Bowie, Md. – A Wilson Betemit grand slam vaulted the Baysox to an 8-6 victory over the Erie SeaWolves Thursday night, clinching the team’s first playoff birth since 2008. With the win, the Baysox were able to earn the Western Division Wild Card spot.
A first round playoff matchup against the Western Division champion Akron Aeros looms, beginning Wednesday, September 5 after the team finishes the season with a trip to Harrisburg this weekend.
“It looks like a good Akron club is going to come in here and they are a team that deserves a lot of respect based on how they have played the whole year,” said Manager Gary Kendall. “We have our work cut out for us, but I like the way we have played against them. I think we are playing a little bit better and I think the last time we went there, we could have won the series.”
Baltimore Orioles infielder Wilson Betemit, who was with the Baysox on a Major League rehab assignment, started the game at third base. He went 2-4 and hit the go-ahead grand slam.
“I was feeling really good today,” Betemit said. “He gave me a good pitch to hit and I put a good swing on it. I was looking for something right down the middle and that’s where he threw it. It was a good feeling to help these guys get into the playoffs.”
Despite a playoff spot on the line for the Baysox, the game got off to a sloppy start as the two teams combined for four errors in the first inning. Each pitcher committed a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and Baysox center fielder Antoan Richardson made it all the way to third base before a hit was recorded thanks to a pair of errors.
Erie took an early lead in the top of the first inning against Baysox starter Eddie Gamboa. Jamie Johnson hit a lead off single to shortstop and moved to second base after a throwing error by Jonathan Schoop. Johnson moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt and scored when Nick Castellanos singled to center field to give the SeaWolves a 1-0 lead.
The Baysox tied the game in the bottom half of the inning against Erie starter Patrick Cooper. Richardson reached on a throwing error by second baseman Brandon Douglas and moved to third base after a throwing error on a pickoff attempt by Cooper. Left fielder Ty Kelly doubled to center field to plate Richardson and tie the game 1-1.
The SeaWolves took the lead right back in the top of the third inning. James McCann hit a lead off single and scored when Johnson tripled to left field. Niuman Romero followed with a two-run homerun to right field that gave Erie a 4-1 lead before an out had been recorded in the inning. After Gamboa retired the next two batters, he ran into more trouble. The next three batters singled with Rawley Bishop hitting an RBI single to center field that made the score 5-1.
The Baysox got one run back in the bottom of the third inning. Kelly drew a one out walk and moved to second base on a single to right field by Betemit. Designated hitter Robbie Widlansky plated Kelly with a single to center field that made the score 5-2.
Bowie stormed back into the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning. Catcher Caleb Joseph hit a ground-rule double to right field and moved to third base when second baseman Buck Britton singled to center field. Schoop followed with a RBI double to left field and Kelly drew a two out walk to load the bases. With one swing of the bat, Betemit put the Baysox back in the lead as he launched a grand slam into center field to make the score 7-5.
The Baysox added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth inning against Erie reliever Tyler Clark. First baseman Rhyne Hughes hit a lead off double to right field and scored when Britton doubled to right field to made the score 8-5.
Erie got one run back in the top of the ninth inning. McCann singled to center field and Johnson followed with a double to left-center field that moved McCann to third base. McCann scored on a wild pitch by Baysox closer Kyler Newby to make the score 8-6
Gamboa pitched six innings and allowed five earned runs on 10 hits while striking out five batters in the win. Baysox reliever Mike Belfiore pitched two scoreless innings in relief, not allowing a hit and striking out three batters. Newby pitched the ninth inning and allowed one run on two hits while striking out one batter for his 19th save of the season.
Cooper took the loss for Erie, pitching four innings and allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits while striking out two batters and walking two.
LHP Jake Pettit (10-3, 3.93) takes the mound for the Baysox tomorrow as the team plays the first in a five game series with the Harrisburg Senators to finish out the season.