Blue Crabs season ends in Game 5 heartbreak of divisional series By DALLAS COGLE
Heartbreaking. Just heartbreaking.
Five outs away from capturing the Liberty Division Championship Series after previously being down two games to none, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs were dealt a bitter Game 5 defeat Sunday in Long Island by a 5-4 outcome.
The host Ducks were thus crowned Liberty Division champions for the second straight postseason at the expense of the Blue Crabs, who dropped last year’s series in four games and just missed their second trip to the Atlantic League Championship Series in these playoffs as they were unable to hold onto a 3-2 edge one out into the eighth inning of the deciding Game 5.
“That’s as difficult of a loss as I’ve experienced,” Blue Crabs manager Pat Osborn said as his somber team prepared to travel back to Southern Maryland Sunday night. “To come back from a 0-2 hole, have the lead in the eighth inning and it slips away.”
Long Island now plays Lancaster, managed by former Blue Crabs skipper Butch Hobson, in the final best-of-five playoff series to decide the league champion beginning Wednesday.
Lancaster was the best team by far during the regular season with a league-record 88 wins and then swept two-time reigning league champion York in the Freedom Division Championship Series
Long Island was the worst team in the second half of the regular season with just 24 wins, 14 games behind the Blue Crabs. Long Island won the first-half title in the division. What is in Long Island’s favor entering its matchup with Lancaster is the team with the best regular season the last two years has not won the league championship.
Long Island, which had lost its seven previous home contests to the Blue Crabs including Games 3 and 4 of the series, was the beneficiary of the series’ crazy eighth inning with a dramatic two-run homer smashed over the right-field fence by Bryant Nelson to erase the one-run Southern Maryland lead.
The quality relief outing by Blue Crabs Game 1 starter Ben Moore, who came in with two outs in the fifth for Southern Maryland native Daryl Thompson, was further spoiled when Lee Cruz then doubled to chase him from the game. Cruz later scored on a Shawn Williams single to cushion Long Island’s advantage to 5-3.
The eighth was the difference-making frame of the series, as the winning team scored at least two runs in the inning of each game.
The Blue Crabs won Game 4 in the eighth Saturday on a two-run homer by Jesse Gutierrez, only to see Long Island repay the favor in series-clinching form less than 24 hours later.
The feisty Blue Crabs refused to go down easily, getting to within a run of the lead in the ninth on a Long Island error. The Blue Crabs later in the inning had the tying run at the third with one down but could not knot the affair, as Kevin Rios struck out swinging to end their threat and season with the bases loaded.
“These guys fought to the end and should be proud of what they accomplished this season,” said Osborn, whose Blue Crabs were the favored team in the divisional series after dominating Long Island in the regular season to the tune of a 14-6 record, including a lopsided 9-1 mark in the second half.
Before the end of the regular season, Long Island revamped its starting pitching rotation with four new arms and made a big trade with Camden to bring in closer Leo Rosales. Those moves changed the entire complexion of Long Island entering the playoffs, as the team finished the regular season at 6-4.
Long Island then barely outpitched the talented arms of the Blue Crabs to capture the divisional series, avoiding a major choke job after being in command with a two-games-to-none lead and needing to win just one of its three home playoff contests.
Neither club managed double-digit hits in any game of the well-pitched series.
The Blue Crabs only had five base knocks in Game 5, led by Brian Barton and former Long Island player Matt Padgett who were each on base twice with a hit and walk.
After doubling and scoring in the two-run fifth to fuel the Blue Crabs to a 3-2 lead, Padgett was intentionally walked in the ninth with one down once pinch-runner Cory Morales was wild-pitched to third.
Richard Mercado, who had an RBI groundout in the fifth for the Blue Crabs, was unable to deliver next in the ninth as his chopper to third got Morales tagged out in a rundown toward home plate.
After Cesar Nicolas worked a walk to load the bases with two away in the ninth for the Blue Crabs, Rosales fanned Rios to keep from blowing a game for a second straight night.
Rosales saved all three of his team’s wins in the extremely tight series, which saw Long Island outscore the Blue Crabs by just one run.
Liberty Division Championship Series (Long Island wins, 3-2)
Game 5, Sunday
Long Island 5, Blue Crabs 4
Blue Crabs 000 120 001 4 5 0
Long Island 000 200 03X 5 9 1
WP Way (2-0), LP Moore (0-2), S Rosales (3)
Extra-base hits: 2B Padgett (BC, 1), Rios (BC, 2), Cruz (LI, 1); HR Sing (LI, 3), Nelson (LI, 1)