When the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs returned home to Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf last weekend for a three-game set against the reigning Atlantic League champion Sugar Land Skeeters then a Monday twin-bill against the New Britain Bees, the local squad was perhaps hoping it could gain some momentum with several determined, gritty wins.
On Monday evening in a doubleheader sweep of the New Britain Bees to start a five-game, four-day series, Southern Maryland got a stellar outing from Brandon Cumpton in the opener and he was supported with a trio of home runs for a 4-0 win.
Center fielder Cory Vaughn belted a solo shot in the second inning, then Rubi Silva continued his torrid hitting with a solo blast the opposite way in the home half of the fifth and Vaughn added a two-run shot in the sixth.
Cumpton (2-5) blanked the Bees on four hits and allowed only one walk while fanning eight batters en route to the seven-inning shutout. The Blue Crabs never had a big inning against New Britain starter Rainy Lara, but the trio of home runs proved to be his undoing.
In the nightcap, Southern Maryland got a run in the third when Jon Griffin singled and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Kent Blackstone then added two more in the fourth. Vaughn walked, went to third base on a two-out double by Griffin and scored on a wild pitch, then Josh McAdams plated Griffin with a single to right field.
New Britain finally got two runs in the top of the fifth against Blue Crabs starter Michael Kelly on a two-out double by Ozzie Martinez that trimmed the Blue Crabs’ lead to 3-2.
Kelly (2-3) collected the win while limiting the Bees to two runs in five innings, then reliever James Dykstra tossed a scoreless sixth despite yielding a one-out double to Jared James and closer Mat Latos recorded his fifth save by retiring the Bees on order in the seventh.
Southern Maryland (15-30, third place in the Atlantic League’s Freedom Division through Monday) has now won four straight games through Monday, its longest win streak of the season. The series continued Tuesday and finishes up with scheduled games tonight and Thursday night.
On Sunday afternoon in the series finale against Sugar Land in a game that started belatedly and ended several innings early, the Blue Crabs gave starter Craig Stem (4-2) plenty of support early en route to a 10-0 victory over the Skeeters.
Shortstop Edwin Garcia went 2 for 3 with 3 RBIs and Stem blanked the Skeeters over five frames. The contest began nearly 90 minutes after its original 2:05 p.m. first pitch and was ended in the home half of the fifth by inclement weather after a Silva two-run homer. The Blue Crabs took two of the three games and won their first series of the season.
“We’ve had a number of really good games with that club,” Blue Crabs manager Stan Cliburn said. “They’re one of the most talented, deepest teams in this league. We’ve had some good battles with them. We’ve gotten good pitching. Now we just have to find a way to score more runs.”
One night earlier in front of a festive Saturday evening crowd eagerly awaiting postgame fireworks, Southern Maryland gave the onlookers plenty to cheer about early and late.
Silva smacked a one-out double, then newcomer Joe Benson belted a triple to right-center. Benson scored on a wild pitch to give the Blue Crabs a 2-0 lead at the end of the first.
In the second, Southern Maryland southpaw starter Tommy Thorpe walked the first three batters on only 14 pitches then yielded a sacrifice fly to right by Ryan Jackson to trim the gap to 2-1. Willy Tavares then lined into a double play to end the threat, but Thorpe’s shaky control prevented him from getting through the third. Thorpe walked six batters in 2 2/3 innings as Blue Crabs pitching walked 12 overall in the contest.
Southern Maryland nearly added single runs in the fourth and fifth. Designated hitter Charlie Valerio had a two-out triple in the fourth but was stranded when Frank Martinez grounded to third. Michael Falsetti had a one-out double in the fifth, went to third on a groundout by Blackstone but was stranded there when Silva popped up to second.
In the sixth, Vaughn had a two-out single, Valerio got hit by a pitch, then Martinez walked to load the bases. Garcia then flew out to right on the first pitch to end that threat.
“We have to find a way of scoring in those situations,” Cliburn said. “Our pitching and defense kept us in it, but we have to score some runs there.”
Sugar Land finally drew even at 2 in the top of the eighth against Dykstra. Jackson had a one-out single and stole second when Zach Borenstein fanned and scored when Jason Martinson doubled past the bag at third.
Martinez led off the bottom of the ninth with a bloop single to left then was sacrifice bunted over to second by Garcia. With Falsetti up, Martinez took third on a wild pitch which prompted Sugar Land to hook Kevin Comer for Felipe Paulino.
Falsetti worked Paulino for a walk then Blackstone fanned, but Silva singled off the fence in left to vault the Blue Crabs to the 3-2 victory. Latos pitched a scoreless top of the ninth to get his second win of the season.
“I was watching the ball and their left fielder and I could see he was playing too shallow,” said Martinez, who scored the winning run. “I saw him jump, but then I saw the ball come off the wall. It was good to get a win. We’ve been practicing hard and playing together and we’ve stayed together, but we still haven’t developed that consistency.”
Friday, Southern Maryland got another stellar pitching outing from Daryl Thompson (2-5) who blanked the Skeeters for six innings before allowing three runs in the top of the seventh, all coming on a Martinson homer. Thompson, the La Plata High School graduate, yielded eight hits and fanned five but took the loss despite throwing strikes on 67 of 100 pitches.
Southern Maryland scored twice in the bottom of the ninth on a Jose Julio-Ruiz RBI groundout and a Vaughn RBI double, but the Blue Crabs could not generate the tying run and suffered a 3-2 setback.
“Daryl has done a great job for us all season,” Cliburn said. “Not just his pitching but his work with the other pitchers. He’s given us a chance to win every time out. He threw six scoreless then gave up a home run, but if we had scored some runs for him early, that home run might not have mattered.”
Thursday, in the finale of its four-game set against Somerset at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, New Jersey, Southern Maryland suffered a 4-1 setback. The Blue Crabs’ lone run came in the top of the sixth on an RBI double by Vaughn.