The Aeros may have been trailing by two runs entering the ninth inning Sunday, but to this season’s squad, a game is never over till the final out is in the books.
Such a relaxed and confident approach has helped the Aeros stage their share of rallies and come-from-behind wins en route to becoming the Eastern League’s top team with a 65-43 record.
Trailing visiting Bowie 5-3 in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon at a sun-splashed Canal Park, the team began its rally promptly. However, this time a victory did not follow, as the Baysox held on for a 5-4 win and series split.
“It says a lot about the team and the way it’s been this year that you go into the ninth with two runs down and here we are a couple hitters later with runners at second and third, one out and a chance to win it,” Aeros manager Chris Tremie said.
Shortstop Juan Diaz sparked the rally when he led off the ninth inning with a double down the right field line that spelled the end of left-handed reliever Chris Petrini’s outing. Petrini, who earned a hold, was trying to finish the game for starter Rick Zagone, whom he’d relieved in the sixth inning.
But a new pitcher in Baysox reliever Kyler Newby didn’t seem to make much of a difference, as Aeros first baseman Adam Abraham came through with a clutch single that scored Diaz and pulled the host to within a run. It was Abraham’s third hit of the game.
“We don’t ever panic when we’re down,” said Abraham, playing in just his second game since returning from a back strain and sore ankle. “No one puts more pressure on themselves to have to get it done. We all just do our jobs individually and make it work as a collective group.”
It appeared the Aeros might do just that once again in the ninth, aided by a suddenly jittery Bowie defense that advanced two Aeros runners on base with one out via a wild pitch and then botched a potential game-ending double play.
But with catcher Michel Hernandez on third base and second baseman Davis Stoneburner on first with two outs, center fielder Tyler Holt hit into a game-ending force out.
“That’s pretty much what we’ve done all year, rally late,” Tremie said. “And more often than not, we’ve come out on top. Today, unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the fly ball or the base hit to put the game away.”
Tied in fourth
The Aeros took the lead on designated hitter Nick Weglarz’s RBI single that scored Holt, who had walked to lead off the first inning. But the Baltimore Orioles No. 2 prospect, Bowie shortstop Manny Machado, tied the game in the fourth with a solo home run off Aeros starter and eventual loser Matt Packer.
“He’s a very talented player with a lot of tools,” Tremie said of Machado, who went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored while also making a pair of nice defensive plays. “He’s got a lot of potential with a very high ceiling.”
In the fifth inning, Zagone dished up a leadoff double to Abraham. He regrouped briefly to get the next two outs, but then fell behind and walked the next two Aeros batters, loading the bases.
Right fielder Jordan Henry quickly made Zagone pay, lining a single up the middle just past the outstretched glove of the second baseman and into center field for a 3-1 lead. But Machado struck again for Bowie in the sixth inning, doubling down the left-field line against Packer to score third baseman Ty Kelly. The run trimmed the Akron lead to 3-2 and marked the end of Packer’s outing after 5? innings.
Right-hander Shawn Armstrong took the mound, but walked the first batter he faced. Then Baysox designated hitter Robbie Widlansky scored on a passed ball to tie the score. Bowie continued the rally against Armstrong, with left fielder Buck Britton blooping a run-scoring single into shallow center field for a 4-3 advantage.
The game might have ended differently if the Aeros bullpen could have held the Baysox from there. Instead, Bowie added a key insurance run in the seventh on Widlansky’s two-out solo homer off Aeros 7-foot reliever Loek Van Mil.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Aeros blog at www.ohio.com/aeros. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.