had to shake it off.

The Blue Crabs closer did just that, re­tir­ing three of the last four bat­ters he faced — forc­ing Anthony He­witt to ground­out for the fi­nal out of the game — to give his team an 8-7 vic­tory in the fi­nale of a three-game series at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Waldorf.

The win came in South­ern Mary­land’s fi­nal reg­u­lar sea­son home game as the Blue Crabs won the series with the Bees two games to one.

De­spite giv­ing the homer to Garner, Ep­p­ley struck out two bat­ters in the ninth to pick up his 31st save of the sea­son, which was third in the At­lantic League en­ter­ing Thurs­day.

“I just had to keep on at­tack­ing the strike zone and put the ball in play for my de­fense,” said Ep­p­ley, who played with Garner on the 2014 league cham­pion Lan­caster squad. “On that home run, that was a bad pitch and he is a good hit­ter. But I was able to shake it off and keep throw­ing strikes.”

South­ern Mary­land (5779 over­all, 31-35 sec­ond half), trav­eled to Texas to play Sugar Land in a four-game series, which be­gan Thurs­day, to end its sea­son. En­ter­ing Thurs­day, the Blue Crabs were four games back of Sugar Land and York for the first-place spot in the league’s sec­ond-half Free­dom Divi­sion stand­ings.

“It was a farewell win at home for us and wins have been hard to come by this year, but the guys have bat­tled all sea­son with all the ad­ver­sity that we’ve had,” Blue Crabs man­ager Jeremy Owens said. “We have four games to go [en­ter­ing Thurs­day] and now our job in to be [play­off] spoil­ers, so we are go­ing to see what we can do in Sugar Land.”

New Bri­tain (69-67, 3333 Lib­erty) started its rally from an 8-2 deficit in the sixth on James Skele­ton’s RBI sin­gle to cen­ter field. Then in the sev­enth, the Bees scored three more runs on five hits, capped by an RBI sin­gle to left by Steve Car­rillo to cut the lead to 8-6. Garner’s homer made it 8-7, but the vis­i­tors got no closer.

The Blue Crabs scored the first run of the game on An­gel Sanchez’s RBI sin­gle and, mo­ments later, third base­man Bryant Nel­son scored on a wild pitch to push the lead to

2-0. Ja­mar Wal­ton then reached first on a fielder’s choice, driv­ing in Sanchez to push the lead to three runs.

In the sec­ond, South­ern Mary­land tacked on three more runs on Nel­son’s three­run dou­ble. Nel­son, played in his ca­reer league-lead­ing 1,009th game, fin­ished 3 for 5 with two dou­bles with two runs scored in the game.

“This was all for the fans. It was Fan Ap­pre­ci­a­tion Night and our sea­son hasn’t gone as planned, but they’ve stuck with us the whole way with all their sup­port,” Nel­son said. “Now we have to fin­ish up strong in Sugar Land.

The lead was pushed to 8-2 in the fourth when first base­man Zach Wil­son, who was 3 for 4 in the game, drove in Eric Gar­cia on a sin­gle to left and Nel­son scored on Michael Sny­der’s sac­ri­fice fly.

Blue Crabs starter Brian Bur­res picked up the win on the hill to go to 11-9 on the sea­son. The 11 wins are tied for sec­ond in the league en­ter­ing Thurs­day. In six in­nings, Bur­res al­lowed three runs on six hits and struck out eight. He also walked five bat­ters.

Tues­day, Steve Car­rillo hit a two out solo homer off Blue Crabs reliever Craig Stem in the top of the 11th frame to give New Bri­tain a 4-3 vic­tory.

Shawn Gil­blair re­tired nine of 11 bat­ters to pick up the win out of the bullpen for the Bees, pitch­ing the fi­nal 3 2/3 in­nings with two strike­outs, al­low­ing no runs.

Be­fore Car­rillo’s homer, the Blue Crabs bullpen of Robert Car­son, Scott Maine, Scott Sn­odgress and Stem com­bined to not al­low a run on three hits while strik­ing out 10 in seven in­nings.

Nel­son’s two-run dou­ble in the bot­tom of the fifth tied the game at 3 which re­mained the score un­til the 11th.

Sanchez drove in the first run of the game with a sac­ri­fice fly and the Bees tied the game at 1 in the top of the sec­ond. In the fourth, New Bri­tain scored two more runs high­lighted by a Gol­son RBI dou­ble.

PHOTO BY BERT HIND­MAN

Blue Crabs third base­man Bryant Nel­son fin­ished 3 for 5 at the plate with two dou­bles, three RBIs and two runs scored in Wed­nes­day night’s 8-7 win over the New Bri­tain Bees in the fi­nale of a three-game series and the fi­nal home game of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

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