There is no word that can describe what took place on Wednesday night at Clipper Magazine Stadium in game two of the ALPB North Division championship series.
The ‘Stormers lost game one of the series 2-1 to the Blue Crabs, who starved off a late comeback attempt to preserve the win in back-to-back ALPB pitcher-of-the-year Darryl Thompson’s near complete-game. The tying run was on third base when Trayvon Robinson was punched out of strikes to end the contest.
Down 1-0 in the series, things went from bad to worse for the home team in the top of the 1st inning. Usually prolific starting pitcher Brooks Hall surrendered four runs in the frame, putting the ‘Stormers in a deep hole that would be very difficult to get out of. For a long while, it looked like the ‘Stormers had no intentions of even attempting to get themselves out of that hole.
The lineup could only muster five hits throughout the first 6 innings of the game, failing to get any solid contact against Southern Maryland starting pitcher Mitch Lambson. The team finally showed some life in the 7th inning when Jacob Barfield deposited a Mitch Lambson fastball just over the right-field wall to give the ‘Stormers their first two runs of the evening and reduce the Blue Crab lead to just two. Meanwhile, Hall recovered extremely well from his disastrous first inning, allowing just four hits in his next 5 innings of work and not allowing another run to score while he was on the mound.
“Brooks did a great job of keeping us in the game,” said ‘Stormers manager Ross Peeples. “We just kept competing.” However, any momentum that Barfield’s home-run created immediately disappeared when the Blue Crabs answered right back with two runs in the top 8th inning. The ‘Stormers clawed one back in the bottom half, again on a Barfield RBI-hit, but yet again Southern Maryland returned the favor in the top of the ninth.
Heading into the bottom of the 9th inning, the ‘Stormers were down 7-3 and had no more than a miracle’s chance at a comeback. Spoiler alert: they came back.
The miraculous comeback started when a bad hop on a ground ball hit by Anthony Peroni bounced over the head of the second baseman. Peroni wasn’t even supposed to play in the game, but starting catcher Chris Proctor was ejected in the 6th inning arguing a call at second base.
Shawon Dunston Jr. continued the rally with a single, followed up by a strikeout and a controversial single hit by Andretty Cordero that plated Peroni. The ball was initially believed to be caught by center fielder Zach Collier, but the umpires ruled otherwise. Upon my personal review of the play, the frame-by-frame video showed that Collier caught the ball. But what’s the fun in that?
Ariel Sandoval promptly hit a three-run home-run to tie the game and send the 3,796 fans at Clipper Magazine Stadium into a frenzy.
The game stayed tied and went into the extra innings as a result. Think the game’s been crazy so far? Buckle up, buttercup.
With two runners on base and only one man out, the Blue Crabs were in prime position to take the lead in the top of the 10th. When David Harris lined a single up the middle, it looked as if the Blue Crabs were surely going to take the lead and be in great position to shut down the game and take a 2-0 series lead.
Oh, what’s that? Ariel Sandoval still exists. Sandoval uncorked a cannonball of a throw to home plate, where Jack Sundberg was tagged for the second out. Peroni then gunned the ball to Jake Hoover (remember that name), who threw to Anderson Feliz at third base to tag Michael Wielansky out to end the inning.
With one out in the bottom of the 10th inning, Jake Hoover hit a Connor Law fastball just over the wall for a home-run, winning the game for the Barnstormers and evening up the series at one-a-piece.
“When I hit it, I was like that’s gotta be way gone,” said Hoover. “It’s really humid out right now… I know at the end of the season the ball just doesn’t go as far.”
The ‘Stormers used five pitchers out of the bullpen, and West Tunnell was credited with the win. Connor Law was credited with the loss, and Endrys Briceño surrendered the blown save.
“We talked before the series started about playing 27 outs,” said Peeples. “That’s what we did. That was probably one of the best games I’ve seen.”
The rest of the series will be played this weekend in Waldorf, Maryland. Game three is on Friday, and the ‘Stormers are slated to pitch Nile Ball up against Alex Merithew.
“We’ve hit him (Merithew),” said Hoover. “The only guy we’re really worried about and really try to get a plan on is Daryl (Thompson).”
Elsewhere in the Atlantic League, High Point won their game 11-4 to even up the South Division’s series. The winner of that series will play the winner of the ‘Stormers/Blue Crabs series for all the marbles.