- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Game 1 of the best-of-five Liberty Division Championship Series continues to be unkind for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
For the fourth straight year, the Blue Crabs lost their postseason opener, 6-2, on the road to playoff archrival Long Island on Wednesday.
The last three years have seen Long Island defeat the Blue Crabs in Game 1 of the divisional series, as the two clubs have alternated hosting privileges in the trio of playoff-starting contests.
The bad news for the Blue Crabs is dropping Game 1 has resulted in them losing the series each time, as Long Island is attempting to remain their postseason nemesis.
The series continues in Long Island for Game 2 at 6:35 p.m. Thursday. The Blue Crabs host the final three games of the series, the latter two if necessary, at Waldorf's Regency Furniture Stadium Friday through Sunday.
Long Island starting pitcher John Brownell captured the spotlight Wednesday as he continued doing what he does best in the Atlantic League. The righty tossed a complete game after leading the league in going the distance on the mound during the regular season with seven such showings. No other pitcher in the league had more than four complete games in the regular season.
This latest complete game from Brownell was most memorable as he set a Long Island playoff record with 12 strikeouts against a surging Blue Crabs offense to end the regular season, walking just one batter and scattering seven hits.
Brownell, 3-2 against the Blue Crabs during the regular season, got stronger on the mound as Game 1 wore on.
After Blue Crabs centerfielder/hitting coach Jeremy Owens cranked a solo home run with one out in the fifth inning to cut the Long Island lead to 3-2, Brownell retired the next 10 batters through the eighth and 14 of the last 16 to give his Ducks a 1-0 lead in the series.
Long Island answered Owens' shot with solo blasts of its own in the fifth and sixth from Bryant Nelson and Adam Bailey, respectively, to cushion the lead to 5-2. The Ducks added one more insurance tally in the eighth on three straight two-out singles from Ryan Strieby, Kraig Binick and Dan Lyons, who delivered the RBI.
Blue Crabs third-hole batter Nick Schwaner, signed to the team earlier this month, delivered a leadoff homer in the fourth to tie the game at 1.
But as it did all night, Long Island had a better response in the bottom of the frame by scoring twice on a Ramon Castro sacrifice fly and a Strieby single after Nelson, Bill Hall and Bailey loaded the bases for the Ducks with no outs to start their portion of the fourth.
Blue Crabs starting pitcher Gaby Hernandez lacked his usual effectiveness that made him one of the league's best hurlers since the start of August. Long Island roughed him up for five runs, all earned, on eight hits in six innings. He fanned five and walked one.
Long Island pitcher Shaun Garceau will start Game 2 against the Blue Crabs' Ian Marshall in a battle of righties. Garceau was recently acquired by Long Island earlier this month, and he's been difficult to figure out with a 2-1 record and a 1.17 ERA in three starts for the Ducks.
He threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout at Somerset on Saturday to clinch Long Island's playoff berth. Garceau also defeated the Blue Crabs in his first Long Island start on Sept. 3, allowing just one run on eight hits through seven innings in a 5-3 victory.
Marshall was 12-8 in the regular season, fifth most in the league in wins, for the Blue Crabs with a 3.99 ERA. He went 2-1 with two no-decisions against Long Island in the regular season.
The Blue Crabs are now 1-4 in divisional series openers, winning the franchise's first Game 1 in 2009 against Long Island in only their second year of existence. That ultimately led to the Blue Crabs capturing the series in a deciding Game 5 and playing in their only league championship series, which they lost to Somerset that year.