- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Monday night the magic number was 2 for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs to clinch the first-half Liberty Division title.
The Blue Crabs worked its magic to perfection in the first of a five-game series versus the Lancaster Barnstormers at Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium.
The magic came in form of shortstop Renny Osuna’s walk-off home run that was blasted over the left field fence in the bottom of the 10th inning off of Lancaster’s pitcher Nate Reed on a 2-ball, 1-strike pitch with two outs.
The big shot from Osuna lifted the Blue Crabs to the 2-1 victory. And, with Long Island splitting a Monday doubleheader to Bridgeport, it gave the Blue Crabs the first-half Liberty Division crown.
“I was looking for a fastball on the inside and I got what I wanted and I was able to hit it out,” said Osuna, who is hitting .301 on the season with three homers. “The road hasn’t been easy, but we stayed together and we have a solid team. It feels just like home.”
The win was the Blue Crabs’ eighth in a row, putting them at 35-28 overall heading into Tuesday’s doubleheader with Lancaster, which ended too late for inclusion into this edition.
“We’ve been playing well and honestly that type of game tonight was going to end on a walk-off or a freak play, but it’s very fitting to win the first half,” Blue Crabs manager Patrick Osborn said. “This half wasn’t easy and this game [tonight] wasn’t easy. Renny came up with a huge home run, and this is just a makeup of this team, we are very talented; we are on a roll. I’m very thankful to be a manager.”
In the top of the 10th with two outs, Osuna also made an incredible grab while falling back and threw it to second base for the third out.
“Defense right there saves the game in the top of the 10th, then he wins it in the bottom of the 10th,” Osborn said. “He’s a really good player and I’m lucky to have him.”
The Blue Crabs have now secured a playoff berth for the fifth time in their six-year franchise history in the Atlantic League.
After the game with the title in hand, the Blue Crabs celebrated by cracking open champagne bottles and spraying each other in the clubhouse for their accomplishments in the first half of the season.
“I can’t take credit for this place. [Lancaster manager] Butch [Hobson] started this and developed a culture and winning attitude,” Osborn said the former Blue Crabs manager. “I’m just trying to keep up with him and keep the guys rolling. They are good people and good baseball players. It just so happens that we are going to be in the playoffs. Hopefully, we can make it a little farther this year.”
Jim Ed Warden pitched the ninth and 10th innings to pick up the win to go to 3-0, which includes an ERA of 0.29 and 18 saves.
“We have a great infield and it makes things easier when pitching,” Warden said. “Renny has hit three big homers for us in the last week, and we want to finish the first half strong. It feels good to clinch it now.”
The Blue Crabs are coming off consecutive series sweeps versus York in a three-gamer on the road and Camden in a three-game series at home.
The Barnstormers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Jerry Owens led off the game with a single and eventually advanced on third base with left fielder Blake Gailen coming to the plate. Gailen followed up with a double to center field to take the lead, which the Barnstormers would hold onto through the first four innings of the game.
In the fifth, after back-to-back singles from second baseman Wladimir Sutil and right fielder Sean Smith, Sutil advanced to third and scored on a fielder’s choice from Osuna, tying the game at 1. The game remained tied until Osuna’s heroics in the 10th.
Hughesville native Daryl Thompson pitched the first six innings, allowing just one run on seven hits in a no-decision.
The Blue Crabs capped off the three-game series sweep versus Camden on Sunday, earning an 11-8 victory. They exploded for seven runs in the first and had two runs each in the seventh and eighth.
Left fielder Cyle Hankerd went 3 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored, including a solo homer in the seventh. Hankerd was named Atlantic League Player of the Week from June 17 to 23.
“This is exciting to win the first half and the pitching, defense and bats have come together at the right time during our streak,” Hankerd said.
First baseman Jose Julio-Ruiz was 3 for 5 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Ruiz was 8 for 12 from the plate in the Camden series and headed into Tuesday’s doubleheader with a 15-game hitting streak.
Logan Williamson earned the win on the mound, pitching 5 1/3 innings with three strikeouts, yielded seven hits and walked one batter.
The Blue Crabs also won 4-2 on Thursday to cap of the three-game series versus York, as Julio-Ruiz was 3 for 5 in that contest.
Michael Ballard was the winning pitcher with eight strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings of work with no walks.