BOWIE – Entering the Bowie Baysox clubhouse after their victory over the Harrisburg Senators on July 8, players surrounded each other with smiles and warm embraces.
Latin music blared out of the boombox with some players dancing while others enjoyed a slice of pizza. It was a joyful mood for a team that spent the past month struggling with injuries and poor results that dropped them to last place in the Eastern League’s Western Division standings.
For third-year player Ryan Mountcastle, the clubhouse atmosphere is the start of a new beginning to fight out of last place and compete after the All-Star break.
“Results will come,” Mountcastle said. “We should be finding our hot streak in the second half of the season.”
It was more than just an average series-clinching win for Bowie. The 8-4 victory over the Senators in front of 4,546 at Prince George’s Stadium was their first series win since taking two out of three games at Portland in early June. The Baysox bats hammered Harrisburg pitchers for 10 hits, and starting pitcher Luis Ysla struck out eight batters for his fifth win of the season.
While the Senators (46-43) started off the scoring with a second-inning solo home run by Austin Davidson, Bowie’s offense quickly started swinging afterward. Singles by D’Arby Myers and Erick Salcedo and a throwing error drove in three runs, giving Bowie a two-run lead.
In the bottom of the third, Mountcastle continued his hitting form from June with a smashing hit over the left field wall, barely missing the scoreboard, for a three-run home run. It was the Winter Springs, Florida native’s eighth home run of the season. He finished going two-for-three at-bat against Harrisburg.
Last month, the third baseman hit .324 with four home runs and 14 RBI. Mountcastle, 21, has become one of the team’s most reliable hitters, especially with the absence of outfielder Austin Hays, who has been sidelined since May 24. His strong season led to his selection to participate in the 2018 Sirius/XM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on July 15.
“He has been standing taller and getting a better picture of the ball as it is coming in,” Baysox Manager Gary Kendall said of Mountcastle’s development. “He’s got a good foundation, like his legs are underneath him and he has been putting in good swings of the ball (this year).”
Meanwhile, Ysla bounced back from a no-decision performance in a 4-3 loss at Erie on July 3 to throw out eight batters, tying a season-high.
Facing a bases-loaded, two outs situation in the fifth inning, Kendall came to the mount to talk to the left-hander before letting him fight out of the jam. Ysla forced infielder Dan Gamache to pop out, ending the inning with no damage.
“(Kendall) told me that he had the confidence in me to get the final out and to not lose the rhythm and focus I had all game,” Ysla said. “One knows how to battle out of situations like that because you are playing for your team and organization you represent. When he reminds of that, you try to give it your all day in and day out.”
Ysla’s night ended in the sixth following an RBI double by Adam Brett Walker II, that gave Harrisburg their second run of the day. Left-hander Zach Muckenhirn and right-handed Matthew Grimes pitched in for relief only allowing three runs in two and two-thirds innings of work.
As the Senators edged closer to the Baysox’s lead, their comeback was thwarted by a solo home run shot into left-center field by catcher Martin Cervenka in the bottom of the eighth.
Since being named one of the five players Bowie selected to the 2018 Eastern League All-Star Game on June 29, the 25-year old has seven hits and seven RBI. In Bowie’s 3-2 win on July 7th, Cervenka hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, adding to his auspicious start with Bowie.
“All the good things that have happened to him, he certainly deserves,” Kendall said. “He works so hard behind the plate. He continues to develop, he’s an All-Star, and we are very fortunate to have him.”
Bowie will have three days off for all-star break before going on a seven-game road trip to Reading and Altoona. With the second half of the year set to begin and hearing his players’ confidence, Kendall said he’s ready to show that the Baysox’s record does not reflect their on-field production.
“I want guys coming to the ballpark, wanting to win,” Kendall said. “I want them to develop, and through that development, you get wins. We are going to lose some close games but don’t get me wrong. I think, with our ballclub, if we pitch (well), we are going to score enough runs to win ball games, and hopefully, that can continue to happen into the second half (of the season).”