Game Report: Southern Maryland 11, Newark 4
The weather has not been kind to New Jersey baseball fans this season.
Last night, a thunderstorm rolled into Elizabeth just before 5 o’clock. I called the Bears’ ticket office to find out if the game had been called, but it was still on. The first half ends next week, so make up options were limited.
I slogged through the rain to get to the train station and I was soaked by the time I got to Newark, despite my umbrella.
But it was worth the trip. Former New York Met Art Shamsky was at the ballpark for some reason — I think he was going to throw out the first pitch — and I was able to get him to sign a baseball for my collection.
I was also able to get umpire Jim Tatum to sign a baseball card. Tatum had a relatively short Major League playing career, but he did hit the first grand slam in Colorado Rockies history and he finished his career with the New York Mets in 1998.
The game? Well, it was supposed to get started at 7:30, then 7:40… and it finally got underway just after 8 p.m. I don’t think anybody bothered to tell the starting pitchers that they were supposed to warm up for a 7:30 start.
The field conditions were terrible. The grounds crew pumped most of the water out of the flooded dugouts, but there were still puddles on the warning track. One grounds crew member was shoveling water out near the shortstop position, but every part of the field not covered by the tarp looked like a swampy mess. There were more than a few hits and errors caused by the field conditions.
The pitching matchup appeared to favor Newark. The Bears sent Jose Garcia (3-0, 4.15) to the hill against Southern Maryland Blue Crabs starter Kenny Baugh (5-3, 4.59). Early on, things worked out that way.
The Bears got on the board first, scoring two runs in the second aided by a balk and a throwing error by Southern Maryland catcher Octavio Martinez. The strung together four hits in the fifth to score two more runs and maybe could have had more, but Salomon Manriquez got thrown out at the plate to end the inning. Southern Maryland manager Butch Hobson knew when to pull his starter, and the Bears couldn’t do much against the Blue Crabs bullpen.
Garcia handled the Blue Crabs for five innings and got two quick outs in the sixth before the wheels fell off. He made a mistake to Patrick Osborn, and Osborn crushed it for a home run. Then he gave up a single to James Shanks. Pitching coach Mike Torrez came out to the mound; I don’t know what he said — maybe it was advice on how to give up home runs. Because that’s what Garcia did when he faced the next batter, Jeremy Owens. A hit for Jermy Acey and the third home run of the inning (by Octavio Martinez) turned a 4-0 lead into a 5-4 deficit.
Garcia wasn’t done, though. Bears manager Tim Raines left him in to give up a walk and a hit to put two on base before lifting him in favor of Kevin Mannix.
Mannix poured some gasoline on the fire by walking the first two batters he faced, then giving up three straight hits (including a home run by James Shanks) before recording the final out. When it was finally over, the Blue Crabs scored 11 runs in the inning and sent 15 men to bat. It was the most runs I’ve seen a team score in a single inning all year, and it put the game out of reach. Greg and his son headed for the exits, but I stuck it out until the end.
Ryan Bukvich came in to pitch the final three innings for the Bears and he showed some signs of progress. He yielded two hits and hit a batter, but he didn’t walk anyone and he struck out three. Michael Sandoval played the final two innings at third base, his first appearance since leaving Friday’s game with an injury.
But Somerset’s magic number dropped to 3, and the Bears all but lost whatever chance they had of catching the Patriots for the first-half title.
I get a two-day break from baseball, then I’m planning to make the trip to Camden for the weekend series between the Bears and the Riversharks.