BOWIE – The Bowie Baysox were unable to replicate their road success at home as the Hartford Yard Goats won their series opener 3-2 in front of 1,132 spectators at Prince George’s Stadium on June 24.
The Baysox (34-40) came home after winning five of their last six games and winning the most games in their past six series. Adding to their positive momentum was facing a Yard Goats team (40-33) who they swept all three games in their previous series on June 18-20.
All the positive feelings went away in the game’s second pitch. Leadoff batter Manuel Melendez cracked a fly ball to right center field for a solo home run for Hartford’s first run. Bowie’s starting pitcher Marcos Molina struggled with his pitches during his six-inning appearance as he surrendered a hit to the top of the order for the first three innings.
The Baysox responded right away with two hits and a walk loading the bases in the bottom half of the inning. Third baseman Jesmuel Valentín could not take advantage of the situation, hitting a fly out to end the period with no runners scored.
Pitching struggles would continue for Molina in the top of the third. Bowie’s starter surrendered two more hits, including a triple to outfielder Vance Vizcaino, as the road team prepared to strike.
With two outs, Molina threw a wild pitch too low for catcher Carlos Perez to receive. The ball passed him and the umpire, allowing Vizcaino time to steal home for Hartford’s second run of the game.
“He was a little inconsistent with his command,” Manager Buck Britton said. “But he only gave up three runs and still gives you a chance to win. If you give up three runs, you still keeping us in the ball game. So, even with the lack of command, we had to execute a couple of plays ourselves to get out jams and we had a chance to win.”
Perez finally got the Baysox on the scoreboard as he hit a line drive to left field for a solo home run to start the fourth inning. The hit was Perez’s third home run of the season.
Bowie continued its hitting success in the fourth with outfielder T.J. Nichting crushing a deep ball to the left field wall for a triple. Infielder Willy Yahn followed up with a looming base hit that bounced off the warning track and went over the wall for a ground-rule double to drive in Nichting to tie the game.
Since coming to Bowie on June 19 from Class-A affiliate Frederick Keys, the 5-foot-11 third baseman has already found a groove for Bowie with six hits and three RBI in five games. With the promotion of Ademar Rifaela to Norfolk last week, Britton said the addition of Yahn will add another bat to help Bowie offensively.
“I found out the night before the (Carolina League) All-Star Game and this is a huge honor,” Yahn said. “It is just a product of trying to win down in Frederick and doing everything I can to help the team. I plan to do the same thing up here so I am so excited to be here.”
After allowing consecutive singles to start the seventh, Molina was pulled and replaced by right-hander Cristian Alvarado. However, the damage was already done as Melendez appeared again to hit a single to left field, driving in a Yard Goat runner to help Hartford regain the lead. Alvarado threw two strikeouts to end the inning and limit the damage.
However, the Baysox struggled all night to drive runners in scoring position and on-base home for runs. Bowie was 1-for-5 in driving in runners on third base and finished the game leaving eight players stranded.
In the bottom of the eighth, with the bases loaded and one out, Perez looked poised to drive the tying run but instead, hit into a double play to end the inning. It was the closest Bowie got to tie the game in the final two innings.
“We battled today,” Yahn said. “It was neck-and-neck with the pitchers having quality starts. I think we left a decent amount of runners on base and everybody, including myself, can do better with driving runs in. Those are huge scoring opportunities and for guys like me, especially in the last inning, we have to get on base and set up the top of the order.”
While it is a tough loss, Britton emphasized their recent success against Hartford shows that they can win ball games. The manager said he hopes that the winning that was seen during their recent road trip can be transferred over to the remaining six games in their homestand.
“Overall, I want to see us continue building from where we left off at spring training,” Britton said. “Ultimately, it is about development for these guys so trying to get better every day is the goal for everybody. As long as we are moving in the right direction that is all we can ask for.”