March 2, 2024
Annapolis, US 50 F

Baysox Self-Destruct Against SeaWolves

The Bowie Baysox lost a back-and-forth game 9-6 to the Erie SeaWolves on Saturday night after they blew a one-run lead in the eighth inning.  The loss drops Bowie to 17-20 on the season, as they remain in fourth place, trailing the Western Division leading Richmond Flying Squirrels by five and a half games.

Two Baltimore-born pitchers, Steve Johnson for Bowie and left-hander Jon Kibler for Erie, took the mound in the game and earned no-decisions.  Johnson allowed three runs on six hits through 5.0 innings.

“[Johnson] was a little shaky,” said Baysox Pitching Coach Kennie Steenstra.  “He didn’t look like he ever really got comfortable or into any sort of a rhythm today.  He didn’t pitch poorly, just not as sharp as he’s been.  Walks hurt him and some deep counts hurt him, but he made some pitches and got out of a few innings when he got himself into some trouble.”

After being retired in order through the first two innings, the Baysox delivered a promising third inning that delighted the crowd of 9,123 at Prince George’s Stadium.  Catcher Caleb Joseph, shortstop Pedro Florimon and center fielder Matt Angle hit successive one-out singles to load the bases and right fielder Jonathan Tucker delivered a bases-clearing double down the left field line that put the Baysox ahead 3-0.

“I faced [Kibler] a couple times last year and early in the game he was throwing his change-up a lot at me; he threw it to me about four, five times in a row,” Tucker said.  “He threw a couple good ones that I swung through, a couple good ones that I took, fouled a couple off.  Then he threw it again, and I was fortunate enough to get some good wood on it and got it down the line; big hit to get us started and get me started.  I haven’t really been feeling that comfortable lately, so it was something that I needed as a little confidence booster.  I hadn’t played for about two and a half weeks before I came here so I came and was swinging the bat well and kind of cooled off, so I just need to get consistent at-bats.  I’m starting to feel more and more comfortable every day, so hopefully it’s something to build on.”

Erie responded with two runs in the top of the fourth frame.  Johnson gave up a single to left field to third baseman Cesar Nicolas to open the inning and hit outfielder Josh Burrus to put runners on first and second with two outs for catcher Andy Bouchie, who drove Nicolas in from second with line drive single to left.  Second baseman Justin Henry followed with another base hit that came off the glove of second baseman Miguel Abreu and plated Burrus to bring the SeaWolves within a run.

Erie closed the gap in the fifth when outfielder Wilkin Ramirez worked Johnson to a full count before smashing the ball clear out of the stadium for a one-out solo home run, his eighth long ball of the year.  Baysox left fielder Tyler Henson barely moved as the towering shot came off the bat and could only watch helplessly as it soared over the high left field wall.

Tucker made the play of the game later in the inning to bail Johnson out of an increasingly dire situation.  With Nicolas on first after Ramirez’s blast, Tucker backtracked all the way to the warning track to snag first baseman Michael Bertram’s fly ball as he ran into the gate in right-center field, then fired the ball to first base to catch Nicolas for a double play before he could return to the bag.

“Bertram has been swinging the bat well all series, and I knew I had a chance of getting the ball,” Tucker said.  “He hit one, and I put my head down and ran after it and was fortunate enough to come up and make the play.  I saw that Nicolas was still off the bag close to second base, so I just threw it as hard as I could and got him out.  I was pretty happy about that.”

Tucker generated another run in the bottom of the fifth to put the Baysox back on top, with a ground ball to shortstop that turned into a two-base error and plated Angle.  Angle had a good game, as he went 3-for-5, scored two runs, drove one in, and stole two bases.

The lead didn’t last long, however, as Henry added two more RBIs with a double in the sixth inning off reliever Eddie Gamboa that plated Burrus and Bouchie to put Erie ahead 5-4.

Baysox designated hitter Joel Guzman leveled the game again with a solo home run off Kibler in the bottom half of the inning.  It was Guzman’s eighth homer of the year, and his second in as many games, as he moved into a tie for most home runs in the Eastern League.

Joseph scored again to put Bowie up 6-5 in the seventh inning when Angle drove him in from third with a base hit to right field.  The catcher went 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs and has come on strong in May after a frustrating slump, hitting .342 so far in the month.  He has excelled against left-handed pitchers all year, with a .455 batting average against southpaws.

“I always see it really good out of that left side, for some reason; I’ve been that way all my life,” he said.  “I’ve struggled against righties; I was getting jammed a lot, and I had to make an adjustment to get off the plate a little bit, because I was standing really close to the plate.  Making that adjustment really freed up that inside pitch and also all these righties have some dirty off-speed pitches — some dirty sliders away, and righty [against] righty, that ball’s moving away from you and it’s tough to grab those balls sometimes.  When you miss your fastball early in the count, you have to hit their pitch, that’s what happens.  With lefties, off-speed pitches are usually breaking into me, and therefore I can get my bat head to it.”

A league-high 44 errors have been the Baysox undoing all season, and the eighth inning added on to their defensive woes.  Gamboa gave up a lead-off triple to Burrus to open the frame and walked shortstop Cale Iorg to put runners on the corners with no outs.  Gamboa tried to pick Iorg off at first, but first baseman Robbie Widlansky dropped the throw, allowing Burrus to race home from third.  Bouchie laid down a sacrifice bunt to Gamboa, but the pitcher tried to get the lead runner at second, and both runners were safe.

Lefty Chad Thall came on to try to get out of the jam, but matters got worse as he attempted to field another sacrifice bunt and his throw sailed over Widlansky’s head, allowing Iorg to score from second.  The Baysox had an opportunity to get out of the inning down a run, when Andy Dirks hit a potential double play ball to Abreu, but Abreu failed to field the ball cleanly, and all the runners were safe as Bouchie crossed home.  Thall got out of the inning without further damage when he struck out Ramirez, and Joseph threw to third to catch Henry stealing.

“I have [seen an inning like that], but I don’t want to see it again,” said Baysox Manager Brad Komminsk.  “I saw it in rookie ball, I think, and we just saw a rookie ball performance again.  Not very good.”

The Baysox were retired in order quickly in the bottom of the eighth, and the SeaWolves tacked on one more when Bertram launched a solo home run to right field off Thall to put the score at 9-6.

Despite the disastrous eighth inning, the Baysox had a chance to get back in the game in the bottom of the ninth, as Tucker added another base hit with two outs and Henson hit a double down the left field line to bring up the hard-hitting Guzman as the tying run with two runners in scoring position.  Unfortunately, Guzman could not capitalize, as he struck out swinging to end the game.

The Baysox are back in action Sunday for the final game of their four-game series against Erie.  Sunday’s game is the Baysox annual Bark in the Park event, when fans are welcome to bring their dog to the game on a leash and with some proof of current rabies vaccination.  Bark in the Park features dog-related promotions and freebies as well as a special visit from Clifford the Big Red Dog, presented by Maryland Public Television.

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