Roughly 21 months after the last time they took the field for an official contest at Regency Furniture Stadium, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs returned to Waldorf from a road trip to participate in their first home stand of 2021 last weekend, and were greeted quite warmly.
Following a 2-5 road trip that hardly went according to plan, Southern Maryland was welcomed home by a large, enthusiastic crowd on June 4 and the Blue Crabs sent their longtime ace and current pitching coach, Daryl Thompson, to the hill for the series opener against the Long Island Ducks. The near capacity crowd got what they expected from their starting pitcher and the Blue Crabs prevailed 7-0 in the home opener.
Blue Crabs’ skipper Stan Cliburn, who guided the team to the Atlantic League Championship series in 2015, welcomed the chance to finally play in front of the hometown faithful last weekend. Cliburn, who spent the 1980 season in the major leagues with the California Angels, watched his team break open a tight game in the middle innings last Friday night.
“It was just a tremendous night to be here at the ballpark,” Cliburn said. “It seemed like this whole game had been two years in the making, but it was a tremendous feeling to be out here in front of a big crowd. Of course, Daryl just goes out there and does his job. We kept him back an extra two days so he could pitch the home opener and he went out there and did what Daryl usually does. This was always going to be his game.”
Thompson, a 2003 La Plata High School graduate who went 0-3 with the Cincinnati Reds during a brief major league career, continues to thrive in his dual role as starting pitcher and pitching coach. The league’s top pitcher in 2019, Thompson picked up precisely where he left off two summers ago and proved too difficult for the Ducks’ hitters.
“It was really a lot of fun,” said Thompson (2-0), who limited the Ducks to four hits and two walks and fanned three batters in eight scoreless innings. “I think in both of my starts this year I have really had as much fun being out there as at any point in my career. The outfielders did a great job tracking down some fly balls. They had their running shoes on tonight and they did a great job out there.”
Two years after he climbed his way from a modest reserve role to be the team’s starting shortstop and leadoff batter, Kent Blackstone has picked up right where he left off in 2019. Through the first eight games this season, Blackstone has already belted three home runs and is among the league leaders in both home runs and extra base hits.
With Thompson nearly perfect through the first five innings, the Blue Crabs finally gave their ace some run support in the middle frames. Southern Maryland broke the scoreless deadlock with a two-out rally in the home half of the fourth. Josh McAdams and Jake Marshall walked then both scored on a double by pinch-hitter Jake Luce, who then scored on a single by catcher Joe DeLuca.
One inning later the Blue Crabs gave Thompson an added cushion. Blackstone doubled with one out and Josh McAdams drew a two-out walk. David Harris drove in Blackstone with a double into the left field corner then Jake Marshall followed with a two-run single to center to give the Blue Crabs a commanding 6-0 lead through five innings.
Southern Maryland added an unearned run in the home half of the seventh. Harris singled with one out then took second when McAdams reached on an error and scored when Joe DeLuca delivered a two-out single to right center. Ducks’ reliever Anderson DeLeon struck out the side in the seventh but he was hindered by the one-out error that prolonged the inning.