When the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs concluded the first half of their Atlantic League slate on Sunday versus Long Island, the local squad clearly had every intention of finishing the opening half of the schedule on a winning note against the Ducks.
Southern Maryland gave starter Daryl Thompson plenty of support early and often despite falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. That deficit would prove to be a distant memory three hours later when the Blue Crabs coasted to a 15-2 victory over Long Island to wrap up a three-game series at Bethpage Ballpark in Central Islip, New York.
Southern Maryland finished the first half of the season by taking the final two games of the series and headed into the All-Star break with a 24-44 overall, tied for third with Lancaster in the Atlantic League’s Freedom Division. The Blue Crabs will have two makeup games during the second half count toward their first-half record.
The team sent six players to the league’s All-Star Game, which is tonight at PeoplesBank Park in York, Pennsylvania. Pitchers Daryl Thompson, Craig Stem, Kevin Munson and Mat Latos along with position players Charlie Valerio and Cory Vaughn were all selected to the game. Outfielder Rubi Silva was selected to the All-Star team but opted not to participate for personal reasons.
“We came out and hit the ball well the last two games,” said Southern Maryland manager Stan Cliburn, who planned to spend the All-Star break in Ocean City before the team starts the second half on Friday with a four-game, three-day home series versus Lancaster. “After the game on Sunday, I called out our lineup and told them they have that potential to do that every game. We have to start being more consistent. We’re last in the league in almost every offensive category.”
Down 1-0 Sunday, Southern Maryland tied the game in the top of the second when Tony Thomas plated Jon Griffin with a single. One inning later, the Blue Crabs took the lead for good as they got run-scoring doubles from Frank Martinez, Dean Green and Griffin, then Valerio had an RBI single and he came home when Thomas capped the scoring in the third with a two-run home run.
Staked to a commanding early lead, Thompson (6-6) was able to cruise through seven innings. The La Plata High School graduate limited Long Island to two runs on four hits over seven innings and fanned seven batters without issuing a walk, throwing 70 of 95 pitches for strikes.
“You know what you’re to get from Daryl every time he goes to the mound,” Cliburn said. “He’s been great all year. We just haven’t scored a lot of runs for him until his last two or three starts. He’s going to go out there and give you seven innings every time you hand him the ball.”
Green added RBI doubles in the fourth and fifth innings, the two-base hit in the fifth cleared the bases, to finish the day with three doubles and five RBIs.
Southern Maryland enjoyed season highs in runs (15) and hits (21) and its hit total on Sunday tied for the second-most in a single game this season in the Atlantic League. Benson led the way with four hits, while Green and Griffin had three each and five other Blue Crabs each collected two hits.
“The last couple of weeks the offense has really been coming around,” Griffin said. “Our pitching has been there. Now we have to do our part. Our pitching has been outstanding all season. They go out there and do their part of keep us in every game. Our hitting has improved but we can still do better.”
One night earlier, Southern Maryland provided starter Tommy Thorpe (1-2) with plenty of support in an 8-2 win that enabled the hurler to collect his first win of the season. Thorpe limited the Ducks to two runs over five innings and the Blue Crabs bats delivered with Valerio belting a homer in the fourth that gave the team the lead for good, Green adding a two-run double in the fifth and Benson smacking a two-run single to cap the scoring in the eighth.
Long Island (42-27) clinched the Liberty Division first-half title despite Saturday’s setback when the Somerset Patriots also lost.
Friday, Southern Maryland started very quickly as leadoff batter Thomas opened the game with a solo homer, but the Ducks won 5-3.
Long Island responded Thomas’ blast to claim a 3-1 lead against Blue Crabs starter Kyle Simon before Vaughn tied it in the top of the seventh with a two-run homer that got Simon off the hook.
Long Island, however, immediately responded with two runs in the bottom of the seventh against reliever Munson (1-2) and Ducks reliever Michael Tonkin (2-0) made the lead stand over the last two frames.
Thursday, the Blue Crabs were attempting to finish a three-game series versus York at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf as the rebranded Southern Maryland Monuments. After a near 2-hour rain delay, the game began only long enough to allow Thompson to retire York leadoff batter Jake Skelton on one pitch before the contest was brought to a permanent conclusion.
During the first delay, the team honored shortstop Edwin Garcia, who was named the Atlantic League’s defensive player of the year in 2018, with the ceremonial gold glove as well as the players representing Southern Maryland at tonight’s All-Star Game.
Last Wednesday as the Monuments, Southern Maryland suffered a 4-3 setback to York in a tight contest in which things got heated early.
One day after losing J.P. Sportman to an injury after he was hit by a Brandon Cumpton pitch, benches cleared in the second inning when Southern Maryland starter Michael Kelly (3-5) hit Welington Dotel with a pitch. Griffin for the Blue Crabs and Revolution pitching coach Paul Fletcher were ejected from the contest.
Southern Maryland got to within 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth on a Valerio RBI single and a Thomas RBI groundout and fell by that one run.