BOWIE – By the end of May, the Bowie Baysox were struggling as they started the first half of the season with a record of 19-34. Development was at the top of their minds, not postseason play, for the coaching staff of the Baltimore Orioles Double-A affiliate.
Now, the Baysox are three wins away from becoming Eastern League champions.
Bowie’s half-season turnaround continued on Sept. 7 as outfielder Cedric Mullins, who went 5 for 6, hit for the club’s first cycle since 2012 to lead Baysox to a 12-5 in Game Four of the 2019 Western Conference Championship Series at FNB Field. With the win, Bowie wins the series 3-1 and will take on the Trenton Thunder in a five-game set starting on Sept. 10.
Mullins, who spent the majority of the year with Triple-A Norfolk, crushed a solo home run into left field to give Bowie a one-run lead. In the fourth inning, he connected with a single before stealing second base. He fired off an RBI single down the right-field line to drive in a run.
In the top of the seventh, Mullins connected with a triple as part of a five-run inning. His hit drove in two runs and gave Bowie a 12-1 lead. Mullins reached the cycle after he connected on a double in the ninth inning in his final at-bat. He became the first Bowie player since Manny Machado in 2012 to hit for the milestone. Infielder Preston Palmeiro added three hits and four RBIs to solidify the Baysox’s place in the championship series.
The new league format, split the season into two different tournaments, allowing the Baysox to bounce back from their poor early performances.
Bowie started the second half of the season winning 10 of their first 12 games and in first place in the division.
Despite a late surge by the Erie Seawolves, the Baysox clinched the Second Half Western Division title on Sept. 1. Even after clinching their playoff berth, Bowie was attempting the bounce back after losing three out of four games in their final regular-season series at Richmond.
“It was a tough start for Bowie in the first half and it takes a lot of character to go through a rough stretch like they did,” infielder Ryan Ripken said. “To really turn the page, it builds confidence and what I think, since I have come up here, is that the guys here really do believe…the confidence level is there.”
The Baysox started the series strong as Palmeiro’s triple to right field started a three-run eighth inning that led the home team to a 5-3 win. Yusniel Diaz, who was listed as a designated hitter for the contest, connected with a home run in the bottom of the sixth inning, setting the team up for their destructive late-inning performance.
First baseman Dante Bichette’s Game Two hit performance, 3 of 6 and two RBIs, was the catalyst for the Senators’ 5-4 victory in 12 innings on Sept. 5. Bichette connected on a single to drive in the game-winning run in extra innings while starting pitcher Andrew Lee kept Baysox hitters at bay for five scoreless innings.
After surrendering the game’s first four runs, Bowie bounced back in the sixth inning after catcher Carlos Perez pounced on a low pitch to hit a 3-run home run to lower the deficit. Ripken tied in the game in the bottom of the eighth inning with a solo home run to right field that landed in the woods behind the stadium. However, their bats would be silenced for the following four innings.
“In these playoff games, every little thing matter,” Manager Buck Britton said on Sept. 5. “Every little detail matter and it is the little things that get you beat and that is what happened tonight.”
Bowie took the series lead on Sept. 6 after infielder Anderson Feliz’s two-home run performance in Game Three drove in five runs for the 7-5 win.
The Senators fought back by scoring four runs in the eighth inning, but closer Cristian Alvarado earned his second save of the postseason by getting all three outs in the ninth inning, including ending the game with a strikeout.
Heading to Trenton for Game One of the championship series, Bowie has a chance to win its first league title since 2015.
While development continues to be the focus, Britton said this is the time of year where all the growth from the season comes out to win ball games in the playoffs.