The Bowie Baysox were looking for the upper hand in the Eastern League finals. Their pitchers did well enough to get it.
But on Thursday night, Trenton’s were just a little bit better.
The Thunder’s three-hitter trumped Bowie’s six-hitter, and a seventh-inning run lifted Trenton to both a 2-1 win and a 2-1 lead in the teams’ best-of-five series.
It’d be hard to put this defeat on the pitchers. Alex Wells, who was 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA during the regular season, was terrific, as was Steven Klimek. Wells went the first seven innings and allowed the two runs on six hits while striking out eight, and Klimek tossed two scoreless frames in relief.
But the Bowie bats were silent against Clarke Schmidt, who got the start and fanned nine in 4.2 innings while allowing two hits and one run. After James Reeves got a strikeout, Michael King pitched the remaining four innings and dazzled as well, allowing one hit, two walks and no runs while striking out five. Bowie hitters struck out 15 times in the game.
Trenton took the lead in the second, with Chris Gittens connecting for a leadoff home run on the second pitch of the inning.
Bowie drew even in the fifth. With one out, T.J. Nichting walked and then advanced to second on a groundout. That brought up Cedric Mullins, and on a 3-1 pitch the outfielder ripped a line drive to right field for one of his two hits, scoring Nichting and tying the game at 1.
Trenton took a page from old-school baseball for its go-ahead run. Hoy Jun Park singled to lead off the seventh, and then went to second and third on singles by Gittens and Isiah Gilliam that loaded the bases with no outs.
The Thunder had a golden opportunity, but appeared to be squandering it when Wells battled back to strike out Kyle Holder and then Angel Aguilar to come within one out of an escape. He never got it. Wells went up 1-2 on Brian Navarreto when Park broke for home, taking advantage of the fact that the lefty Wells had his back to third base. Park got in safely, putting Trenton ahead 2-1 on a steal of home.
Bowie was held scoreless in the last three innings, turning Park’s go-ahead run into the winning tally.
Still, the Baysox had a couple of chances to get the one run that could have made this an opposite outcome. The first came in the opening inning, after Mullins singled to lead off the game and stole second after the next two batters were retired. Carlos Perez had a runner in scoring position but popped out instead, ending the threat right there.
The second chance came in the seventh, when Bowie was trying to respond to Trenton’s go-ahead run. Mason McCoy drew a one-out walk and then took two bases one out later on a Preston Palmeiro single to center. Runners were at the corners, but Bowie again couldn’t get the big hit as Mullins picked a bad time for his only out of the game and went down on strikes.
Bowie won’t have to wait for its chance to pull even in the series again. The teams are back at it for Game 4 today, with a first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Tyler Herb (8-10, 5.82 during the regular season) will get the ball for Bowie, while Trenton’s starter will be determined later since King pitched tonight.