While the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs continue to wait for the 2020 Atlantic League of Professional Baseball season to begin, Southern Maryland Newspapers will take a look back at some top games and moments over the franchise’s history.
In today’s edition, we look back at the franchise’s first division championship and playoff berth as the Blue Crabs played the Somerset Patriots on Saturday, July 4, 2009.
Liberty Division champions.
That’s the newest title of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, now playoff bound thanks to winning the divisional crown for the first half of the season by eliminating the second-place Long Island Ducks from contention.
The second-year Blue Crabs clinched their inaugural divisional crown and subsequent playoff berth on the Fourth of July, defeating the Atlantic League’s best team in reigning champion Somerset by a score of 13-3 in Bridgewater, New Jersey.
The franchise firsts of claiming the division and clinching a playoff spot were the biggest accomplishments on the field in Blue Crabs history after coming close a year prior in 2008. The team finished runner-up in each half of the regular season in their first year of existence, just missing the playoffs though they tied Somerset with the best overall record.
“Awesome,” said Southern Maryland shortstop Travis Garcia to Southern Maryland Newspapers staff writer Dallas Cogle in the Wednesday, July 8 edition in describing how it felt to be division champions. “I think everybody in this locker room, including the people that left [due to signing with Major League organizations] deserve it, man. We couldn’t do it without them. It was a lot of hugs [after the July 4 game] and guys congratulating each other for having a great first half. It’s a little bittersweet [clinching away from home].”
The Blue Crabs, who pounded out 20 hits in the victory, scored five runs in the second inning and put the game out of reach with a six-run sixth. John Ramistella had a double and a home run and James Shanks also homered.
“It’s a real good feeling,” Shanks said to Cogle. “I’ve been one of the fortunate ones to be with some real good teams. I’ve won two or three championships from high school to my professional career. For being a two-year team, it’s a confidence booster and it also helps the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs because you know we’re bringing in good players that are out here playing hard every day.”’
Ryan Bicondoa was the winning pitcher for Southern Maryland, extending his record to 6-2.
“We wanted to show [Somerset] that this is what the championship series could look like later on in September,” Garcia said to Cogle. “I think we definitely set a tone and left a mark with them that they know our lineup’s potent.”
Days after the division crown was clinched, Garcia was signed by the Seattle Mariners organization and joined its Double-A affiliate in Tennessee. He would return to the Blue Crabs later in the season.
The July 4 win was Southern Maryland’s seventh in its last 10 games.
“Getting it done was the most important thing,” Blue Crabs manager Butch Hobson said to Cogle of the division title. “We really came alive with the bats the last two weeks.”
Southern Maryland, which finished the first half at 42-28, defeated the Lancaster Barnstormers 9-2 in the second game of a day-night doubleheader in Pennsylvania on Sept. 19, 2009 in what was known at the time as the Blue Crabs claiming the second-half division title with Long Island losing that same evening.
The Blue Crabs broke a 2-2 tie with a six-run fifth inning and finished with 17 hits on the night, seven of which were doubles. Cesar Nicolas had a grand slam and five RBIs as part of a 3-for-5 evening.
The Blue Crabs and Ducks each finished with 37-33 records in the second half and Southern Maryland at first thought it had won the title based on a tiebreaker of taking the season series over Long Island 13-7. However, days later, the Atlantic League informed Southern Maryland Newspapers that the Ducks were officially crowned as the second-half division champion regardless of the head-to-head matchup during the regular season since the Blue Crabs won the first half.
Southern Maryland and Long Island would meet in a divisional series, which the Blue Crabs won in five games to advance to the franchise’s first league championship series. Somerset defeated Southern Maryland in four games to win the league title.