The Bowie Baysox defeated the Erie SeaWolves 4-2 Saturday on a hot, muggy night at Prince George’s Stadium. Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business” blared in the high-spirited home clubhouse after a game in which the Baysox did exactly that, with clutch hitting, outstanding defensive plays and solid pitching delivering the victory.
The Baysox move to 29-27 and regain sole possession of second place in the Eastern League’s Western Division, eight games behind league leaders Altoona.
Starting pitcher Zach Britton gave up two unearned runs off seven hits through a season-high 7.1 innings, the second-longest outing of his five-year career.
“I think we turned a corner with the changeup,” Britton said. “I think it clicked in the third inning. I started throwing it, and I saw some good action, some bad swings, a lot of swings and misses on it today. I threw a lot of changeups and that just made my stuff even better. Going into the eighth inning, I had flipped the lineup over four times, that’s a lot of time for those hitters to see me. To be able to mix the changeup in there is huge. I kind of saw the light at the end of the tunnel with it today.”
Erie jumped out to a 2-0 lead courtesy of a pair of defensive errors. Second baseman Shawn Roof hit a grounder to shortstop that Carlos Rojas couldn’t handle, allowing Roof to reach safely. He was then sent all the way home on a triple by Eastern League home runs leader Wilkin Ramirez, who lifted a ballot center field that grazed the tip of Danny Figueroa’s outstretched glove as he tried to make a difficult over-the-shoulder catch. Figueroa got the ball to the relay man Rojas, who tried to make a play at third base, but threw the ball out of play, giving Ramirez a free pass across the plate.
In spite of the errors, Rojas had a good game at shortstop, making several acrobatic plays to keep balls from getting through the infield.
The Baysox mounted a rally in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Erie starter Jon Kibler faltered. Robbie Widlansky led off with a line drive single to center field before left fielder Tyler Henson drew a walk. Both runners advanced on Jonathan Tucker’s fly out, and the bases were loaded when Rojas drew a walk. Danny Figueroa worked Kibler six pitches deep into the count before sending a fly ball deep to right-center field for a bases-clearing triple, that put him at 10 RBIs for the season and gave the Baysox a 3-2 lead.
“In that at-bat, with the bases loaded, a man on third with less than two outs, you just want to find a pitch you can drive and hopefully get it in the outfield and at least get a sac fly out of it,” Figueroa said. “I battled in there, the pitcher was throwing great all night, he left me a slider over the plate and I was fortunate enough to get a barrel on the ball and it carried to right center.”
That slim lead was put in grave danger as Britton pressed on into the top of the eighth inning. He walked Ramirez to start the inning and gave up an infield single to designated hitter Cesar Nicolas on a hard chopper to shortstop. Both runners advanced on a passed ball by catcher Caleb Joseph as Michael Bertram squared to bunt. Britton battled back and struck him out on three pitches before leaving the mound to a standing ovation from the crowd of 6,242.
Right-hander Pat Egan took over in a dire situation: two runners in scoring position with one out, protecting a one-run lead. Erie third baseman Audy Ciriaco crushed his first pitch deep to left, but it sailed mercifully outside the foul pole.
“He got around on that first one, stuck his bat out on it and almost snuck it inside that line,” Egan said. “We thought that if we kept going after him with [the slider], we could get him to roll over on one or swing through it for a strikeout. The last thing we wanted was for the run to score, we wanted to keep the lead.”
Three pitches later, Ciriaco hit a fly ball to shallow center field where Figueroa gathered it and winged the ball home, as Ramirez charged home to tie the game. The ball reached Joseph in time, as the catcher braced for impact on the third baseline, took a tumble on the collision, and emerged with the ball held defiantly in his hand to complete the double play, pumping his fist as he walked off to the roar of the crowd.
“[Ramirez] is probably the biggest, strongest guy in the league,” Joseph said. “As soon as the ball was in the air I knew there was going to be a play, I knew he was going to go. Danny put a perfect one-hop on there, and I’m really surprised he didn’t just truck me. He slid first and then kind of popped up and got me. It’s a very easy play when the ball one-hops right at you, and Danny did that. I was definitely anticipating my life being over. He is a strong guy, I can’t believe he didn’t kill me.”
“It was a personal thing for me because I had just let the guys go second to third,” he continued. “I felt absolutely terrible. I just wanted to crawl in a hole for Zach, knowing there was a good chance they were going to score and he was going to get his no-decision. I felt so glad that when we got out of that inning, and especially being a part of it, I was just so proud that I didn’t mess it up. Proud the guy got the win he deserved. That’s probably the most excited I’ve been in pro ball, and the most emotion you’ll see out of me. I was just very thankful to get out of it without costing him a no-decision.”
It was Figueroa’s second outfield assist of the game, after he saved another run by catching Roof at the plate back in the first inning.
“When I released it, I felt it was online and I was going to one-hop it,” Figueroa said. “It was a great play by Caleb. It was brave of him to stay in there, knowing that that guy is coming full speed. You never know, you either knock him out or try to get in there and he held on to the ball.”
Joseph led off the bottom of the inning, and took another bruising hit, this time a pitch that caught him in the chest. He advanced to second on designated hitter Joel Guzman’s single to left, and the bases were loaded again, with no outs, after third baseman Brandon Waring walked. First baseman Robbie Widlansky grounded into a double play, but the contact was enough to send Joseph in from third for a much-needed insurance run.
Egan completed his team-leading fifth save of the year as he closed out the ninth inning to finish with no hits through his 1.2 innings, with a walk and a strikeout in the ninth.
The Baysox can win the three-game series against Erie in Sunday afternoon’s game, which starts at 2:05 p.m. It would be the Baysox first series win over Erie this season, as they hold a 3-9 record against the ‘Wolves.
Sunday’s game is the Baysox Baby Bonanza for new mothers and expecting mothers, with baby-themed promotions throughout the game. Should an expecting mother go into labor at Prince George’s Stadium, their child will receive Baysox season tickets for life.