After opening its four-game series with the Long Island Ducks on Monday evening in stumbling fashion, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs were able to rebound on Tuesday with a gritty win before suffering a tough loss on Wednesday at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
In the Wednesday contest, which featured a special 11:05 a.m. start time for camp and rec day, Southern Maryland starter Kyle Simon pitched well enough to win but was eventually tagged with the loss as the Blue Crabs were blanked, 2-0.
“He’s come in here since the trade [on June 21] and done an excellent job,” Blue Crabs manager Stan Cliburn said. “He’s had three or four really strong starts now, but we just couldn’t score any runs for him. He threw a complete game for us the last start and today he just got a little tired, so I took him out after seven. But he threw really well.”
One night after Southern Maryland and Long Island battled through a spirited pitcher’s duel, the Ducks gained the early 1-0 lead when L.J. Mazzilli hit a solo home run in the top of the first inning. It marked the second home run in as many at-bats for Mazzilli, who had homered off Blue Crabs starter Dusten Knight in the top of the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game.
Long Island added to its lead in the top of the third inning with an unearned run against Simon (3-7). Daniel Fields smacked a one-out double to right-center field off the glove of diving center fielder Travis Witherspoon, took third on a passed ball by catcher Mike Falsetti then scored when Lew Ford beat out an infield single.
Southern Maryland (38-56 overall, 13-12 Freedom Division second half through Wednesday) had few genuine chances to score against Long Island starter Vin Mazzaro.
Edwin Garcia had a one-out single in the first inning but was caught stealing as Joe Benson fanned. Rubi Silva led off the second with a single, but the next three Blue Crabs were retired. Tony Thomas led off the fifth with a single, took second on a wild pitch but never advanced as Mazzaro retired the next three hitters.
Southern Maryland had two runners reach against Mazzaro in the sixth, but neither advanced past first. Falsetti drew a leadoff walk but was caught stealing after Kent Blackstone struck out. Garcia worked Mazzaro for a two-out walk, then Benson fanned to end the inning. Mazzaro blanked the Blue Crabs on three hits and two walks and struck out five during six innings of work to earn the win.
Simon limited the Ducks to two runs, one earned, on seven hits in seven innings then Cliburn turned to his bullpen to keep the game close. James Dykstra allowed a one-out single to Fields in the eighth, but escaped unharmed after Fields stole second and took third on a passed ball. Dykstra also tossed a scoreless ninth to keep the Blue Crabs within striking distance down 2-0.
After being blanked by Mazzaro through six innings, Southern Maryland failed to generate any offense against Ducks reliever Cody Mincey. After the Blue Crabs were retired in order in the seventh, Silva led off the eighth with a single, stole second but could not advance as Mincey retired the next three batters and got Blackstone on a fly out to deep left to end the frame.
After Mincey blanked the Blue Crabs in two innings, Long Island closer Michael Tonkin was summoned for the ninth but departed before throwing a single pitch after suffering from back spasms. Reliever Zack Weiss, who hustled to the mound to get loose since his appearance was unscheduled, allowed a leadoff double to Garcia but fanned Benson and Thomas and retired Green on a grounder to end the game.
“Well, we got a leadoff double from Edwin in the ninth with our 3-4-5 guys coming up and we couldn’t get any runs,” Cliburn said. “That was the best that we could ask for, but it didn’t happen. We had the tying run at the plate and we just need one of those guys to take one out, but it didn’t happen. You can’t win if you can’t score.”
Tuesday, Southern Maryland won the pitcher’s duel, 2-1.
The Blue Crabs gained an early lead courtesy of a solo homer by Cory Vaughn, his 16th on the season, in the bottom of the second inning. Charlie Valerio then beat out an infield single then was immediately replaced by Falsetti.
Knight and Long Island starter Darin Downs engaged in a genuine pitcher’s duel. Knight limited the Ducks to one run, the solo homer to Mazzilli with one out in the top of the ninth, while Downs (3-3) held the Blue Crabs to just one run on three hits while fanning nine in seven innings and retired the final 17 batters he faced in a tough-luck loss.
Rob Rogers came on in relief of Downs for the eighth and Thomas greeted the Ducks reliever with a solo homer, his 10th, to give the Blue Crabs a 2-0 lead heading to the ninth.
Knight took a shutout into the ninth before yielding the homer to Mazzilli and then exited in favor of Southern Maryland closer Mat Latos, who retired two of the next three batters to record his 14th save.
Knight (1-2) recorded his first win in a Blue Crabs jersey. The right-handed hurler limited the Ducks to one run on four hits and one walk, fanned nine batters and threw strikes on 65 of 107 pitches.
“From the first pitch I just wanted to go out there and I wanted to pound the zone and get ahead, try to lower my pitch count so I could get deep in the game,” Knight said in an interview after Tuesday’s game on the Blue Crabs’ Twitter account @BlueCrabs.
Southern Maryland was looking to earn a split in the four-game series with Long Island on Thursday when veteran ace hurler La Plata High School graduate Daryl Thompson was seeking his 10th straight win and 12th overall while adding to his league-leading strikeout total of 115.
“I haven’t even focused on the strikeouts or the stats at all,” said Thompson, who threw five perfect innings in his previous start, a 5-2 win on Aug. 3 “I’m not really a strikeout pitcher. I’ve just focused on not issuing as many walks and getting ahead of the hitters.”
The Blue Crabs travel to Connecticut for a three-game weekend series versus New Britain Bees that begins tonight before the team returns to Waldorf for a four-game series versus Sugar Land that begins Monday.