SOUTHERN MARYLAND BLUE CRABS 2015 YEAR IN REVIEW

FIRST HALF PLAY

8TH SEASON:  The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs took the field for their eighth season in franchise history on April 24th 2015 against the Somerset Patriots.  Excitement surrounded Regency Furniture Stadium as fans filed into the 6,000 seat ballpark on a sunny, 80 degree spring evening in Waldorf Maryland. Southern Maryland’s lineup opening day lineup contained four former big leaguers (F. Lewis, D. Ward, G. Molina, B. Snyder), the Crabs home run leader in 2014 (J. Opitz), and Blue Crabs veteran Cyle Hankerd, with veteran manager Stan Cliburn trying mix the right ingredients together. Despite banging out 14 hits, Southern Maryland was plagued by 15 runners that were left on base as they were downed by the Somerset Patriots 6-1.

MAY FLOWERS:  After finishing the first seven game homestand of the season 3-4, and exchanging wins and losses through the first 12 games of the season, the Blue Crabs began an eight game winning streak on May 7th by defeating the Camden Riversharks 5-1.  Southern Maryland completed a four game sweep of York, and a three game sweep of Sugar Land. The Blue Crabs ripped off another winning streak consisting of six games in the middle of May, with their three, four and five hitters, registering a league high .352 batting average, while driving in 15 runs overall, and finishing the month with a season
high 18 wins.  At this point in the year, the Crabs contained a strong hold of first place of the Freedom Division by six games with their record sitting at 21-14.  

A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES:  The Crabs finished the month of May hitting 33 points higher as a team (.263), driving in ten more runs (108), and allowing 39 less runs as a pitching staff as compared to the previous season of 2014.  

STAN THE MAN:  Manager Stan Cliburn was rapidly approaching his 1,500 victory for his managerial career.  Stan’s career began in 1988 in Watertown, NY.  The skipper led Augusta to the 1989 South Atlantic League Championship,while also managing 188 current and former Major League players.  On June 2nd, 2015 a bright light shined on the skipper who went on
to win his 1,500th game, defeating the Sugar Land Skeeters in Sugar Land, Texas 3-2.  Cyle Hankerd played hero by hitting a three run home run in the latter portion of the ballgame. The emotional Cliburn was doused with celebratory gifts and congratulations from players, coaches, lifelong friends, and league personnel alike.  

FIRST HALF CHAMPS:  Southern Maryland followed the winning formula from May winning nine of 12 games from June 11th to June 24th. In total, Southern Maryland won 16 games total in the month, clinched the 1st half Freedom Division title on July 1st with a victory of the Bridgeport Bluefish, and punched their ticket to the postseason.  

LEAGUE LEADERS:  As of June 11th Outfielder Fred Lewis was second in the entire league in walks (31), while catcher Gustavo Molina was tied for second in the league in homers (8), runs batted in (26), and slugging percentage (.521). The Crabs pitching staff also allowed a league low 17 runs to close out the month of June.

SUMMER HALE STORM:  RHP Jake Hale sat atop the Crabs rotation delivering fantastic numbers statistically.  Hale went 4-0 in June, striking out 19, and recording a three outings win streak from June 6th to June 17th.

BLUE CRABS ALL-STARS:  Southern Maryland sent six players to the 2015 Atlantic League All-Star game.  RHP Erik Hamren, Cody Eppley, and Jake Hale were joined by infielder’s Jake Opitz, and Zach Wilson, and outfielder Jamar Walton. Hale got the start in the game, while Jamar Walton ripped the game tying double in an eventual Freedom Division victory.

SECOND HALF PLAY

RIGHT OUT OF THE SHOOT:  When Play resumed on July 10th after the All-Star break, Southern Maryland began second half play at 4-0. The Crabs also outscored opponents 17-6 over that four game span.  

DOWNWARD TURN:  Most of the second half was not kind to Southern Maryland as they finished with a record of 27-43.  In the dog days of August, the Crabs dropped a season high six games from August 5th to August 9th, a five game losing streak from August 12 to the 16th, and a four game skid August 18th to the 21st.  The Blue Crabs finished the month of August with a league worst 9-20, and registered the highest ERA (4.93) among all Atlantic League teams.

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL:  After a miserable month of August, the calendar turned to September.  Despite going 8-12 in the final month of the season, the Blue Crabs finished the season winning three of four in the final week of the season.  The Crabs got RHPs Shaun Garceau, who won 13 games in the 2014 season with the Long Island Ducks back into their rotation, and Jon Leicester back from the Mexican League.  Newcomer Tim Sexton also transitioned from the bullpen to the starting rotation.  The right hander got the start on August 28th, going six innings, allowing a run on just five hits, and striking out seven to pick up his first Atlantic League win of his career against a dangerous hitting Long Island club.  

OFFENSIVE NUMBERS:  As of September 18th, Southern Maryland checked into play ranked in the top third of the league in various offensive catagories:

BATTING AVERAGE: T-2nd (.264)
OPS: 3rd (.717)
SLUGGING %: 3rd (.387)
SACRIFICE FLIES: 1st (44)
EXTRA BASE HITS: 1ST (352)

ABERCROMBIE AND PITCH:  Southern Maryland added outfielder Reggie Abercrombie via a trade to give some more punch to the lineup.  Reggie made his debut on September 11th, knocking in the game winning run in extra innings with an RBI double against York.  The veteran outfielder spent parts of three seasons at the Major League level with the Florida Marlins, and Houston Astros.

