Blue Crabs take another series
Take 2 of 3 versus Long Island heading into All-Star break
The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs had a chance to wrap up the Atlantic League’s Freedom Division first-half title against the Long Island Ducks two weekends ago in New York.
The Blue Crabs were unable to hold down two eighth-inning leads en route to being swept in three games and forcing that division title to be decided in a winner-take-all game later this month versus Lancaster in Southern Maryland.
This past weekend, Southern Maryland and Long Island played its first series of the second half at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf and the story was a little different as the Blue Crabs won two of the three contests.
After 5-4 and 7-2 wins on Friday and Saturday, respectively, the Blue Crabs weren’t able to complete the sweep on Sunday afternoon, falling to the Ducks 4-3.
Despite the loss, Southern Maryland (42-33 overall, 4-2 second half) won its second straight series to open the second half. The team is off for the all-star break through Thursday then kicks off the first of a three-game series at New Britain at 6:35 p.m. Friday.
The Blue Crabs headed into the break with a 1/2-game lead over York for first place in the Freedom Division’s second-half standings.
The 2017 Atlantic League All-Star Game takes place at 7 tonight at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J., with eight Blue Crabs taking part, including outfielder Cory Vaughn who was added to the roster on Friday.
“It is always nice to get the sweep, but we were happy to win two out of three and our second straight series,” Blue Crabs manager John Harris said. “We are going through the injury bug right now and with four days off we just want to get healthy.”
Long Island jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first on three solo home runs versus Southern Maryland starter Brian Grening.
The first came from Fehlandt Lentini as he sent the second pitch of the game over the leftfield wall on a Grening fastball. Two batters later, Lew Ford hit a shot over the wall in left. Two batters after Ford, Marc Krauss added the third homer of the inning.
The Blue Crabs tied the game at 3 on Brian Bistagne’s twoRBI double in the second and Cory Vaughn’s sacrifice fly in the third.
In the top of the fifth, Fehlandt Lentini hit a ground ball that made Grening come off the mound. Grening picked up the ball, but overthrew first base, allowing Lentini to advance all the way to third. Delta Cleary Jr.’s sacrifice fly to center scored Lentini to give the Ducks a 4-3 lead and they would not lose that lead.
Long Island starting pitcher John Brownell (7-1) picked up the win, tossing seven innings, allowing three runs on seven hits with seven strikeouts and four walks. David Aardsma retired all three batters in the ninth to pick up his seventh save of the season.
Grening (7-3) suffered the loss after allowing four runs (3 earned) on 10 hits in eight innings with three strikeouts and a walk.
“Never enjoy losing to those guys [Long Island], but at the end of the day we still took the
series and was in a great spot to possibly sweep,” Grening said. “We opened the second half on a good note and that’s what we want. I love competing with these guys everyday.”
Bistagne and LJ Hoes each finished with two hits to lead the Blue Crabs, who left nine runners on base.
Saturday, Southern Maryland collected 12 hits en route to the win.
Blue Crabs clean-up hitter Michael Snyder finished 2 for 3 with four RBIs, a walk and three runs scored, including a tworun home run in the third and two-run double in the seventh. Snyder heads into the break, leading the league in doubles (23) and is second in homers (18), RBIs (55) and runs scored (46).
Starting pitcher Drew Hayes got the win, allowing just one run on four hits in six innings with six strikeouts and two walks. Hayes fanned five of his six strikeouts in the first three innings, including striking out the side in the first.
In Friday’s series opener, with the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the eighth, Vaughn reached on a two-out error, went to second on a wild pitch and scored on Hoes’ RBI single as the Blue Crabs held on for the win.
“We have a very strong lineup and when I go to the plate I just stay patient and look for a pitch in the zone,” Hoes said. “I just focus on getting on base and helping us win games.”
In the top of the ninth, Long Island had the tying run on second base with two outs, but closer Cody Eppley got Ford to ground out to first to end the game for his 22nd save of the season.
Craig Stem got two key outs coming out of the bullpen in the eighth when the game was still tied and picked his first win of the season.
The game was tied at 1 after five, then each team scored three times in the sixth. Trailing 4-1, Zach Cone drove in two with a bases-loaded single and Luis Alen brought in the tying run on a sacrifice fly.
Daryl Thompson, a 2003 La Plata High School graduate, received a no-decision. He allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings with a walk and four strikeouts.
Vaughn gets All-Star nod
The Atlantic League announced Friday that Vaughn was added to the Freedom Division All-Star team. This will be his first all-star game appearance.
“This is pretty exciting to be playing in my first all-star game,” Vaughn said. “I’m expecting a big crowd in Somerset and it is going to be fun playing with my teammates and seeing all the talent around the league.”
In his first season in Southern Maryland, eighth as a pro, Vaughn heads into the break hitting .271 with six homers and 33 RBIs, while also stealing nine bases. Vaughn currently leads the league in runs scored (47) and hit-by-pitch (7), while also ranking in the top 10 in doubles (18), walks (45), and on-base percentage (.388).
Monday, the league announced that Zach Wilson will take part in the home run derby that precedes the all-star game. Wilson has 12 home runs on the season.
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs shortstop Edwin Garcia makes the throw over to first base in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Long Island at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Eight players will represent the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs at the Atlantic League All-Star Game, which will be held tonight at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J. Pictured, from left, are Gaby Hernandez, Cody Eppley, Michael Snyder, Zach Wilson, Devon Rodriguez, Cory Vaughn, Daryl Thompson and Brian Grening.