Nathans’ grand slam lifts Blue Crabs to sec­ond straight se­ries win

Nathans grand slam lifts team in fi­nale over Som­er­set

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

Tucker Nathans has only been on the South­ern Mary­land Blue Crabs for two weeks and is mak­ing the most of his op­por­tu­ni­ties.

With the three-game se­ries tied at 1 and his team trail­ing, Nathans con­nected with a two-out grand slam in the bot­tom of the sev­enth in­ning to spark a five-run out­burst, cat­a­pult­ing the Blue Crabs to the 7-4 come-from-be­hind vic­tory Sun­day at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf.

It was the third home run for the New York na­tive since he signed with the Blue Crabs on Aug. 7.

Nathans had struck out in his first two at-bats Sun­day be­fore de­liv­er­ing the game-break­ing hit off of Som­er­set re­liever Keith Hessler.

“It was two outs and I got a 2-1 fast­ball. That was a good pitch to hit and I con­nected on it,” Nathans said. “We were about to get guys on base and that help set things up for me. I’ve been here for two weeks with the team and ev­ery­one has made me feel wel­com­ing. I’m hav­ing a lot of fun right now.”

The Blue Crabs added another run in the eighth as Kalaika Ka­hooha­la­hala scored on a wild pitch.

Devon Ro­driguez and Cory Vaughn led off the sev­enth with back-to-back sin­gles. With one out, Pa­trick Palmeiro drew a walk to load the bases. Af­ter Ryan Wig­gins struck out, Ed­win Gar­cia walked to force home Ro­driguez to trim the deficit to 4-2. Nathans then fol­lowed with his grand slam.

Som­er­set took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth, but South­ern Mary­land tied the game at 1 in the fifth. Vaughn led off with a sin­gle, the first hit of the day for the Blue Crabs off Pa­tri­ots starter Dave Ku­biak. Vaughn stole sec­ond and third and came home on Palmeiro’s one­out RBI sin­gle.

Som­er­set then took a 4-1 lead in the sixth on a RBI sin­gle from Mark Mini­cozzi and a two-out two run sin­gle from Justin Pac­chi­oli.

Blue Crabs re­liever Sam Ru­nion (2-2) picked up the win with a score­less sev­enth in­ning of re­lief and closer Cody Ep­p­ley de­liv­ered with his 27th save of the sea­son, pitch­ing a score­less ninth with one strike­out.

Blue Crabs starter Brian Gren­ing picked up a no-de­ci­sion as a re­sult of the come­back. Gren­ing al­lowed four runs on six hits with one strike­out and a walk in 5 1/3 in­nings.

The vic­tory sealed up the sec­ond straight se­ries win for the Blue Crabs, who also won two of three in New Bri­tain capped by a 13-5 win on Thurs­day in the se­ries fi­nale.

South­ern Mary­land (56-56, 17-25 sec­ond half; 7 games be­hind York in the Free­dom Divi­sion sec­ond-half stand­ings) started a four-game se­ries in Lan­caster on Mon­day night, but the opener was called af­ter 2 1/2 in­nings be­cause of rain.

The Barn­storm­ers held a 1-0 lead ver­sus Blue Crabs starter Daryl Thomp­son, a 2003 La Plata High School grad­u­ate, but the stats will not count as the game did not reach the min­i­mum five in­nings to be ruled of­fi­cial. Mon­day’s post­pone­ment will be made up as part of a dou­ble­header tonight.

Rain post­poned the se­ries opener with Som­er­set on Fri­day and was made part of a dou­ble­header on Satur­day. At­lantic League dou­ble­head­ers are two seven-in­ning reg­u­la­tion games.

Som­er­set (62-51, 20-23) took Game 1 of the twin­bill 3-1, but South­ern Mary­land scored twice in the bot­tom of the sev­enth in Game 2 for a 2-1 come­from-be­hind win.

“Som­er­set has re­ally good start­ing pitch­ing and we were able to put some good at bats to­gether,” Blue Crabs man­ager James Fris­bie said. “We got a cou­ple walks and Tucker’s grand slam was huge and put us over the top. We just want to keep plug­ging away and keep play­ing good base­ball.”

Lead­ing 1-0, Som­er­set starter Mike An­tonini car­ried a no-hit­ter into the bot­tom of the sev­enth of Game 2.

Michael Sny­der walked to be­gin the in­ning and was re­placed on the basepa­ths by Brian Bistagne. Ro­driguez notched the team’s first hit on a sin­gle, end­ing An­tonini’s no-hit bid.

Dustin Molleken came out of the bullpen and was greeted with Cory Vaughn hit­ting his first pitch for an RBI sin­gle to put South­ern Mary­land on the board and tie the game. Zach Cone was re­tired on a sac­ri­fice bunt, then Palmeiro was in­ten­tion­ally walked to load the bases. On a 0-ball, 1-strike pitch, Wig­gins de­liv­ered with an RBI sin­gle to give the Blue Crabs the walk-off win.

Ep­p­ley picked up the win as he pitched a score­less top of the sev­enth with one strike­out.

Blue Crabs starter Gaby Her­nan­dez went five in­nings and al­lowed one run on three hits and struck out eight in a no-de­ci­sion. Her­nan­dez now has 133 strike­outs on the sea­son, tops in the At­lantic League.

Three outs away from giv­ing Som­er­set its no-hit­ter in fran­chise his­tory, An­tonini (1-1) took the hard-luck loss, hav­ing put the ty­ing and win­ning runs on base be­fore ex­it­ing.

In Game 1, the Blue Crabs out­hit Som­er­set 7-4, but the Pa­tri­ots scored twice in the third and added an in­surance run in the sev­enth. Nathans drove in the Blue Crabs’ only run on a dou­ble in the bot­tom of the third.

South­ern Mary­land closed out the se­ries in New Bri­tain on Thurs­day thanks to a 5 for 6 per­for­mance at the plate from L.J. Hoes with a dou­ble, in­clud­ing a three-run homer in the sixth that gave it the lead for good at 7-5.

The Blue Crabs, who trailed 5-3 af­ter two in­nings, hit five homers in the game and out­hit the Bees 19-13. The 19 hits were a sea­son high. The other homers came on a solo shots from Nathans, Ro­driguez and Sny­der.

Blue Crabs starter Drew Hayes picked up the win on the hill, giv­ing up five runs on seven hits with four strike­outs and four walks in five in­nings.

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

Blue Crabs left fielder Tucker Nathans de­liv­ered with a grand slam in the bot­tom of the sev­enth to lift South­ern Mary­land to the even­tual 7-4 vic­tory in Sun­day’s three-game se­ries fi­nale over Som­er­set. It was Nathan’s third homer in two weeks since join­ing the team.

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

Blue Crabs starter Brian Gren­ing al­lowed four runs on six hits with one strike­out in a no-de­ci­sion as South­ern Mary­land ral­lied back for a 7-4 win over Som­er­set at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf.

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