BOWIE – Until the 8th inning on July 29, the Bowie Baysox failed to capitalize on their opportunities against the Reading Fightin’ Phils. The Baysox had runners on base in the first seven innings, but could only muster one run while leaving eight stranded on base.
But it looked like the tide was turning when third baseman Rylan Bannon entered the batter’s box in the bottom of the eighth. Before his at-bat, with outfielder Yusniel Diaz on first, infielder Jesmuel Valentin hit a ground ball that Reading third baseman Alec Bohm bobbled. A wild pitch by Garrett Cleavinger moved the runners to second and third.
Bannon kept the lucky bounces alive, hitting a ball off pitcher Jonathan Hennigan that dribbled into center field, allowing both runners to score.
“You’re putting together good at-bats all night up and down the lineup,” Bannon said. “It was definitely good to see something fall right there.”
Shortstop Mason McCoy added an insurance run with an RBI single later in the inning, and relief pitcher Christian Alvarado retired the side in order in the ninth to seal a 4-2 comeback victory for the Baysox in front of 1,762 spectators at Prince George’s Stadium.
Before the late rally, Bowie (58-48, 28-10 second half) did not look like it would take advantage of a gutsy effort from starting pitcher Dean Kremer, who battled through five innings, allowing three hits, walking four and striking out three despite not having one of his better pitching performances.
“He got ahead of a lot of guys but I think he was trying to be too fine after that,” Baysox Manager Buck Britton said. “Dean’s done a nice job for us, and he has to continue to work on stuff and get crisp.”
Catcher Henri Lartigue, who entered the game batting just .138, got Reading (63-45, 24-17) on the board first with a home run over the left-field wall. Outfielder Ryan McKenna tracked the ball the whole way but was unable to keep it in the park.
The Fightin’ Phils added another run in the fourth, taking advantage of a Kremer mishap. After Darick Hall walked and Josh Stephen singled to center, infielder Jose Gomez hit a high chopper. Kremer moved to his right and tried to field the ball, but it bounced off his glove and trickled past Valentin at second base, allowing Hall to score and Stephen to move to third. First baseman Preston Palmeiro got Bowie out of the jam, backhanding a groundball off the bat of Arquimedes Gamboa to start a double play.
The Baysox scored one in the bottom of the inning, getting three straight singles from Diaz, Carlos Perez and Valentin to cut the Reading lead to 2-1.
A Rylan Bannon fielders’ choice moved Perez to third, and Bannon took second after a pitch from right-hander Connor Seabold grazed Martin Cervenka’s bat and got past Lartigue behind the plate. But the Baysox were unable to capitalize, with Cervenka striking out and Palmeiro grounding out.
Britton’s frustration finally boiled over in the fifth inning. Following a questionable 3-1 strike call on McKenna, he sprinted toward home plate umpire Takahito Matsuda and launched into an expletive-laden rant. Matsuda ejected Britton from the game, and the first-year manager took his time leaving the field, strolling down the Prince George’s Stadium right-field line to the Baysox clubhouse. McKenna struck out, and Diaz followed with a double play to end the inning.
“It definitely gets you going a little bit,” Bannon said of Britton’s ejection. “He’s a good umpire but he had a tough night back there….Coach definitely fired us up tonight.”
Perez hustled for an infield single and Valentin was walked to start the sixth inning, but Cleavinger struck out the side. In the seventh inning, McCoy got his first hit of the night on an infield single, only to be thrown out at second by Lartigue on a Cedric Mullins fielders’ choice. McKenna followed Mullins with a line drive to second base that froze Mullins, allowing Gomez to throw to first and easily retire the runner.
But Bowie rallied in the eighth, improving to just 5-37 when trailing after seven innings. The Baysox remain tied with the Erie SeaWolves for the lead in the Eastern League’s Western Division for the second half of the season with the win, which they are hoping gets them back on track. Over the weekend, Bowie lost three out of four to Binghamton, snapping a 14-game series winning streak.
“We were talking as a coaching staff… this is a big game,” Britton said. “That Reading team is a good ball club. The winner of that first game is going to set the tone and the way the momentum shifted late at the end, hopefully, we can kind of ride that because these are going to be tough ball games.”