BOWIE – After a four-run fourth inning in their April 28 encounter against the Akron RubberDucks, the Bowie Baysox looked poised to cure their home series woes finally.
However, the last-place squad was unable to continue the momentum gained from their offensive burst, leaving 12 base runners stranded. Meanwhile, Akron fought through their early hitting troubles to mount a three-run comeback and defeated Bowie, 8-6, in front of 2,364 spectators to take three wins out of four games from their weekend series.
While Bowie’s offense was able to connect with the ball more often than in previous home games, they were unable to finish it off by driving in runs. The Baysox would finish driving in four-of-14 runners in scoring position.
“At some point, you have to tip your cap to them, but we had our opportunities,” Manager Buck Britton said. “We just could not put the ball into play, and sometimes that’s what it boils down to.”
Coming into the contest, the Baysox (5-18) were looking to regain their winning ways at Prince George’s Stadium after only winning two home games to start the 2019 season. They lost the opening two games in their home series against the RubberDucks but bounced back with a 5-2 win on April 27.
Akron (11-12) scored first after catcher Daniel Salters cracked a low hit over the right-field wall, just barely staying inside the foul pole, for a two-run home run.
Bowie quickly responded in the top of the second as right fielder T. J. Nichting fired a darting hit towards the left field wall. Designated hitter Brett Cumberland sprinted from first base all the way home to score.
In the bottom of the third inning, with two runners on base and two outs, outfielder Ademar Rifaela hit a low RBI single past a diving Alexis Pantoja for the tying run. Cumberland followed with a chopper over second basemen Jorma Rodriguez to add a run and give the Baysox its first lead of the game.
Nichting continued Bowie’s third inning success by crushing the ball off the right-field wall for his second hit of the game, driving in Rifaela and Cumberland to extend their lead by three.
“I felt really good with myself at the plate,” Nichting, who finished going 3-for-5 and three RBI said. “The team is starting to hit right now and get things going a bit; if we can keep where we are going and continue heading up right now, I think we will be alright.”
The Baysox’s lead was short-lived as Akron’s Tyler Krieger fired a deep hit into the right field for a two-run home run to start off the fourth inning, reducing their deficit down to one.
Left-hander Brian Gonzalez, who was named the starter hours before right-hander Tyler Herb was called up to Triple-A Norfolk, was pulled after surrendering his second home run in three and 2/3 innings.
Before getting pulled, Gonzalez threw 53 pitches for a 4.67 ERA and one strikeout. Bowie attempted to advance their lead further during their next at-bat as they loaded the bases, but Rifaela was forced into a flyout, leaving three Baysox players stranded.
Akron took advantage right way as infielder Wilson Garcia connected with a double that drove in the tying run. In his final plate appearance, Mitch Longo popped a double into center field to add two more runs to give the Rubberducks the lead again.
Rifaela attempted to make a sliding catch but landed awkwardly. He struggled to get up and was removed from the game. Britton could not confirm the injury suffered on the play, stating he is waiting for the report from the trainers on Rifaela’s condition. Bowie was already down a player when outfielder Yusniel Díaz was placed on the seven-day injured list.
Bowie had another opportunity in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game with two runners on base with two outs. However, infielder Sean Miller struck out, and infielder Jesmuel Valentín hit into a force out, leaving two runners on base.
“These teams continue to run out good arms at us,” Bowie Reliever Zach Muckenhirn said. “Guys are in there, trying to get the job then and away is the thing. Sometimes in those situations, pitchers make their best pitchers and make it harder on guys, but it is almost a matter of time. We put up six today, and that is a good sign, a good start.”
With two runners on in the seventh, first basemen Preston Palmeiro thundered in double to add an additional score and reduce Akron’s lead down to two. Muckenhirn was able to limit Akron’s damage by pitching two scoreless innings and striking out Rodriguez to end the top of the ninth inning.
However, Bowie failed to get on base in the bottom of the ninth, with two consecutive batters striking out to end the game. Bowie will hope their offense continues excelling in their next home series against Richmond before heading out for a seven-day road trip.
“In the minor leagues, wins and loses does not mean as much,” Britton said. “We want to win as a team because if not, it makes for a long summer but as long as individual players continue getting better, develop and grow, that will be a win for us.”