BOWIE – The Bowie Baysox almost completed a miraculous comeback season.
After starting the year 7-23 and rallying to win the Eastern League’s Western Division second half title, the Baysox advanced to the Eastern League Championship Series by beating Harrisburg three games to one in the division series.
They were unable to keep that magic going, falling to the Trenton Thunder 3-1 in a best-of-five series.
Bowie split the first two games in Trenton, despite facing New York Yankees pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Luis Severino who were making rehab starts before returning to the big league club before the MLB playoffs. The Thunder would win two games at Bowie to clinch the Eastern League Championship.
Despite the loss, Baysox Manager Buck Britton said it was great for his team to get experience in postseason games.
“These guys want to win and the routine ground ball means a little bit more,” Britton said of postseason games. “I think it’s the closest thing you can get to playing in the big leagues and playing in that pressure situation where everything does matter. I think they’re getting valuable experiences where an error can cost you a game and a championship.”
The Baysox jumped on Montgomery early in game one. With runners on first and third and no outs in the top of the first, Montgomery’s errant pickoff throw allowed Cedric Mullins to score, and Yusniel Diaz’s double scored Anderson Feliz to give Bowie a 2-0 lead. The Thunder responded in the bottom of the third with an RBI single from Kyle Holder and an RBI groundout from Brandon Wagner tied the game.
Angel Aguilar homered to give Trenton the lead in the bottom of the fifth, and the Thunder added three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. After the first inning, the Baysox had runners reach base in innings 4-6 and the eighth but failed to capitalize.
Bowie bounced back in Game 2 thanks to a strong start from Cody Sedlock. The Baltimore Orioles’ 2016 first-round pick gave up just one run on four hits in five innings. After giving up an RBI single to Trenton’s Kellin Deglan in the bottom of the first, Sedlock retired the next nine batters and worked out of a jam with two runners on base in the bottom of the fifth.
“He had a good mix of pitches and kept guys off-balance,” Britton said before Game 3. “He gave us exactly what we needed out of him so that was impressive.”
Bowie helped Sedlock with three runs in the top of the third to take the lead. A one-out single by Cedric Mullins sent T.J. Nichting home, a Diaz RBI triple added another run and later Diaz himself when the errant cutoff throw by Thunder second baseman Hoy Jun Park sailed out of play.
A sacrifice fly from Mason McCoy in the fourth and an RBI groundout from Carlos Perez extended the lead, while Nichting added a two-run single in the seventh. The Baysox bullpen gave up one run in the last four innings to preserve a 7-2 win and tie the series.
Zac Lowther was scheduled to take the mound for the Baysox in Game 3 but was moved to the injured list before Game 2 due to “general soreness” Britton said. While stating it was nothing serious, the first-year manager said he did not want to jeopardize Lowther’s future after an outstanding season. Lowther led the Eastern League in wins (13) and strikeouts (154) while posting a 2.55 ERA.
“He’s pitched a lot of innings for us and been a workhorse for us,” Britton said. “There’s no sense in trying to push the guy. He would’ve taken the ball for us but I think it’s something where we have to pull back the reigns a little bit and get the guy ready for next year.”
Alex Wells, who was originally the Game 4 starter, moved his start up a day, though he was still pitching on normal rest. The Australian lefty was locked in and needed only 58 pitches to get through six innings. The only mistake he made came in the top of the second to Eastern League MVP Chris Gittens, who crushed a ball over the center field fence to give the Thunder a 1-0 lead.
Bowie saw similar results against Trenton pitcher Clarke Schmidt but broke through in the fifth when an RBI single from Mullins tied the game.
That set the stage for a dramatic top of the seventh. Wells gave up three-straight singles to load the bases, then struck out the next two batters. With catcher Brian Navarreto locked into a 1-2 count, the Thunder’s Park broke from third base and stole home for the go-ahead run. As a left-handed pitcher, Wells could not see anything since he had already come to set. That was enough for the win, as Trenton won 2-1 and took a 2-1 series lead.
“He picked the right time to go, and I couldn’t hear anything,” Wells said postgame. “By the time I stepped off it was too late.”
After relying on excellent starting pitching this year, Bowie had to go with Tyler Herb for Game 4. Herb was demoted to Bowie after struggling in Triple-A, where he had a 3.95 ERA. At one point this year, the Baysox had five starters on their roster with an ERA less than 3.
Herb ran into trouble early. Deglan homered to lead off the second inning, and the Thunder added two more runs on a Rashad Crawford RBI single and a Holder RBI double.
Tayler Scott, who’s appeared in six games for the Orioles this year, relieved Herb in the third. He promptly gave up a leadoff home run to Gittens, pushing Trenton’s lead to 4-0. Deivi Garcia kept the Baysox at bay, not allowing a hit until a Mullins solo home run in the bottom of the sixth. Isiah Gilliam responded in the seventh with an RBI single for Trenton, and Bowie only mustered one more run on a solo home run by Feliz in the ninth.
It was the Thunder’s fourth league championship in franchise history and the first since 2013.