Blue Crabs fall short to Som­er­set in New Jer­sey

Swept in day-night dou­ble­header; 2 walk-off losses in 2 days

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

As the days counted down to tonight’s sched­uled Free­dom Divi­sion first-half cham­pi­onship game ver­sus Lan­caster, the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs had a fourgame, three-day se­ries ver­sus the Som­er­set Pa­tri­ots at TD Bank Ball­park in New Jer­sey to at­tend to first.

And three games in, the se­ries hadn’t gone so well.

Tues­day night, the Blue Crabs led 2-0 through eight in­nings but couldn’t hold on as the Pa­tri­ots ral­lied with three runs in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning to win 3-2.

In the first game of a day-night dou­ble­header on Wed­nes­day, South­ern Mary­land man­aged just three hits and was shut out 1-0 in eight in­nings in the seven-in­ning reg­u­la­tion con­test. In the night­cap, which went nine in­nings, the Blue Crabs had an early lead, but a four-run fourth did them in a 7-3 loss.

South­ern Mary­land (4642 over­all, 8-11 sec­ond half) looked to sal­vage the fi­nal game of the se­ries on Thurs­day be­fore tonight’s cham­pi­onship game ver­sus Lan­caster at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf. First pitch is sched­uled for 6:35 p.m.

Lan­caster will re­main in Wal­dorf over the week­end for games that count to­wards the sec­ond half with a dou­ble­header at 5:05 p.m. Satur­day and a sin­gle game at 2:05 p.m. Sun­day, then the Blue Crabs — in last place in the Free­dom Divi­sion sec­ond-half stand­ings through Wed­nes­day’s ac­tion, four games be­hind Lan­caster — stay home for a three-game se­ries ver­sus Bridge­port start­ing Mon­day.

“Last night we blew the lead and to­day we just

couldn’t get any timely hits and put runs on the board,” said Blue Crabs man­ager John Har­ris af­ter Wed­nes­day’s Game 1 loss. “We need guys to step up, can’t have the same guys mak­ing plays. It is tough to beat this team at their place, but we had our chances.”

In Game 2 of Wed­nes­day’s dou­ble­header, Som­er­set (52-36, 10-8) broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth by bat­ting around and scor­ing four runs and it never looked back.

The Pa­tri­ots, who fin­ished with 13 hits, were led by Justin Pac­chi­oli and Scott Kelly with three hits each. Justin Trapp added a tworun dou­ble to start the four-run fourth, his first hit with the team.

Som­er­set starter Will Oliver im­proved to 4-2 with the win on the hill, go­ing seven in­nings and giv­ing up just two runs on five hits with nine strike­outs and three walks be­fore turn­ing things over to the bullpen to help seal the game.

Eric For­nataro suf­fered the loss in his Blue Crabs de­but af­ter be­ing picked up to com­plete an ear­lier trade with New Bri­tain. For­nataro lasted just four in­nings, al­low­ing just six runs (4 earned) on eight hits with four walks and three strike­outs.

With mul­ti­ple in­juries, South­ern Mary­land had to go with­out a bench for Tues­day night’s con­test and Wed­nes­day’s dou­ble­header. Prior to Game 2, Kalaika Ka­hooha­la­hala was not able to play and it meant the Blue Crabs had to give up their des­ig­nated hit­ter and have the pitcher bat.

In the sec­ond trail­ing 1-0, For­nataro de­liv­ered with his first pro ca­reer hit on a RBI sin­gle that scored Pa­trick Palmeiro to tie the game.

Next, Ed­win Gar­cia, who led the Blue Crabs with two hits in the game, put the vis­i­tors in front 2-1 with an RBI sin­gle, scor­ing Ryan Wig­gins.

In Wed­nes­day’s first game, which had an 11:05 a.m. start, Som­er­set be­gan the rally in the bot­tom of the eighth with a Pac­chi­oli sin­gle ver­sus Craig Stem, the fourth Blue Crabs pitcher of the day.

Pac­chi­oli then stole sec­ond base and Adam Donachie walked. Kyle Roller fol­lowed up with an RBI sin­gle to give the first-half Lib­erty Divi­sion cham­pi­ons its sec­ond walkoff win in 14 hours.

Som­er­set had just one hit go­ing into the eighth.

Ka­hooha­la­hala sin­gled with one out in the top of the eighth, but Brian Bistagne grounded into a 6-3 dou­ble play to end the in­ning.

Som­er­set starter Mike An­tonini made his Pa­tri­ots de­but and went 3 1/3 in­nings, re­tir­ing the first 10 bat­ters of the game, with four strike­outs. The 11th bat­ter, Gar­cia, sin­gled and An­tonini was pulled as he was on a pitch count.

David Russo made his sec­ond start of the sea­son for the Blue Crabs and picked up a no-de­ci­sion. Russo threw 4 2/3 shutout in­nings, giv­ing up just one hit with one strike­out and four walks. Sam Ru­nion and Cody Heb­ner did not al­low a hit in 2 1/3 in­nings of re­lief to keep the game score­less through seven.

In the se­ries opener Tues­day, Kelly hit a walk-off sin­gle in the bot­tom of the ninth to pro­pel Som­er­set to the win.

The Blue Crabs took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third as Ka­hooha­la­hala sin­gled with two outs and came home on an RBI dou­ble by Zach Cone, his 20th dou­ble of the sea­son.

Fol­low­ing a 63-minute rain de­lay that in­ter­rupted play in the top of the sev­enth, the Blue Crabs tacked on an­other run on an RBI sin­gle by Luis Alen scor­ing L.J. Hoes. Hoes led off the top of the in­ning with a

dou­ble be­fore the rain de­lay.

In the bot­tom of the ninth, Pac­chi­oli reached on an er­ror by Palmeiro at third base, mark­ing the first Som­er­set baserun­ner to reach base since the third in­ning when Pac­chi­oli walked with one out.

Blue Crabs closer Cody Ep­p­ley struck out Yo­van Gon­za­lez for the first out of the in­ning. Then Roller sin­gled to put two on with one out.

Mark Mini­cozzi sent a ground ball to Gar­cia at short­stop who bob­bled the ball and that er­ror loaded the bases. A cleanly-fielded ball by Gar­cia would have been a game-end­ing 6-4-3 dou­ble play and a Blue Crabs win.

How­ever, Som­er­set took ad­van­tage as Ep­p­ley walked Car­los Guz­man with the bases loaded to bring in a run, then Ep­p­ley hit Zach Ra­cusin with a pitch, also with the bases loaded, to force in an­other run to tie the game at 2.

Still with bases loaded, Kelly knocked in pinch-run­ner Trapp with the game-win­ning base hit.

Ep­p­ley (1-4) suf­fered the loss, al­low­ing all three runs, though none of them were earned.

Blue Crabs starter Drew Hayes did not fac­tor into the de­ci­sion, pitch­ing six score­less in­nings, al­low­ing just four hits with one walk and two strike­outs. Hayes re­tired the last 11 Som­er­set bat­ters that he faced and threw 98 pitches on the night.

Jesse Beal pitched a per­fect sev­enth and Zack Thorn­ton did the same in the eighth to make it 17 straight bat­ters re­tired head­ing into the ninth.

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

Blue Crabs starter Drew Hayes pitched to a no-de­ci­sion as Som­er­set ral­lied with three runs in the bot­tom of the ninth in­ning to win 3-2 in the se­ries opener Tues­day night at TD Bank Ball­park in New Jer­sey. The right-han­der threw six score­less in­nings, al­low­ing four hits with two strike­outs and one walk.

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