Akron Survives To Force Game Four in Eastern League Semifinal Series; Aeros 4, Baysox 3
By Ronnie Tellalian
Excellent pitching was the order of the day as the Akron Aeros faced elimination in game three of the Eastern League Western Division series, but poor defense made all the difference. Thanks to two costly errors by the Baysox, the Aeros stay alive with a 4-3 win.
The pitchers did their jobs today as the staffs of both teams combined to allow only 10 hits and rack up 17 total strikeouts. Taking the mound for the Akron Aeros was 22-year old Danny Salazar (4-0, 1.85). Salazar started the year in Carolina, where he pitched to the tune of a 2.68 ERA in 16 starts. The Aeros this year are 5-1 when Danny takes the mound. Countering, the Baysox trotted out 2012 1st round draft pick Kevin Gausman (0-1, 3.60 A- and A+). Another of the bright young arms in the Orioles organization, Gausman dominated colleget ball last year at LSU with a record of 12-2.
Gausman showed why the Orioles made him the 4th overall pick by striking out five batters in his three innings of work, allowing only two hits in shutting down the Aeros. Bowie drew first blood as Buck Britton turned on a high breaking ball, pulling it down the line for a stand up double to start the top of the 3rd. Two batters later, Wheeler crushed the first pitch he saw from Salazar. Wheeler had been brilliant all series with his glove, now he showed off his stick. Aeros left fielder Adam Abraham just turned and watched it go, as Wheelers two run blast gave the Baysox the early lead.
Pickings were slim for Akron, as they managed only two hits through the first five innings, but luck was on their side in the sixth. Davis Stoneburner got the wild inning going.
“I knew I was getting something off speed,” Stoneburner said. “I didn’t want to do too much with it, I just tried to stay back and let my hands do the work.”
The simple approach paid off with a stand up double to lead off the inning. Roberto Perez followed with a walk, and then the Aeros got on the board with an RBI single from center fielder Tyler Holt. The recently slumping Chun Chen walked to load the bases, and that’s when the baseball gods smiled on Canal Park.
Jesus Aguilar took an off balance hack at an Eddie Gamboa changeup, and blooped it into right field. Ronnie Welty came charging in for the catch, but took his eye off the ball at the last second to check the runners. That glance cost him, because the ball bounced off the heel of his mitt and dribbled towards the infield. The base runners moved up a station, and the game was tied with the bases still loaded and only one out.
Matt Lawson came to the plate next and hit a flare off the end of his bat to Rhyne Hughes at first. Hughes catches the ball, and, apparently forgot about the runner on third and fired to second to try and double up Chen. Chen was safe easily, but the heads up Holt scampered home for the go-ahead run.
“[Hughes] wasn’t paying attention [to me],” Holt said. “As soon as he turned to throw, I just took off.”
The scoring didn’t end there, with two outs and runners now on first and second, Adam Abraham hit an easy ground ball to the sure handed Zelous Wheeler. Wheeler had made some terrific defensive plays all series, but this one slipped right under his glove for the Baysox second error of the inning. Chen scored on the gaff to make the score 4-2 Aeros.
Danny Salazar pitched very well in the Aeros elimination game, (5.1in 2er 3h 8k) and he gave way to Bryce Stowell. Against Stowell, the Baysox were able to get one back in the seventh. Wheeler got a chance to make up for his error when he came to the plate after a Ronnie Welty single. He capitalized on the opportunity by smashing a Stowell fastball off the wall in center field for an RBI stand up double.
That would be all the threat Bowie could muster however, as the Eastern League saves leader Preston Guilmet came on in the eighth to attempt a rare two inning save. Guilmet faced the minimum, striking out three of the six batters he faced. Bryce Stowell recorded the win, and the Akron Aeros staved off elimination at home in game three.
Another win-or-go-home game awaits the Aeros tomorrow at 7:05pm. LHP Jake Petit (11-3, 3.86) takes the mound for the Bowie Baysox, and the Akron Aeros will send RHP Toru Murata (3-1, 2.60). Chris Tremie’s crew will try to defend Canal Park again, stretch the series to a fifth and deciding game, and advance to the Eastern League Finals for the first time since 2009.
Photo: Matthew White/DTTWLN.com