The Lancaster Barnstormers used brilliant and creative defense to turn an unusual double play in the top of the ninth to hold a 5-4 victory over the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Saturday evening at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
For the Barnstormers, the win was the fifth in the last six games.
Cody Eppley entered to save the one-run victory for the Barnstormers, but Dean Green led off the inning with a double to the gap in right center. He left for pinch runner Travis Witherspoon. Cory Vaughn’s shattered bat forced Eppley to duck while a slow dribbler bounced past to the third base side of the mound, putting runners at first and third.
Lancaster manager Ross Peeples decided to play for the win and not the tie. The move paid off greatly. Charlie Valerio, whose three-run homer in the seventh brought the Blue Crabs within a run in the seventh, rapped a sharp grounder to second baseman Melvin Mercedes. Mercedes fired home, and the Barnstormers trapped Witherspoon in a rundown. Anderson De La Rosa chased Witherspoon back toward third and flipped to third baseman Joe Terdoslavich for the first out. Vaughn attempted to sneak into third, but shortstop Zach Shank raced to cover the bag, handled a toss by Terdoslavich and applied the tag to complete the 4-2-5-6 double play.
Eppley got Tony Thomas to ground to short for the final out, earning his 15th save.
Southern Maryland struck first as Rubi Silva’s bunt single with two outs in the second scored Valerio. Lancaster quickly countered on a leadoff homer by Destin Hood in the bottom of the inning.
A quirky fourth inning produced the remainder of the Barnstormers’ offense. Andrew Aplin led off with a bunt single off Dusten Knight (0-1) and stole second. Hood reached on a third strike wild pitch with Aplin heading to third. K.C. Hobson reached on a swinging bunt single toward third to drive home the inning’s first run. Anderson De La Rosa lined a single to center to load the bases. Lancaster went ahead, 3-1, on a grounder to third by Zach Shank with a momentary bobble by Tony Thomas costing the chance for either a double play or a force at home. Darian Sandford chimed in with a two-run bloop single to left center for the 5-1 lead.
Jared Lakind (4-4) fended off challenges to his lead over the next two innings, finishing the sixth having allowed six singles and three walks.
Valerio connected off Logan Sawyer on a 2-2 breaking ball in the seventh, following singles by Joe Benson and Green to pull the Blue Crabs within one. Pedro Echemendia picked up the final out of the seventh, and Scott Shuman shrugged off a leadoff “steal” of first base in the eighth, striking out two.
The series finale is slated for 1:00 on Sunday afternoon. Lancaster will send John Anderson (5-5) to the mound against right-hander Kyle Simon (1-2, 2-5). Fans may tune into Blue Ridge 11 or the Barnstormers YouTube Channel, beginning with the first pitch.
NOTES: Terdoslavich failed to extend his hitting streak to a tenth game…Aplin has hit safely in eight straight and Hood seven…The Barnstormers reached five runs for the sixth game in a row…Sandford stole two bases to increase his league leading total to 44…Caleb Gindl, moved up to the leadoff spot, drew two more walks and now has 14 in the last seven games…Both of Lakind’s wins at home have come against Southern Maryland.