Following a pair of wins against the reigning Atlantic League champion Sugar Land Skeeters and then a double header sweep of the New Britain Bees on Monday, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs saw their four-game win streak come to a close on Tuesday and another loss was added Wednesday.
Southern Maryland fell on Wednesday, 5-1, as New Britain scored four runs in in the top of the second inning to break a 1-1 tie and there was no further scoring.
The Blue Crabs (15-32, fourth place in the Atlantic League’s Freedom Division) got its only run in the bottom of the first. With two outs, Joe Benson singled to left field, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a New Britain error to knot the game at 1.
New Britain (24-21, fourth place in Liberty Division) took the lead for good in its half of the second against Southern Maryland starter Daryl Thompson. Jonathan Galvez broke the tie with a two-run home run to left, while Alexi Amarista and Ozzie Martinez followed with back-to-back RBI doubles.
Thompson (2-6) threw seven innings and allowed five runs on nine hits with three strikeouts. When the La Plata High School graduate got the first out of the second, he became fifth all-time in Atlantic League history in innings pitched, which is now at 859 2/3 innings after his outing was completed.
New Britain starter Christian Friedrich tossed a complete game, allowing just a run on six hits.
Southern Maryland and New Britain wrapped up the five-game, four-day series on Thursday, then the Blue Crabs head on the road for a three-game weekend series at Somerset that starts tonight followed by a trip to Connecticut to play New Britain in a three-game series starting Tuesday.
Southern Maryland dropped Tuesday’s game 4-2 despite collecting 11 hits against New Britain starter Kyle Simon. Eight of the nine starters for the Blue Crabs had at least one hit, with Tony Thomas, Cory Vaughn and Charlie Valerio each getting two. But a trio of double plays hindered their attack and the Blue Crabs were 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
“We out-hit them [Tuesday], but we could not get those timely hits,” Southern Maryland manager Stan Cliburn said. “We had some good starts to innings, but we kept hitting into double plays. The one in the seventh really hurt. You just can’t have base running mistakes like that in tight ballgames.”
New Britain sought to rebound from being swept on Monday by jumping on Southern Maryland starter Brett Lee early.
The Bees mounted a two-out rally in the top of the first against the Blue Crabs southpaw when designated hitter Jason Rogers singled then second baseman Taylor Motter crushed a Lee offering for a two-run blast to left-center for a quick 3-0 lead.
Southern Maryland responded with a run in the home half of the first against Bees starter Kyle Simon. Tony Thomas led off the inning with a double but erased when Rubi Silva grounded back to Simon. Benson quickly made amends when he lined a double into the left-field corner that scored Silva all the way from first base to narrow the gap to 3-1.
After neither team scored in the second, Lee encountered trouble in the third. Alejandro De Aza was hit by a pitch — initially ruled a foul ball — took second on a wild pitch then third on a throwing error by catcher Charlie Valerio. Rogers then walked on four pitches then Cliburn hooked Lee in favor of Tommy Thorpe.
Thorpe fanned the first batter he faced looking at a 3-ball, 2-strike pitch, but Galvez singled to left to push the Bees lead to 4-1.
Thorpe fanned Deibinson Romero swinging for the second out then walked Logan Moore to load the bases but escaped further damage when he retired Darren Ford to fly out to right. Lee allowed four runs in two-plus innings of work and eventually took the loss and was released by the team after the game.
“Our bullpen was outstanding tonight,” Cliburn said. “Thorpe came in and threw well and [Ryan] Chaffee gave us four shutout innings and Choplick came in and gave us two good innings. That three-run homer in the first hurt us. We had to release [Lee] and make room for another starting pitcher. Our pitching has been really, really good.”
Southern Maryland had few chances to score against Simon through the middle innings but had a genuine scoring threat in the home half of the seventh.
Valerio led off with a single, then Jon Griffin had a one-out single. With runners on first and third with one out, Garcia flew out to right. Valerio did not tag, but Griffin inexplicably broke toward second on the throw home and was gunned out attempting to advance.
After escaping any harm in the seventh, New Britain looked to add an insurance run in the eighth.
Moore led off with a single to right, then Ford followed with a sharp single to left. Blue Crabs reliever Adam Choplick fanned Amarista, retired De Aza on a fly ball to right then he fanned Rogers looking to end the threat.
Southern Maryland then started the eighth in good fashion against Simon but could not deliver on the promise.
Thomas singled to left, then Silva singled up the middle. Simon then induced Benson to ground into a 6-4-3 double play and Jose Julio-Ruiz grounded out to first to end the threat as Thomas was stranded at third.
Trailing 4-1 heading to the bottom of the ninth against Simon, the Blue Crabs reduced the deficit quickly as Vaughn led off the inning with a solo home run to left-center that finally chased the Bees starter in favor of southpaw reliever Jim Fuller.
Valerio then fanned, Frank Martinez grounded out to short and Griffin struck out to end the game, giving Fuller his fourth save.
“The first two times up he kept getting me on cutters low and outside,” Vaughn said. “The first pitch that last at-bat was a strike, but the second one I was looking for something up a little and he left it up and over the plate and I was able to get ahold of it. We’ve been hitting the ball much better as a team lately. The pitching has been good all season, so we just have to put more hits together and score some runs to help them out.”
Staff writer Paul Watson contributed to this report.