After falling to the Sugar Land Skeeters on Monday evening in a contest when they left 10 runners on base, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs were able to bounce back to capture the next two games of the four-game series with the reigning Atlantic League champions at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Southern Maryland (43-58 overall, 18-14 Freedom Division second half through Wednesday) got out to a 6-0 lead through two innings on Tuesday but had to hold off Sugar Land in the ninth to win 9-7. Wednesday, the Blue Crabs trailed 3-0 early then came back to win 4-3.
The finale of the series was Thursday night with Somerset coming to Waldorf for a weekend series starting tonight.
Wednesday night with a full moon making its presence known over center field for the latter innings, teams learned the home plate umpire did not have the assistance of the TrackMan radar system. Then before the first two innings had expired, one player from each team had been ejected.
Sugar Land lost its cleanup hitter, Denis Phipps, in the top of the first inning for arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire Derek Moccia, while Southern Maryland parted with pitcher Dusten Knight, who was watching from the dugout when he tossed by the third-base umpire Nate Caldwell in the second.
After spotting Sugar Land the early 3-0 lead, Southern Maryland responded with a run in the third and three more in the sixth then held on for the win. Starter John Hayes allowed three runs in the second but nothing more in his last four innings and relievers Kevin Munson, James Dykstra and Mat Latos each tossed a scoreless frame to preserve the victory.
“I thought Hayes did a great job tonight in a spot start for us,” Blue Crabs manager Stan Cliburn said. “He gave up three runs that one inning then settled down after that. Our bullpen was been outstanding all season. They came in and protected a one-run lead for three innings against a very good team.”
Southern Maryland had the first legitimate scoring chance in the bottom of the first when Edwin Garcia smacked a one-out double and Josh McAdams followed with a single. But with runners on second and third, Sugar Land starter Chase De Jong fanned Cory Vaughn and Charlie Valerio to end the threat.
In the top of the second, Sugar Land capitalized on its first scoring chance of the contest. D.J. Peterson worked Hayes for a leadoff walk, then Wynton Bernard had a one-out bloop single into shallow right field. Albert Cordero followed with a two-run double into the gap in left-center to stake the Skeeters to a 2-0 lead.
Juan Silverio beat out an infield single that enabled Cordero to take third and Rico Noel plated him with a sacrifice fly to center. Cody Stanley and Jason Martinson both worked Hayes for two-out walks, then Blair Beck, sent into the game after Phipps had been tossed, grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Trailing 3-0, Southern Maryland got a run back in the home half of the third but could have had at least another run.
Kent Blackstone worked De Jong for a leadoff walk, stole second as Garcia fanned and went to third on a throwing error Skeeters catcher Stanley. McAdams followed with a single up the middle to plate Blackstone, then McAdams was picked off first. Vaughn worked DeJong for a walk, advanced on a wild pitch, but Valerio grounded out to third to end the inning.
Hayes escaped further damage in the top of the sixth when he induced Cordero to ground into a 4-6-3 double play with two aboard, then the Blue Crabs responded with three runs against three different pitchers in the home half of the inning to forge their first lead of the night.
Tony Thomas belted a one-out solo home run off De Jong, his 12th homer of the season, then Jon Griffin followed with a bloop single to shallow right. Rubi Silva greeted southpaw reliever Daniel Schlereth with an infield single and Travis Witherspoon walked to load the bases. Schlereth fanned Blackstone then was hooked in favor of right-handed reliever Kevin Comer.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Garcia greeted Comer with a two-run single to right that scored Griffin and Silva to close the book on De Jong and put Schlereth on the hook for the loss. Comer then fanned McAdams swinging to limit the damage, but the Blue Crabs had pushed across three runs in the frame to forge a 4-3 lead that their bullpen would never relinquish.
“Edwin has been clutch for us all year,” Cliburn said. “He’s played almost every game and he’s still hitting and fielding like he’s just got on the field. That was a tremendous at-bat in that situation. He’s come up with a number of key hits for us all season.”
Stanley drew a two-out walk against Munson in the seventh, but never advanced. The Blue Crabs looked for an insurance run in the home half of the inning but failed to get it. Vaughn led off the inning with a single then went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Valerio, but Thomas fanned and Griffin grounded out to end the frame.
Dykstra was even better in the eighth. He fanned Beck swinging, retired Peterson on a grounder to third courtesy of a diving stop by Thomas then fanned Zach Borenstein swinging to end the frame.
Latos hit Cordero with a pitch with one out in the ninth before inducing Silverio to ground into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play to record his 18th save in 19 chances.
“Really, my only thought when I go into the game in the eighth is just to hand the lead to Latos,” Dykstra said. “It all started earlier this year with Sugar Land. [Manager] Pete [Incaviglia] came to me early in the season and asked me to be the set-up guy and I’ve had the same role since I came here. I just want to pound the strike zone and get the ball to Latos.”
Thompson wins 11th straight
One night earlier, Southern Maryland veteran ace hurler Daryl Thompson recorded his 11th straight victory and Atlantic League-leading 13th overall when the Blue Crabs withstood a late Sugar Land rally for the 9-7 victory.
Thompson (13-6), the La Plata High School graduate, maintained his league lead in wins and strikeouts (128) after allowing six runs in eight-plus innings, fanning eight and yielding just one walk. He is scheduled to go for his 12th straight win and 14th overall in the series finale with Somerset on Sunday.
During a season in which he has flirted with perfection on two occasions, Thompson was far from perfect on Tuesday. Although he threw strikes on 79 of 105 pitches, Thompson issued his first walk in 31 innings and departed after allowing a leadoff homer to Peterson in the ninth and leaving two aboard.
Ryan Chaffee allowed a three-run homer to Cordero, the first batter the Blue Crabs reliever faced with the first two runs being charged to Thompson. Chaffee settled down and got the next two hitters before Cliburn went to Latos, who struck out Stanley to end the game and record his 17th save.
Southern Maryland collected 11 hits in the win, with Garcia leading the way with three hits.
The Blue Crabs gave Thompson ample support early as Blackstone drew a leadoff walk int the bottom of the first, then Garcia singled and both runners scored on a triple by McAdams.
Southern Maryland added to its lead in the second when Witherspoon and Blackstone had consecutive singles, then Garcia plated Witherspoon with a single. Dean Green followed with a three-run homer to lift the Blue Crabs to a 6-0 lead through two innings.
Sugar Land got two runs back in the third on a two-run homer by Silverio, but the Blue Crabs pushed the advantage to 7-3 in the fifth on a single by Thomas, who added a solo homer in the eighth and later in the inning Garcia drove in Griffin, who had doubled, extending the Southern Maryland lead to 9-3 heading to the ninth.