BOWIE – Having the bases loaded in the ninth inning is a dream scenario for most hitters and a possible nightmare for pitchers. However, the pitching performance by the Bowie Baysox rotation against the Harrisburg Senators on April 8 was nearly unflappable.
With two outs and the tying run on second base, left-handed pitcher Luis Gonzalez launched a fastball past the swinging bat of Senator’s infielder Jacob Wilson for the final out. A relieved Gonzalez fist-pumped the air before being surrounded by his teammates for the winning pitch.
Battling winds up to 12 miles per hour and temperatures in the 40s, Gonzalez’s strikeout did more than hold off a Senators’ comeback. Combined with an 11-strikeout performance by the Baysox pitching staff, Bowie split their season-opening series with Harrisburg by winning 6-4 in front of 2,468 fans at Prince George’s Stadium.
The win helped the Baysox (2-2) gather themselves after starting the season losing two of their first three games, including an opening day, 13-inning loss on April 5 and a 4-0 shutout defeat on Saturday, April 7.
Right-hander Christian Binford excelled in his Bowie debut, easing through seven innings and threw 64 strikes on 94 pitches. His only hiccup was a third-inning home run to Harrisburg shortstop Osvaldo Abreu. However, Binford finished striking out five batters in six innings and left eight runners strained on base.
“I just wanted to throw a really quick game,” Binford said jokingly. “There are a lot of things I could have done better, like four-pitch walks and not staying ahead of guys with first pitch strikes not being there, but I think it was just keeping the hitters on their heels and keep going after them (that lead to strikeouts).”
For Manager Gary Kendall, Binford’s performance was impressive but expected. When scouting the Boynton Beach native during the off-season, his ability to throw at the strike zone at a high rate impressed the pitching coaches, making him an easy addition to the rotation.
In the second inning, the Baysox scored back-to-back runs on walks with the bases loaded by Harrisburg pitcher Luis Reyes gave the Baysox the early lead. Baysox outfielder Cedric Mullins’ force out hit and designated hitter Corban Joseph’s single was driven past first base brought in two more runs.
The bats continued to find the ball for Bowie, largely through their newly acquired catcher Martin Cervenka and the returning Mullins. Cervenka, 25, originally from Prague in the Czech Republic, arrived at Bowie after driving in a career-best 57 runs last season playing with the Lynchburg Hillcats in the Carolina League.
The European continued his offensive production against Harrisburg going two-for-four, including starting off the fourth inning with a quick single. A bunt by second baseman Adrian Marin and Joseph’s second RBI single drove Cervenka home for Bowie’s fifth run of the game. In three games for his new ball club, he went 7-for-13 with two doubles, three runs batted in and scored five runs.
“(Cervenka) had a really good spring training; he can really catch and throw, he is getting some hits for us, and he’s making good adjustments at the plate,” Kendall said. “He’s a good kid, and all good things are going to happen to him (this season).”
Meanwhile, Mullins returned to Bowie after a productive season, finishing fifth on the team in home runs with 13. In the Baysox’s first three games, the 2015 Major League Baseball Draft pick already had four hits and three RBI.
It took the switch-hitter from North Carolina to his fourth at-bat of the game to finally get his first home run of the season, crushing a fly ball over the right field way for the Baysox’s sixth run of the game.
Left-hander Paul Fry maintained Bowie’s lead by pitching two shutout innings while striking out four batters. The Senators (2-2) attempted to mount a comeback late in the ninth inning with three runs off an RBI single by Abreu and a two-run single by center fielder Rafael Bautista on Bowie right-hander Ryan Meisinger.
However, Gonzalez closed the game with two strikeouts, earning his first save of the season.