The 2021 regular season was a fun one for the Orioles Double-A affiliate, the Bowie Baysox. Thanks in part to offensive players like mega-prospect Adley Rutschman and home run machine Kyle Stowers, along with the pitching prospect duo of Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, Bowie qualified for the championship series of the Double-A Northeast league by being one of its top two teams. That set them up for a best-of-five against Cleveland’s Double-A squad, the Akron RubberDucks, with the series getting under way last night.
Unfortunately for the Baysox, Rutschman and Stowers are up at Norfolk now. Hall hasn’t pitched for a while after a season-ending stress fracture in his elbow. Akron, on the other hand, is stuffed with prospects as the regular season hit its end. Five of Cleveland’s top 13 prospects took the field on Tuesday night for game 1 of the series. It’s a tough task. This team was #1 in the league for a reason.
The recap of the Baysox offense in the first game of the series is as follows:
Jordan Westburg led off the game with a home run.
That’s it. The remaining Baysox hitters went 0 for the rest of the game. They drew one walk across the whole lineup, picked up by Cadyn Grenier near the bottom of the order. A couple of errors got men on base at different times, but overall Bowie had zero at-bats with runners in scoring position and they only left two men on base.
In the meantime, they struck out a total of 11 times against Akron’s Peyton Battenfield, rated as the #17 prospect in this system by MLB Pipeline. Battenfield was acquired from the Rays at this year’s trade deadline for Jordan Luplow and DJ Johnson. The 2019 ninth round pick flourished in his first full season, combining for a 2.53 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and 131 strikeouts across 103 innings pitched between High-A and Double-A.
It’s not embarrassing to get shut down by that guy. Westburg and Gunnar Henderson are the only top 30 players in the Bowie lineup right now. But that’s not much consolation after losing the first game of a best-of-five series.
Bowie countered with Gray Fenter. From a standpoint of results, Fenter is probably the #4 or #5 pitcher in the season-ending starting pitching mix for the Baysox. Bowie had to play hard until the end of the season, though. No lining up pitchers for this series. So Fenter got the ball for game 1.
The 25-year-old righty Fenter kept Akron off the board for three innings to preserve the narrow 1-0 lead given by Westburg’s home run, allowing a single in each of the first two innings. The RubberDucks finally got to him in the fourth. Akron’s third baseman, Jose Fermin (who’s not one of the lineup’s top prospects,) led off with a single. Catcher Bryan Lavastida (Cleveland’s #13) then got onto the board with a two-run home run. Whoops.
Fenter was chased after giving up a couple more runners later in the inning, though his final line for the night included only the two runs. Cameron Bishop kept the inherited runners from scoring. However, after three innings from Bishop, Akron got its licks in against him as well when the seventh rolled around. First baseman Jonathan Engelmann (also not one of the lineup’s top prospects) led off the inning with a dinger. Two singles, a walk, and another single scored two more. Considering Bowie’s offense on the night, this was overkill.
One more problem for Bowie is that the rules of the series are that this was one of their two home games, so they’ve lost with that advantage. Maybe they can turn it around. It’s going to be Rodriguez on the mound for Bowie on Wednesday against Akron’s Xzavion Curry (#30 prospect in Cleveland system) as the series continues at 6:35. Short of getting no-hit or perfect gamed, the Baysox offense can’t do any worse.
Bonus Heston Kjerstad note
Heston Kjerstad posted a video to Twitter of himself back in the batter’s box taking some swings. Let’s hope this is the first of many positive signs on the road to his recovery.