BOWIE – Never in its 23-year history had Bowie won an Eastern League playoff series. In fact, the Baysox had won at least two games in four of their five lifetime appearances, but had never been able to win the deciding game. All-in-all, they were 0-for-8 in potential series-clinching contests. On Saturday night, those three […]
BOWIE – Never in its 23-year history had Bowie won an Eastern League playoff series.
In fact, the Baysox had won at least two games in four of their five lifetime appearances, but had never been able to win the deciding game. All-in-all, they were 0-for-8 in potential series-clinching contests.
On Saturday night, those three pieces of information became facts of the past.
Bowie connected for three solo home runs in the first two innings and received a stellar performance on the mound on its way to defeating the Altoona Curve, 3-0 in Game Four of the Western Division Championship Series. The victory meant the Baysox picked up their first-ever playoff series win and will now play for the Eastern League Championship next week.
“I never knew that stat, so it feels really good to get the monkey off our back,” Bowie Manager Gary Kendall said on the franchise’s 0-8 mark in series-clinching games. “Every win we get from here on out is a bonus. Not that we don’t want to win the series, but getting here was the most important thing because we wanted to prove that we were one of the better teams in the Eastern League.
“That’s what we put our time into all year and the kids developed in the process. There is always that double-edged sword about development versus winning, but I think they go hand-in-hand. I think you develop players by winning games.”
Bowie got the momentum rolling early in the bottom of the first inning. Right fielder Mike Yastrzemski took Altoona starter Jason Creasy deep to right-center for a solo shot to make it 1-0 in favor of the Sox just two batters into the game. Two batters later Quincy Latimore crushed a Creasy offering deep to left field for another solo homer. It was Latimore’s third homer in two days and his eighth RBI of the series.
“I’m just doing what I’ve been doing all year,” said Latimore, who ironically was drafted by the Pirates’ organization in 2007. “I’m getting ready and I’m getting the pitch I want and I am putting a swing on it. When I do that, good things tend to happen.”
Two weeks earlier, after being named to the Eastern League Season Ending All-Star team, Latimore said it was fun because he was playing on a team that had a chance to go all the way. He likes his team’s chances even more now.
“We are going to the championship, and with how we are playing baseball right now, it is going to be tough to beat us,” Latimore said. “Reading is a good club. We have played them alright this year, but now it is just one game at a time. What happened in the regular season means nothing. Altoona beat us more in the regular season and look what just happened. All of that stuff doesn’t matter anymore. It is just one game at a time and I definitely like our chances.”
Teammate Garabez Rosa, who Kendall kept in the lineup because he had been hitting well as of late, led off the second inning with a solo homer of his own to make it 3-0 in favor of Bowie.
From there on out, Baysox starter David Hess did his best to keep his team in front. And his best was quite good.
Although Altoona squared up a few balls and hit them deep into the outfield, Hess still managed to take a no-hitter into the sixth. It was then that he gave up his only hit of the game – a two-out single to Adam Frazier. He didn’t let it bother him though, as he recorded an inning-ending fly out on the very next batter.
In what was just his third start with the team, Hess picked up a quality start with three strikeouts and two walks through seven innings of work.
“What (Hess) did was change speeds,” Kendall said. “(Altoona) is a good fastball-hitting club. If you noticed early in the game, when he did throw fastballs, there were some hard-hit balls. So he was dodging some bullets early on.
“But he was able to get his changeup and his breaking ball over. Even if it was just for an affect and it might have been a ball, but it got Altoona off the fastball. Hitting is a series of adjustments and so is pitching. And I thought David made good in-game adjustments.”
Altoona made things interesting in the eighth as it got two runners on against reliever Marcel Prado. Kendall then brought in closer Andrew Triggs to get a five-out save.
Triggs allowed a single to the first batter he faced to load the bases, but proceeded to strikeout the next two batters to end the inning. The crisis was averted.
“Coming in, especially against a team we have faced so much with guys on base, you try to be as sharp as you can and put yourself in good counts,” Triggs said about the eighth inning. “I didn’t do that at first. I got in two 2-0 holes.
“I was just trying to make as good of a pitch as possible and I have complete faith in my defense behind me. Even though I made some pitches out of the zone early on, I was able to rebound and make some quality pitches after that and escape out of that inning.”
However, Triggs work wasn’t done. He made things interesting yet again when he walked the leadoff batter in the ninth. Fortunately for the locals, Triggs induced a groundball that shortstop Ozzie Martinez took himself and turned into a double play. Triggs would then hit the next batter with two strikes to put another man on, but got Jacob Stallings to ground out to third to end the game and the series.
“I was pretty excited,” Triggs said about coming out for the ninth. “Two-inning saves, three-inning saves are never easy. You have to come in and you get so amped up, and then you come back down, and then you have to get amped back up again. Those are difficult.
“I was just trying to keep as even-keeled as possible. As excited as I was to get out of the eighth, I was really just trying to tell myself that I needed to get three more outs. It was nice to get out of that jam, but I still had three more to get.”
Kendall’s first five years as manager of the Baysox has seen the team finish with a.500 record or better every season. Before this year’s 79 wins, Bowie’s best finish under Kendall was in 2012 when it went 78-64 and lost in the divisional round.
Now, three years later, Bowie’s hard work has paid off and it has taken it a step further. Now the Baysox find themselves playing for the Eastern League Championship.
“We’ve been in it every year up until the final week,” Kendall said. “One year we did qualify with a wild card, but I thought we were always close and always competitive. Sometimes in development ball they make moves and some guys get moved up. And it’s all about what you get replenished with and that was a big key. The team really transformed through all of those moves and they believed in each other.
“Even though we won the division, Altoona gave us fits all year up until the final week. Finally, to get a chance to beat a good ball club and not really back into (the playoffs) was big for us. We won the division outright to get to this point and now we are going to have to beat an even better ball club in (Reading).”
Bowie opens the best-of-five championship series in Reading on Tuesday, Sept. 15. The Baysox went 2-5 in seven games against Reading this season.
Bowie has the luxury of having the last three games at home should it need them, starting on Thursday, Sept. 17.