NEW JERSEY – It took 4 hours and 11 minutes, but the Somerset Patriots (18-10) eventually prevailed in a 2-1 victory over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (11-17) on Saturday evening.
The winning run was scored when the Patriots came up-to-bat in the bottom of the 13th inning. Despite the fact that Blue Crabs’ closer Erik Hamren had a road stat-line of eleven strikeouts in seven innings pitched, the 6’1 hurler faced the meat of the Patriots lineup.
Leading off the inning, 2B Nate Spears doubled to right field, RF Luis Montanez laced a single up the middle, and 3B Corey Smith induced a walk to load the bases. DH Ty Wright had a 3-2 count, but showed lack-of-discipline swinging on a ball out the zone that would have sent Spears in to win the game. Fear not: with one out and bases still loaded, 1B Robbie Widlansky stepped to the plate. After fouling off the first pitch, Widlansky drilled a groundball up the middle, advancing to first with a RBI fielder’s choice that sent Spears dashing across home plate.
The offense in the 13th inning was not representative of the previous 12. Patriots’ lefty Matt Zielinski had a solid night, throwing seven strikeouts in just as many innings; his only blemish coming in the first inning after a RBI double from 1B Cyle Hankerd scored RF Jermaine Mitchell. The Patriots gave Zielinski some run protection in the fourth, when catcher Adam Donachie scored 3B Corey Smith from second base with a RBI single. The score remained 1-1 until Spears’s winning run, setting up a pitching duel for the 5,730 in attendance at TD Bank Ballpark on a brisk night.
|To the 12th we head!|
This is not unusual for either team – each has struggled offensively this season, resulting in two of the lowest team batting averages in the Atlantic League. After giving up the first inning run, Zielinski scattered four hits over the next six frames and kept Somerset in the game. Brian Baker, the Blue Crabs’ starting right-hander, countered with four strikeouts in six innings, throwing 61 of his 90 pitches for strikes.
A leaping catch from SS Edwin Maysonet saved 6’9 pitcher Jon Hunton’s impressive 1-2-3 frame for the Patriots in the top of the 12th, and 5’11 righty Jason Lowey closed the win for the Patriots by cleanly maneuvering his way out of a two-out jam in the top of the 13th with runners on first and second. That set up the winning frame for the Patriots offense, a group that now has 10 come from behind victories on the season.
After a tough 3-2 loss in the series opener against the Blue Crabs on Friday, the Patriots look to take the lead in a four-game series Sunday afternoon at 1:05.
- Offensive opportunities were aplenty (the two sides left 25 runners on base – ten of which came in the final four innings), continuing a season-long trend for the Somerset Patriots: solid pitching but reluctant hitting. Manager Brett Jodie alluded before the game that hitting was a clear area of weakness for his team. “It’s a different guy every night coming out and contributing … which is a good thing,” Jodie said. “But, we’re gonna try to get more guys [hot].” Jodie added that he’d give the team a “B” grade on the season so far, citing that with better hitting, that grade could be improved.
- As Jodie mentioned, the Patriots offense has gotten contributions from different guys, and it was no different against the Blue Crabs on Saturday. Robbie Widlansky, who hit the game-winning RBI in the 13th inning, is on a bit of a streak: in Widlansky’s first 16 games, he only had four RBI. In the Florida-native’s last six games, he has eight RBI.
- In a bizarre moment, with the game tied through extra innings, a thick fog began to make its way into the ballpark, engulfing the outfield. Visibility was so bad that home plate umpire JB Torres even went into the outfield to check the sight himself. The game eventually resumed, after a lengthy delay, with the top of the 12th inning.
- Several Patriots extended hit streaks: Adam Donachie to 5 games, Luis Montanez to 4, and Robbie Widlansky to 6.
- The 13 inning game was the second longest game of the season for the Patriots (season opener lasted 17), and the match tied the longest extra-inning game of the year (4 hours and 11 minutes long on 4/25).
The Somerset Patriots and Southern Maryland Blue Crabs are a part of the Atlantic League.
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