BOWIE – At the top of the ninth inning during their weekday series opener against the Harrisburg Senators on July 15, the Bowie Baysox were in familiar territory. With two Senators on base, including the game-tying run and two outs, the Baysox were looking to seal their victory and no longer felt the pressure of closing games like in the opening two months of the season.
As outfielder Nick Banks connected with a base hit that bounced off the pitcher’s mound, reliever Cristian Alvarado did not hesitate. He made the outstretched catch before lightly tossing the ball to first base for the final out. The quick grab earned a loud applause from the audience of 1,784 fans in attendance at Prince George’s Stadium.
“We are so relaxed that we are not even thinking about the end result, we are just playing hard and it is taking care of our stuff at the end of the game,” shortstop Mason McCoy said. “We are scoring runs, we’re pitching and our bullpen is lights out right now.”
The first-place Baysox continued their winning ways, as Australian pitcher Alex Wells only surrendered two runs in eight innings while Bowie combined for 10 hits to earn a 4-2 victory over Harrisburg.
With the win, Bowie (49-43) continues atop of the Eastern League Western standings of the second half of the season with a 19-5 record, 2.5 games ahead of the Erie SeaWolves. The Baysox are now 10-2 in July, a positive streak of momentum that Manager Buck Britton credits a more calming and relaxed clubhouse, ready to play baseball every day.
“When you are going through a long season, winning helps get through the grind,” Britton said. “Winning helps you come to the ballpark, ready for work for that next day whereas you fall into a rut, it can be sometimes be hard. Credit to these guys for not giving in because it could have easier to throw in the towel.”
McCoy started Bowie on a positive note after connecting a triple down the right-field foul line to the corner of the field. The next batter, left fielder Cedric Mullins, fired an RBI single to center filed over second base to bring McCoy home for Bowie’s first run.
Mullins, who returns to Bowie after spending time with the Baltimore Orioles and Triple-A Norfolk, moved over to third base following a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch thrown by Harrisburg’s Jacob Condra-Bogan. Designated hitter Carlos Perez drove his new teammate home after he hit a chopper to left field for an RBI single to give the Baysox a 2-0 lead.
Harrisburg (50-43, 8-15) attempted to respond in the second inning when Ian Sagdal powered a base hit that bounced off Wells’ glove. However, with two runners in scoring position, Wells pitched out of the jam by earning two outs to close the inning.
“I had command of all four pitches tonight,” Wells said. “Pitching is fun when you are able to do that and I am having a lot of success with first-pitch strikes; I know that they are an aggressive team and they love to hit the fastball so (I had) to mix it up, get some early groundouts and flyouts.”
Wells helped maintain Bowie’s advantage with his pitching performance. In his first start after the all-star break, the left-hander threw 99 pitches, threw 68 strikes, struck out four batters and surrendered four hits. According to Britton, Wells has worked with the pitching staff to incorporate a slider as a fourth pitch to his repertoire.
“Having that confidence with that new fourth pitch and mixing it in there at any count at any time, I am really happy with that,” Wells said.
The Senators finally broke through in the fifth inning after a wild pitch by Wells allowed a runner to steal home. However, Bowie punched back after Mullins’ single and stolen base placed him a scoring position in the bottom of the fifth. Outfielder Ryan McKenna smacked a double down the left-field foul line to bring Mullins for the Baysox’s lead to three runs.
In the bottom of the sixth, second baseman Rylan Bannon led off with a right-field triple. Catcher Martin Cervenka immediately hit a sacrifice fly to bring in his teammate for Bowie’s fourth run of the game.
Already over 80 pitches, Wells began to slow down at the top of the eighth, surrendering a double and single to Harrisburg’s first batters. Outfielder Rafael Bautista punched in a sacrifice groundout which allowed one runner to score, dropping their deficit to two runs. However, the potential crisis was averted with two flyouts caught by Mullins to end the inning. Alvarado struck out two batters in the ninth to end the game in Bowie’s favor.
With the rest of the season remaining, Britton said it is important to keep the positive momentum moving forward to continue developing the squad while collecting wins. After starting the year with a 7-23 record, Bowie could end the year with a playoff berth, which would be a perfect scenario for the organization, McCoy said.
“I think this is a playoff team from the get-go,” McCoy said. “I think everyone is starting to hit their stride; We are in our midseason form but I think this is a playoff team and we are starting to show it.”