Red-hot Blue Crabs con­tinue to win

Beat York af­ter tak­ing 2 of 3 vs. New Bri­tain to lead Free­dom Di­vi­sion by 2 games

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com

The South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs ven­tured up to York to be­gin a four-game se­ries Mon­day ver­sus the Rev­o­lu­tion and had one of its top pitch­ers go­ing in Gaby Hernandez.

Hernandez ended up hav­ing one of his tougher nights of the sea­son, but the Blue Crabs man­aged to pull out a 7-6 win.

Zach Cone hit two two-run home runs in as many at-bats to start the game and South­ern Mary­land held a 4-3 lead un­til Hernandez al­lowed a bases-loaded walk to Ryan Dent in the fifth, his fourth free pass of the in­ning and sev­enth over­all on the night, and his night was done.

Sam Ru­nion came on in re­lief and al­lowed two in­her­ited run­ners to score, but York scored no more the rest of the night as the Blue Crabs tied the game with two in the sixth and scored the even­tual game-win­ning run as Luis Alen came home on a Zach Wil­son bases-loaded sac­ri­fice fly in the eighth.

Zack Thorn­ton got out of a jam in the last of the eighth and closer Cody Ep­p­ley slammed the door in the ninth to give South­ern Mary­land the win, its eighth in the last 10 games through Mon­day.

Jesse Beal, one of four Blue Crabs re­liev­ers, got the win to move his record to 4-0 on the sea­son. Ep­p­ley picked up his 17th save, which is sec­ond in the At­lantic League.

Hernandez, who en­tered the night with the league’s sec­ond-best ERA at 2.17, al­lowed six runs (5 earned) on four hits with the seven walks and six strike­outs. While his ERA jumped to 2.74, now sixth in the league through Mon­day, he led the league in strike­outs with 61.

South­ern Mary­land (32-24 over­all) held a two-game lead over Lan­caster in the Free­dom Di­vi­sion stand­ings as the se­ries con­tin­ues through Thurs­day.

One day af­ter see­ing their sixgame win streak come to an end in the mid­dle game of their brief, three-game home stand against the New Bri­tain Bees, the Blue Crabs got the bet­ter of the vis­i­tors, 2-1, fol­low­ing a stel­lar pitch­ing duel on Sun­day

af­ter­noon in the rub­ber match.

South­ern Mary­land righthander Brian Gren­ing and New Bri­tain’s Mike Lee had con­trol of the con­test from the out­set. The Blue Crabs scored the game’s first run cour­tesy of Lee’s brief wild­ness and with­out virtue of a hit, while Gren­ing had blanked the Bees on three hits through seven shutout in­nings be­fore en­coun­ter­ing trou­ble in the eighth. Lee suf­fered the loss de­spite al­low­ing only two runs through seven com­plete in­nings of work.

“Brian was very good again to­day,” said Blue Crabs man­ager John Har­ris. Gren­ing went to 5-1 and 2.55 ERA is sec­ond in the league through Mon­day. “Our start­ing pitch­ing has been re­ally good. Any­one we send out there has been ef­fec­tive. Brian re­ally bat­tled. He’s a bull­dog. I prob­a­bly left him out there one bat­ter too long, but that was my fault be­cause I didn’t have any­one warm­ing up the bullpen soon enough.”

Gren­ing was hardly over­pow­er­ing, fan­ning only one bat­ter through the first six frames be­fore he struck out the side in the sev­enth and re­tired 14 straight Bees be­fore en­coun­ter­ing trou­ble in the eighth. He re­tired the first two bat­ters, but Yusuke Ka­ji­moto, James Skel­ton and Jo­van Rosa all de­liv­ered sin­gles with Ka­ji­moto scor­ing on Rosa’s sin­gle that chased Gren­ing.

“I felt re­ally good through the first seven in­nings and Cody’s homer in the sev­enth re­ally helped,” Gren­ing said. “I re­ally wanted to get that last out [in the eighth], but they took some good swings. A lot of their guys know us and we know them. But ev­ery­one on the staff has been re­ally good. I can’t think of any­one that hasn’t been.”

Ep­p­ley al­lowed one hit in a score­less ninth to earn his 16th save, re­tir­ing Michael Crouse on a grounder to sec­ond to end the game.

South­ern Mary­land added a run in the bot­tom of the sev­enth when Cory Vaughn greeted Lee with a home run on a 1-ball, 1-strike pitch over the fence in left field, then Ro­driguez fol­lowed

with a dou­ble into the right field cor­ner. Ro­driguez ad­vanced to third on a grounder by Brian Bistagne but was stranded there when Wig­gins popped up to sec­ond.

With two outs in the bot­tom of the first, Wil­son and Michael Snyder both worked Lee for walks, Vaughn was hit by a pitch to load the bases. With Devon Ro­driguez up, Lee un­corked a wild pitch that en­abled Wil­son to score the game’s first run.

Satur­day night, the Blue Crabs’ six-game win streak came to a screech­ing halt when the Bees scores three runs in the top of the first and never looked back en route to a 9-3 vic­tory. Crouse hit two home runs, a two-run shot in the third and a three-run blast in the fifth that off­set sin­gle runs by the Blue Crabs in the first, third and sixth in­nings. Snyder and Ro­driguez each had an RBI dou­ble.

In the se­ries opener Fri­day night, South­ern Mary­land got an ideal out­ing from starter Daryl Thomp­son, a 2003 La Plata High School grad­u­ate, who fanned nine bat­ters in 6 2/3 in­nings

of work and picked up the win, his fifth, in a rain-short­ened con­test. South­ern Mary­land led 3-2 in the sev­enth when the um­pires halted the game due to rain and then made it of­fi­cial af­ter a near 1-hour de­lay.

“For us, he’s re­ally the guy,” Har­ris said. “He keeps ev­ery­one up in the dugout and in the club­house. He’s a real go-to guy for us. But ev­ery­one on the staff has been pitch­ing well. We’re not scor­ing a lot of runs, but we’re win­ning with good pitch­ing and the key is that we’re

win­ning ball games.”

South­ern Mary­land out-hit New Bri­tain 12-4 as Ro­driguez went 3 for 3 with a dou­ble, scored once and drove in another run. Ro­driguez started the Blue Crabs on their way with an RBI dou­ble in the fourth af­ter the Bees had scored twice in the top of the frame to take an early 2-0 lead. The Blue Crabs also added sin­gle runs in the fifth and sixth to pre­vail in the con­test ended two in­nings early by weather.

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs start­ing pitcher Brian Gren­ing jogs to the dugout af­ter be­ing hooked with two outs in the top of the eighth in­ning on Sun­day af­ter­noon. Gren­ing al­lowed one run in 7 2/3 in­nings of work and col­lected the win as the Blue Crabs de­feated the New Bri­tain Bees, 2-1.

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