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Lose season opener at Somerset, slip to 2-4 all time in season openers

By DALLAS COGLE

Staff writer

Strike three swinging: not once, not twice, but three straight times.

And the worst part of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs sixth-inning futility is that it occurred with their first two batters of the frame having reaching second and third base with no outs Thursday at Somerset.

The ill-time flurry of consecutive strikeouts themed a lackluster opening night to the 2013 season for the new-look Blue Crabs, who supplied little offense while racking up a ton of strikeouts — an issue that has hampered the team since their inception in 2008.

The Blue Crabs, fanning 15 times on the night, fell by a 5-1 outcome to Somerset to kick off their sixth season of existence.

They have three more games remaining in the Somerset-hosted series beginning with tonight’s 7:05 p.m. first pitch and then play a pair Monday and Tuesday at York before returning home to Southern Maryland for their home opener in Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday versus York.

The Blue Crabs are now 2-4 all time in season openers despite being in the playoff hunt on a perennial basis, making the postseason the last four years. The one year the Blue Crabs just missed the playoffs was in their inaugural season when they were victorious in both their home and season openers.

“Any loss is disappointing, but we have 139 games left. I think we are only one game out of the playoffs,” Blue Crabs left fielder Brian Barton said with a touch of levity. “I am not worried about the [strikeouts]. It’s the first game and we have a good team.”

Barton added about the team’s frustrating sixth, down 4-1 while he was on second and new Blue Crab Renny Osuna on third as the middle of the lineup failed to make contact to get the team right back into the game, “We would’ve loved to get those runs in. But the pitcher did his job. New time, we’ll do ours.”

Barton was the only Blue Crabs batter to get multiple hits, going 2 for 3 with a double, walk and the team’s only run scored.

Somerset starting pitcher Erik Arnesen, a righty who played last year for the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, was impressive in his Atlantic League debut, capping his six innings of work by escaping the jam unscathed when he mowed down three straight Blue Crabs in succession.

Arnesen finished with nine strikeouts with no walks while scattering six hits.

Blue Crabs starter Gabriel Hernandez took the loss on the mound as he lasted just 3 2/3 innings while yielding four runs, three of them earned, on five hits with a pair of strikeouts and three walks.

“Overall, I thought it was OK,” Blue Crabs third-year manager Patrick Osborn accessed of his team’s opening night. “I think the score was a little worse than how close the game was played. It was a decent first game. We were in the game the whole way. Gabby [Hernandez] didn’t have his best stuff. We’d like to get off on the right foot [to start the season].

“You want to win but it’s just Game 1 of 140. In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably not going to matter at all.”

The Blue Crabs actually started the season opener in ideal fashion, manufacturing a run after there were two down in the first frame.

Barton’s two-out double was cashed in for a run when cleanup batter Ryan Mulhern followed with an RBI single. But the 1-0 lead was short-lived for the Blue Crabs.

In the bottom of the first, Somerset used a leadoff single, a wild pitch and a hit batsman to ignite a three-run rally. A Blue Crabs error in the process also proved costly.

The second saw former Blue Crabs elite hitter Yunesky Sanchez crank a two-out solo home run to provide Somerset with more breathing room, ahead 4-1.

Somerset added a sixth-inning run, adding salt to the Blue Crabs’ strikeout wound from the top half of the frame when they were thwarted in an opportune situation.

In the sixth with runners on second and third and no outs, the Blue Crabs seemingly had the right batter up in Mulhern, who was a league Most Valuable Player candidate in his last stint with the team in the early part of 2011. But Mulhern got behind no balls and two strikes in the count and fanned on five pitches.

Blue Crabs newcomers Cyle Hankerd and Jose Julio-Ruiz then also struck out, each on the minimum three pitches.

“That killed us,” Osborn said of the way the sixth went after starting so promising. “If we score both those runs and it’s 4-3, it could’ve been a whole new game. I think this team will probably strike out a little more because the guys we have are power hitters. But 15 strikeouts are unacceptable.

“It comes down to making adjustments. It’ll take a few games to make those adjustments. Nerves could’ve played a part too. And we had cold weather tonight.”

dcogle@somdnews.com

Somerset 5, Blue Crabs 1

Blue Crabs 100 000 000 — 1 6 1

Somerset 310 001 00X — 5 7 0

WP Arnesen (1-0), LP Hernandez (0-1)

Extra-base hits: 2B — Barton (BC, 1), Salas (BC, 1), Montanez (S, 1); HR — Sanchez (S, 1)