Bowie Baysox fans were treated to another thrilling game as the club beat the Erie SeaWolves 4-3 with a walk-off double by second baseman Ryan Adams that plated Baltimore Orioles outfielder Felix Pie to deliver their first four-game sweep of the season. The Baysox have won four of their last five home games with a walk-off play, and are now on a five-game home winning streak, after condemning the SeaWolves to their 10th consecutive loss.
The Baysox now stand seven games above .500, at 43-36, and are in second place in the Eastern League’s Western Division, 7.5 games behind Altoona and five games clear of third place. It is the first time the Baysox have been seven games over .500 since their loss to Akron on April 24, which was the start of a seven-game losing streak that negated the hottest start in franchise history.
Left-handed pitcher Rick Zagone got the start for Bowie in his Double-A debut. He gave up three runs in the early going but quickly settled into a groove and retired the last 13 batters he faced, finishing with three runs on four hits through 7.0 innings. Along the way, he struck out six batters and walked three.
“I got a couple walks in the first few innings, but I’ve just got to get used to the zone up here and throwing to a new catcher and everything, but once I settled in everything was working fine,” Zagone said. “I was just trying to go out there and throw strikes and let them get themselves out — get some ground balls, it felt good.”
Zagone is primarily a sinker-slider pitcher, with a two-seam fastball and change-up that he will mix in from time to time. He uses an unorthodox wind-up, kicking his foot up almost as high as his head before throwing the ball.
“I had him for the second half last year [in Single-A Frederick] so I’ve seen it before,” Steenstra said of Zagone’s wind-up. “It’s a little bit of a hesitation for some of the hitters; they kind of get caught looking at that once in a while. He’s able to maintain it throughout the game, and he’s got good balance with it. It’s just one of those things where he’s always done it and continues to do it.”
He did not get off to an auspicious start, as he opened the game with a walk to Erie second baseman Alden Carrithers. Carrithers moved to second on a ground out and then to third when center fielder Andy Dirks knocked a single into right field. He opened a 1-0 lead when he scored on first baseman Rawley Bishop’s sacrifice fly to right field.
Zagone issued another free pass to Carrithers with one out in the top of the third inning. Carrithers took advantage of Zagone’s high leg-kick to steal second base and went to third when left fielder Ben Guez lined a single to left. Dirks delivered an RBI single to right that put runners on first and second with one out and moved to second when Guez was caught stealing third base. After Zagone’s third walk, designated hitter Michael Bertram hit a bloop to shallow left that plated Dirks and put the Baysox in a 3-0 hole.
Bertram’s hit was the last that Zagone would surrender, setting the stage for the Bowie comeback. Shortstop Greg Miclat opened the bottom of the third with a single to left-center field and moved to second on center fielder Jonathan Tucker’s groundout to third base. Pie drew a walk before he and Miclat executed a double steal to put both runners in scoring position. Adams flied out to right field, deep enough to to score Miclat and break up the shutout, with the Baysox trailing 3-1.
The Baysox added another run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Eastern League All-Star Joel Guzman worked the count full and blasted Erie lefty Duane Below’s payoff pitch for his 18th home run of the year, barely missing the bull’s-eye behind the left-center field wall.
With Bowie still trailing 3-2 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, Adams led off with a double. 2010 Eastern League All-Star Tyler Henson flied out to right field, allowing Adams to tag up and take third. With Guzman at the plate, Erie reliever Luis Marte’s pitch slipped past catcher Andy Bouchie as Adams raced home to tie the game at 3-3.
Miclat and Tucker struck out to begin the bottom of the ninth before Pie hit a last-chance single to left field. Adams got behind in the count, but worked it full before he drilled reliever Matt Hoffman’s seventh pitch down the left field line for a double as Pie sprinted around the base paths and charged home. The throw came in from left field and reached Bouchie as Pie slid for the plate. The umpire ruled him safe, sending Pie into jubilation with his temporary teammates as Erie Manager Phil Nevin went into a conniption, arguing with the umpires the entire way back to the visiting clubhouse.
“It’s tough to say, some [umpires] say you’re out, I think it’s close to out, but [I was] safe,” Pie said. “He tagged me late, I think [I] was safe.”
The game-winning hit was Adams’ 24th double of the year, tying him with Binghamton’s Nick Evans for the Eastern League lead.
“I’m seeing the ball well. I’m getting some good pitches to hit, and they’re going on a line, or they’re going in the gaps,” said Adams, who hit .343 in June. “It’s just part of the game. Things have just been going my way lately, I’m just going to try to ride the wave.”
Baysox reliever Pedro Viola notched his second win of the season after entering the game in the eighth inning. It has been a remarkable turnaround in Bowie for the former Cincinnati Red, who struggled earlier this year with a 17.65 ERA in Triple-A Norfolk but now has a 0.87 ERA.
The Baysox open a four-game series with the Akron Aeros Thursday at 7:05 p.m. The Aeros will be in town for the Baysox All-American Weekend, featuring fireworks shows on July 2, 3 and 4. Saturday, July 3, is Stress Less Saturday, with a chance to win a family vacation courtesy of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Sunday, July 4, is the Baysox Independence Day Celebration, with a spectacular extended fireworks show and an auction of special stars-and-stripes Baysox jerseys that benefits AMVETS.