Blue Crabs play­ing strong on road trip

Win third straight dur­ing six-game se­ries in Texas

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com

A trip to the Lone Star State is go­ing pretty well for the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs thus far.

Af­ter a slip-up in the opener of a six-game se­ries ver­sus the Sugar Land Skeeters at Con­stel­la­tion Field in Texas, South­ern Mary­land took the next three — 4-0 on Satur­day, 2-1 on Sun­day and 6-2 on Mon­day — thanks to solid pitch­ing and found it­self right in the thick of things in the At­lantic League’s Free­dom Divi­sion standings with the first half clos­ing soon.

The Blue Crabs (27-23 over­all), which dropped the se­ries opener 7-4, were just one game back of Lan­caster as the se­ries con­tin­ued Tues­day night and will fin­ish at 12:05 p.m. to­day. Af­ter an off day Thurs­day, they start a three-game home­s­tand ver­sus New Bri­tain at 6:35 p.m. Fri­day.

Blue Crabs pitch­ing had al­lowed just three runs in 31 in­nings ver­sus Sugar Land, go­ing back to the six-run fourth on Fri­day night, head­ing into Tues­day’s con­test.

Mon­day night’s starter Brian Gren­ing went seven in­nings and al­lowed just a run on five hits with two walks and three strike­outs to raise his record to 4-1 and drop his ERA to 2.71, ranked fifth in the At­lantic League through Mon­day.

Michael Sny­der keyed a three-run first with a two-run home run, his 10th homer of the sea­son. Lead­ing 3-1 in the sixth, the Blue Crabs added to their lead when Cory Vaughn dou­bled home two runs and he promptly scored on an RBI sin­gle from Zach Cone.

Sam Ru­nion al­lowed a RBI ground­out in the eighth and Zack Thorn­ton shut down the Skeeters in the ninth to pick up the win.

Sun­day night, Sugar Land re­liever Julio DePaula is­sues back-to-back 1-out walks to Sny­der and Vaughn with the game tied at 1 in the top of the ninth. A sin­gle from Devon Ro­driguez loaded the bases.

Af­ter Cone struck out for the sec­ond out, Luis Alen walked and Sny­der came across home plate to put the Blue Crabs ahead 2-1.

In the bot­tom of the ninth, Sugar Land’s Kevin Ahrens hit a lead­off sin­gle, but closer Cody Ep­p­ley struck out Hec­tor Oliv­era and then forced Wil­fredo Ro­driguez to ground out into a 4-6-3 dou­ble play to end the game.

The Blue Crabs used four re­liev­ers af­ter starter Drew Hayes left with one out in the sixth. Jesse Beal was cred­ited with the win af­ter pitch­ing a 1-2-3 eighth with a strike­out to im­prove to 3-0 on the sea­son. Ep­p­ley picked up his 14th save of the sea­son, the sec­ond most in the league through Mon­day.

“Win­ning back-to-back games on Satur­day and Sun­day was big for us,” Blue Crabs man­ager John Har­ris said. “We got great start­ing pitch­ing, but we have to rely on our bullpen. They are go­ing to have to carry us. My starters can’t go the dis­tance all sea­son. We are go­ing to take things one game at a time and con­tinue to get bet­ter.”

Sny­der’s lead­off home run in the top of the sec­ond put the Blue Crabs on the board first. Sugar Land tied the game in the sixth on Travis Scott’s RBI sin­gle. It was the first run that the Blue Crabs had al­lowed in 18 in­nings.

“Our pitch­ing gives our of­fense a lot of con­fi­dence know­ing if we score four or five runs a night, we have a great chance of win­ning the game,” Sny­der said. “Our starters are bull­dogs and our bullpen have been vi­tal for us this sea­son.”

Satur­day night, starter Daryl Thomp­son and re­liev­ers Thorn­ton and Ep­p­ley com­bined on a five-hit shutout for South­ern Mary­land.

Thomp­son, the 2003 La Plata High School grad­u­ate, went seven in­nings and im­proved to 4-3 on the sea­son with the win. He al­lowed just five hits with one strike­out and did not walk a bat­ter.

Thomp­son, who was sev­enth in the league in ERA as of Mon­day (2.96), re­tired 15 of the last 16 bat­ters he faced, in­clud­ing 10 in a row, af­ter giv­ing up four hits to the first 10 bat­ters of the game.

“It felt good to get the win on the road against a good team like Sugar Land,” said Thomp­son, who was also tied for fifth

in the league with 50 strike­outs as of Mon­day. “We are look­ing for­ward to con­tinue to play base­ball for the re­main­der of the trip. We just have to keep cap­i­tal­iz­ing on op­por­tu­ni­ties to put game away when we have chances.”

Devon Ro­driguez started the scor­ing with an RBI triple in the fourth that plated Sny­der. An in­ning later, Zach Wil­son — 3 for 4 with a dou­ble — scored Pa­trick Palmeiro with an RBI sin­gle. A Sugar Land er­ror brought in a run in the sixth and a Vaughn sac­ri­fice fly made it 4-0 in the sev­enth.

“Al­ways great to be ahead and

win­ning. We’ve been play­ing on both sides of the ball,” Wil­son said. “We are solid up and down the lineup and when we’re not hit­ting our pitch­ing has kept us in games.”

Fri­day, South­ern Mary­land scored three in the third on a lead­off homer from Ryan Wig­gins and a two-run blast by Wil­son. But Sugar Land scored six runs in the fourth on four hits as 11 bat­ters came to the plate in the in­ning. The big blow was a three-run homer from Andy Wilkins that gave the Skeeters the lead and even­tual win.

Starter Craig Stem, just signed by the Blue Crabs the day be­fore along with in­fielder Brian Bistagne, did not re­tire a bat­ter in the fourth be­fore be­ing

pulled. Stem was charged with four runs, three earned, on five hits with three walks and two strike­outs.

Thurs­day, the Blue Crabs wrapped up a home­s­tand ver­sus York with a 2-1 loss.

Gaby Her­nan­dez was per­fect through four in­nings, but York ended that in the fifth as it scored twice with the help of two Blue Crabs er­rors.

Her­nan­dez went the dis­tance, pitch­ing all nine in­nings, al­low­ing just three hits with nine strike­outs and no walks. He threw 100 pitches, 74 for strikes. The two runs were un­earned and his ERA was at 2.12, which led the league through Mon­day.

York starter Vic­tor Ma­teo al­lowed one run on seven hits

in seven in­nings with no walks and 10 strike­outs to pick up the win.

The Blue Crabs had a chance to tie in the ninth ver­sus Revo­lu­tion

re­liever Brad Allen. Cone sin­gled with one out, but Alen grounded into a 5-4-3 dou­ble play to end the game.

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