Following a brief three-game trip to New Britain that included a pair of extra-inning wins, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs returned home to Regency Furniture Stadium on Monday evening for the opener of a four-game series with the reigning Atlantic League champion Sugar Land Skeeters.

Southern Maryland (41-58 overall, 16-14 Freedom Division second half as of Monday) was unable to take advantage of numerous good scoring chances and suffered a 3-2 setback. The Blue Crabs outhit the Skeeters, 10-6, but left 10 runners on base and squandered several scoring chances throughout the contest.

The series continues tonight and wraps up tomorrow night, then Somerset comes to Waldorf for a weekend series starting Friday.

“We have to do a better job putting the ball in play,” Blue Crabs manager Stan Cliburn said. “We had 15 strikeouts tonight. That can’t happen. You can’t win unless you put the ball in play. We had some really good situations to score runs and we didn’t do it. We’re not the type of team that can sit back and wait on guys to hit three-run homers.”

Sugar Land hitters were not too kind to Southern Maryland starter Kyle Simon at the outset.

Simon hit Rico Noel with a pitch, then Cody Stanley followed with a two-run home run off the foul pole in left field. Jason Martinson and Zach Borenstein both walked, but Simon induced Juan Silverio to ground into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play to limit the damage to 2-0 Skeeters.

Southern Maryland failed to respond in the bottom of the first against former Major League hurler Dallas Beeler, although the frame started well. Kent Blackstone led off with a single then stole second as Edwin Garcia fanned. Blackstone went to third on a groundout but was stranded there when Dean Green grounded out to first to end the inning.

Sugar Land nearly added to its lead in the top of the second. Wynton Bernard led off with a single between third and short, went to second on a groundout then stole third. Bernard attempted to score when Javier Betancourt flew out to Cory Vaughn in center field, but Vaughn’s throw to catcher Charlie Valerio nailed the sliding Bernard for the final out of the inning. Sugar Land added to its lead against Simon in the top of the fourth when Borenstein smacked a one-out, solo homer to left-center to make it 3-0.

Southern Maryland threatened in the home half of the fourth, but Beeler escaped unharmed. With one out, Green singled to right, Vaughn walked, then Valerio had a broken-bat single into shallow right to load the bases. But Beeler fanned Tony Thomas and Josh McAdams swinging to escape unscathed and preserve the Skeeters’ 3-0 lead at that point.

The Blue Crabs finally broke through against Beeler in the fifth. Rubi Silva led off the inning with a chopper that caromed off the second base bag then scored on a double to left-center by Blackstone. With one out, Blackstone scored on a single to right by Joe Benson to trim the deficit to 3-2.

Southern Maryland had a shot in the sixth to tie and even take the game as Sugar Land reliever Dan Runzler came on for Beeler. Thomas singled to lead off the frame, stole second as McAdams was called out on strikes and went to third on an error by catcher Stanley. Thomas was stranded at third as Silva and Blackstone each struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Vaughn worked Sugar Land reliever Jeff Ames for a leadoff walk, then Valerio bunted back to the mound.

Ames fielded the ball cleanly but sailed his throw into center field attempting to get Vaughn at second and Vaughn ended up at third. But Ames promptly fanned Thomas, McAdams and Silva to end that threat.

In the bottom of the ninth against reliever Nick Rumbelow, Blackstone led off with a single to right. But Garcia popped up his bunt attempt and Rumbelow caught it and doubled up Blackstone at first, then Benson fanned swinging to end the game.

Simon took the loss, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out eight in eighth innings. Blackstone had three hits, the only Blue Crabs hitter with more than one in the contest.

Blue Crabs take two in extras

Sunday in the finale of the three-game series at New Britain Stadium in Connecticut, Southern Maryland prevailed for the second straight game in extra innings by scoring the game’s only run in the top of the 11th for a 1-0 victory.

Kevin Munson pitched the ninth and 10th to pick up the win and closer Mat Latos recorded his 16th save, one night after he went three innings to garner a win in extra innings.

Southern Maryland starter Dusten Knight blanked the Bees on five hits and two walks while fanning eight in seven innings, but he was not around for the decision and neither was his counterpart, Rainy Lara, who was even better on Sunday.

Lara kept the Blue Crabs without a hit through the first eight innings and left after allowing a one-out double to Blackstone in the top of the ninth of the scoreless deadlock.

“After the third inning when I saw what [Lara] was doing, I was determined not to be the first guy to give up a run,” Knight said. “Their guy was working on a no-hitter, so it was pretty intense. I’m really glad that I had the chance to come here and pitch for this team. So far, it’s been a lot of fun.”

In the 11th, Thomas, running at second under the tie-breaking rules for extra inning games, stole third, then scored when pinch-hitter Valerio was able to successfully lay down a bunt with two outs. Latos tossed a scoreless 11th as Valerio threw out Bijan Rademacher attempting to swipe third.

“When I went into the game to pinch-hit, I was looking for something off-speed,” Valerio said. “I was thinking they were going to throw me fastballs inside, but when I saw the third baseman playing back so deep, I thought I could get one down. I just wanted to bunt it anywhere, but back to the pitcher then I took off running as fast as I can.”

Saturday night, Southern Maryland prevailed 9-8 in 12 innings.

Latos (3-4) earned the win after allowing one unearned run in three innings on one walk and one strikeout and tossed a scoreless 12th to preserve the Blue Crabs’ first extra-inning win in three tries. Southern Maryland batters collected a sum of 15 hits in the win, with Blackstone, Green and Jon Griffin getting three hits each.

A back-and-forth contest went to extra innings tied at 7. Southern Maryland led 8-7 in the 11th on a sacrifice fly by Garcia that scored Silva, but the Bees responded with a single by Jason Rogers that scored Darren Ford. The Blue Crabs took the lead for good in the top of the 12th when Green drove in Benson, who started the inning at second, with a double.

Blackstone gave the Blue Crabs an early 1-0 lead with a solo homer on the second pitch of the game, but starter Tommy Thorpe surrendered two runs in the bottom of the inning. Valerio doubled home two runs in the fourth and scored on a single by Griffin, but Thorpe surrendered that lead and was hooked after allowing five runs, four earned, on nine hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings of work.

Friday night in the series opener at New Britain, the Blue Crabs allowed nine runs in the first two innings and never recovered in a 13-4 setback.

Starter Michael Kelly allowed a grand slam to Jonathan Galvez in the first after walking the bases loaded and didn’t get through the second. Kelly took the loss while allowing eight runs, seven earned, in 1 2/3 innings of work, walked five batters and fanned none and threw strikes on only 23 of 57 pitches.

Thompson wins 10th straight

Thursday evening in the finale of their four-game set with the Long Island Ducks at Regency, the Blue Crabs rallied for a 6-4 victory behind veteran ace hurler Daryl Thompson, who was recognized earlier that day as the Atlantic League Pitcher of the Month for July when he went 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA and fanned 34 batters in 33 1/3 innings of work. Thompson (12-6), the La Plata High School graduate, recorded his 10th straight win and league-leading 12th overall despite trailing twice in the game.

Trailing 4-2 heading to the bottom of the seventh, Southern Maryland responded to get its ace off the hook. The Blue Crabs drew even when McAdams plated Valerio and Thomas with a single, then Benson added a two-run double later in the frame to give the hosts a 6-4 lead. Thompson allowed four runs on five hits and fanned five without issuing a walk in seven innings. He threw strikes on 69 of 104 pitches and now owns 120 strikeouts on the season, tops in the Atlantic League through Monday.

Twitter: @tblacksomds1

Twitter: @tblacksomds1