In the midst of their most recent home stand the Bowie Baysox not only looked to maintain their torrid start to the second half of the Eastern League season, the Baltimore Orioles Class AA affiliate also hosted one of its more popular traditional outings.
On Friday, Aug. 2, nearly 1,500 plebes from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis filled several sections of the grandstands as the Bowie Baysox hosted the Portland Sea Dogs on the team’s annual Navy Night with nearly 8,000 spectators at Prince George’s Stadium. Amid ideal conditions, however, Bowie starter Michael Bowman could not get through the first inning.
“It’s always a great night when those Navy guys come in here,” Bowie manager Buck Britton said. “They bring a lot of excitement and a lot of energy to the stadium and the guys love it. My favorite part is when they sing ‘Anchors Away’ during the fireworks. That really brings a lot of excitement to the crowd.”
Trouble for Bauman began soon after the national anthem as Jarren Duran and C.J. Chatham greeted the Bowie starter with back-to-back singles. Bauman retired the next two Sea Dogs and was on the verge of escaping the inning unharmed until he walked Joey Curletta to load the bases then yielded a two-run single to Marcus Wilson, walked Brett Netzer to load the bases again then hit Jeremy Rivera with a pitch to force in a run.
With the bases loaded and two outs and his team already trailing 3-0, Bowie (35-17 second half, 65-55 overall) first-year manager Buck Britton hooked Bauman in favor of reliever Francisco Jimenez, perhaps six innings earlier than he may have planned. Jimenez escaped further damage when he fanned Austin Rei swinging to end the first inning and limit the Sea Dogs’ lead to 3-0.
Bowie opened the home half of the first in good fashion when Mason McCoy slapped a leadoff single. But with Cedric Mullins batting, McCoy was picked off first by Portland starter Konner Wade. Mullins followed with a single to center then stole second but was stranded there when Ryan McKenna flew out to center and Carlos Perez fanned.
“Seeing all of them up in the crowd wearing their whites was a little surreal,” McCoy said. “But then at the end of the game right before the fireworks when they started singing their Navy song, that really brought chills. That was so impressive to hear them all sing together. I don’t even remember if we won or lost that game.”
In the bottom of the second, Rylan Bannon worked Wade for a one-out walk but he was immediately erased when Preston Palmeiro lined out sharply to second and Bannon was doubled up retreating to first. The Baysox did not have a baserunner in the third or fourth innings, but they would make up for lost time in the later innings.
In the home half of the fifth, Jesmuel Valentin led off with a bloop single to center, went to second on a groundout by Bannon then took third on another groundout by Palmeiro. With two out and Valentin on third, T.J. Nichting initially tried to bunt his away aboard before eventually lining a single into left to plate Valentin and trim the Baysox deficit to 3-1 before Ryan Ripken popped up.
Bowie got another run closer in the home half of the seventh against Portland reliever Adam Lau following a superb rendition of “God Bless America” by Navy fourth class Beth Miller. Valentin worked Lau for a walk then scored on a single to right by Palmeiro that Wilson misplayed in right. After Nichting grounded out, Ripken beat out an infield single that enabled Palmeiro to score the tying run.
McKenna then opened the home half of the eighth with a bunt single then stole second with one out then Valentin was hit by a pitch then Bannon followed with a single to load the bases. With the bases loaded and one out, Palmeiro worked Lau for a walk to force home McKenna with the go-ahead run, and Nichting followed with a two-run single to make it 6-3, Baysox.
Britton summoned Christian Alvarado for the ninth seeking the save but the inning started roughly. Duran beat out a bunt single then took second on a throwing error by Alvarado then the Sea Dogs’ leadoff batter scored on a bloop single to right by C.J. Chatham that trimmed the Portland deficit to 6-4.
After Bobby Dalbec fanned, Luke Tendler worked Alvarado for a walk then Curletta struck out looking, the fourth time he fanned on the night. Then with two on and two out Wilson crushed an Alvarado offering over the fence in left center to give the Sea Dogs a 7-6 lead that stunned the plebes and those eagerly awaiting the fireworks.
Now trailing by a run heading to the bottom of the ninth, the Baysox needed the top of the order to get the equalizer to extend the contest. McCoy grounded out to short to start the ninth then Mullins followed with a sharp single to left. McKenna reached on a fielder’s choice that saw Mullins erased at second then Perez fanned on a 3-2 pitch to end it.
Two nights earlier in the series finale with the Reading Fightin Phils, the double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, Bowie got yet another stellar outing from southpaw Alex Wells. Although not the ace of the staff while trailing teammate Zac Lowther in the win column, Wells clearly has the lowest earned run average on the staff and it went down again last Wednesday.
Although Wells did not factor in the decision, he limited the Fightin Phils to one run on seven hits and one walk while fanning seven batters in seven innings. His counterpart, Reading starter Colton Eaton, was equally as good, however, limiting the Baysox to one run in seven innings on four hits and no walks and he also departed long before the outcome was decided in extra innings.
On Tuesday evening in a double header against the visiting Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Baysox found themselves in an unexpected early hole and never recovered as the visitors prevailed, 4-2, in seven innings.
In the opener, Bowie hurler Alex Wells (8-3) allowed two runs in the first, a solo homer in the second and another solo shot in the fifth and the Baysox could not erase the 4-0 deficit. Mason McCoy walked and scored on a double by Anderson Feliz in the fifth and Cedric Mullins walked and scored on a double by Carlos Perez in the seventh, but the Baysox could never get the equalizer.
Bowie certainly had numerous chances to generate more runs in the opener. Baysox hitters went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and eventually stranded 10 runners. Ryan McKenna grounded into a double play in the fourth, struck out with runners on second and third in the fifth and then fanned with Perez on second in the seventh to end it.
Then in the nightcap, Bowie rebounded for a 2-0 victory as spot starter Steven Klihmeck and relievers Zach Muckenhirn (3-4), Luis Gonzalez and Christian Alvarado (Sv, 8) combined to blank the Squirrels on five hits. The Baysox scored a run in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly by Mullins that scored Willie Yahn then added an insurance run in the sixth when Valentin singled home pinch-runner McKenna.