SWEET NELLY:  The Crabs added infield veteran Bryant Nelson to the roster in August.  Nelson was signed as a free agent on August 18th and ripped off an seven game hitting streak to give Southern Maryland a much needed boost.  

ZACH ATTACK:  Infielder Zach Wilson finished the regular season with 61 hits in 41 days.  Wilson also hit .365 with two homeruns and 22 runs batted in in his final 41 games.

BOOSTER CLUB AWARDS:  The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs booster club handed out its’ yearly awards for the 2015 season on the final regular season home game.  Zach Wilson took the award for the best batting average and most RBIs.  Other players receiving awards were outfielder Fred Lewis (hustle), Jovan Rosa (most homeruns), Casey Frawley (MVP), Antone DeJesus (gold glove), Shaun Garceau (best ERA), and Cody Eppley (best ERA for a reliever).

POSTSEASON PLAY

FREEDOM DIVISION CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES vs. LANCASTER

GAME ONE:  Southern Maryland defeated the Lancaster Barnstormers in game one of the Freedom Division Series by the final of 2-0.  Jovan Rosa got the scoring started driving a homerun over the wall in right field in the top of the second inning.  In the top of the seventh, Antone DeJesus drove in an insurance run in the top of the seventh with an RBI single to make it 2-0.  That was all RHP Daryl Thompson needed, as Daryl threw a complete game gem, allowing just two hits, and striking out 11 hitters.

GAME TWO:  Lancaster evened the series by winning game two by the final of 6-5, holding off a late Southern Maryland surge in the top of the ninth.  The Barnstormers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a Mike McDade RBI single.  The Crabs tied the game in the top of the fourth when Reggie Abercrombie ripped a single to left center allowing Casey Stevenson to score.  In the bottom of the frame the Barnstormers scored three runs, highlighted by Anderson Feliz two run homerun.  Feliz wasn’t finished as the third baseman drove in two more runs with an RBI double in the bottom of the seventh.  

GAME THREE:  The series shifted to Regency Furniture Stadium for game three.  RHP Jon Leicester took the ball and threw six innings, allowing a run on five hits, while striking out six.  From the onset, Southern Maryland was ready to play, as they sent nine men to the plate, scoring four runs that were highlighted by Jamar Walton’s two run single.  The Blue Crabs added an insurance run in the seventh on Casey Frawley’s solo homerun, and in the eighth on Craig Maddox RBI single to right field to bring the score to it’s final of 6-1.

GAME FOUR:  Celebration was in order for the Crabs who were up 2-1 in the best of five series, with the opportunity to clinch with a win in game four.  The Crabs banged out 10 hits, while scoring six runs overall.  RHP Tim Sexton held Lancaster scoreless throwing 7.2 innings, striking out eight, and surrendering just six hits.  The Blue Crabs went into the bottom of the seventh up 2-0, and pushed across four runs highlighted by Casey Frawley’s three run homerun.  RHP Justin Berg finished off Lancaster in the ninth to seal the 6-0 victory and the Freedom Division Championship for Southern Maryland.

ATLANTIC LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES vs. SOMERSET

GAME ONE:  With bad weather approaching, Southern Maryland and Somerset did battle in game one in Bridgewater, New Jersey.  Southern Maryland jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth on Zach Wilson’s RBI single.  Somerset took the lead for the first time in the bottom of the fourth on David Vidal’s two run home run over the wall in right field.  In the top of the fifth, the Blue Crabs scored four runs highlighted by Fred Lewis’ three run bomb over the wall in right field.  Zach Wilson drove in two more runs in the top of the ninth inning with a two run home run to right to add insurance runs for Southern Maryland.  RHP Daryl Thompson pitched 7.2 innings, allowing three runs on five hits, and striking out eight.  

GAME TWO:  After game two was delayed for 73 minutes because of rain, Somerset took the lead in the bottom of the fourth scoring three runs on Mike Wilson sacrifice fly, and Greg Hopkins two run single.  The scoring continued in the bottom of the fifth, on David Vidal’s two run single, Casey Frawley’s error at short, and Greg Hopkins fielder’s choice to make it 7-1.  The Crabs added one more run in the bottom of the sixth on Jovan Rosa’s RBI single but fell short by the final of 7-2.  

GAME THREE:  The skies opened, and pushed back game three for two days. The ballgame was finally played on Sunday, October 4th and Somerset came out swinging.  In the top of the first with a runner on base, Matt Fields climbed in and ripped a two run shot over the wall in right field.  Fields stepped to the plate in the top of the third with a runner on base once again, and drove a two run homerun over the wall in right field to make it 4-0 Somerset.  The Patriots continued to use the weather elements to their advantage offensively.  With the winds blowing out to right center, Aaron Eggleston lifted a homerun over the wall in right to bring the score to 6-0.  The Blue Crabs attempted to climb back into the game, receiving a three run homerun over the wall in left field to cut the lead in half to 6-3.  The Patriots added one more run in the ninth and won by the final of 7-3 to take a 2-1 series lead.

GAME FOUR:  Facing elimination, Southern Maryland showed a glimmer of hope attempting to tie the series and gain the momentum back.  In the top of the first, the Blue Crabs left two runners in scoring position, and were never able to gain traction offensively.  Somerset took the lead in the top of the second on Thomas Neal’s solo homerun.  Fred Lewis’ RBI single tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second.  In the top of the seventh, Somerset scored two more runs on a single by Thomas Neal, and a passed ball uncorked allowing Matt Fields to score to make it 3-1 Somerset.  Southern Maryland attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth, but fell short of the mark with the tying run on base.

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