Lakewood Keeping Things Close

If you're in the mood for an exciting baseball game, look into purchasing tickets for a Lakewood BlueClaws game. The BlueClaws have been involved in eight one-run games in their last nine outings, including six straight one-run games on their recent home stand. Two of those six games were decided in extra innings with one going 15 innings.

The 2007 BlueClaws are beginning to define their style of play early in the South Atlantic League season. Prior to coming home for six games the BlueClaws watched West Virginia take two games from them in their last at bat. To make matters worse, the two walk off losses occurred on the same day as a part of a double-header due to the weather. The BlueClaws reversed their fortunes in the first game of their home stand by rallying from a five-run deficit to win a 6-5 contest over Delmarva. The following night saw the BlueClaws drop a 5-4 decision in 15 innings in which their pitchers fanned a total of 21 Shorebird batters. The BlueClaws looked as if they would take Fridays' game against Delmarva leading 2-0 going into the ninth, but the Shorebirds put up a four spot in the ninth to go ahead 4-2. The BlueClaws rallied in the ninth but came up short stranding the tying run on third to lose 4-3.

Then, on Saturday, the Hagerstown Suns visited Lakewood and the results were much the same as the Suns scored three runs in the seventh and one in the eighth to win 7-6. Sundays' game had an all too familiar feel for the BlueClaws and it looked like the BlueClaws were on their way to a fourth straight heartbreaking loss before designated hitter Jay Miller hit a two-run homer to put the BlueClaws ahead 4-3. Ronald Hill came on for the save and the BlueClaws treated a crowd of 7,348 to a thrilling 4-3 victory.

Could the final game of the home stand live up to the previous 5 games?

Oh, it certainly did, going 11 innings with an exciting finish on a wild play. The BlueClaws trailed 1-0 for eight innings before getting a one-out RBI double off the left field fence from first baseman Matt Reed in the bottom of the ninth. Reed brought the crowd to their feet with a long drive to left that just missed going over the fence for a two-run walk off homer. Reed was stranded at second and the game would go to extra innings. Hagerstown loaded the bases in the tenth with one out, but Andrew Cruse would strikeout the next two hitters to work out of the jam. That brought Matt Reed to the plate in the eleventh with Gus Milner on second and Tuffy Gosewisch on first. Reed hit a fly ball to left that looked like an easy out, but a miscommunication between the shortstop and left fielder let the ball drop in. Milner had to hold at second and appeared to be dead at third on a force out, but the throw from left fielder Joe Napoli went wide of third letting Milner score from third to win the game for Lakewood 2-1.

The 2007 season has certainly wracked the nerves of Manager Steve Roadcap with the consecutive one run games. Roadcap wasn't always happy with the outcome, but he focused on the positives. "The games are character building, you find out a lot about individuals in these tight games." Roadcap also found out a lot about his bullpen during this stretch. "The bullpen may fail on occasion, but I wouldn't take any bullpen in the league over ours." Roadcap may have been slightly stressed over the last couple weeks, but he summed it up with what this game is all about. "It's a lot of fun", concluded Roadcap, on his teams' play over the last nine games. The players had a positive outlook on the one run games as well. "The games are exciting, we're always fighting to get that one run", said Monday night's starting pitcher, Jarrod Freeman. "It's a real testament to our bullpen, they've done a good job for us and if we get a couple big hits we could easily have a few more wins", said BlueClaws shortstop Jason Donald. Starting catcher Tuffy Gosewisch put a positive spin on the close games as well, "Its good to play these games early in the year so we'll be prepared for these games later in the season, but I wouldn't mind a blowout". Wishful thinking Tuffy. Lakewood dropped the first game of their road trip 5-4 in 12 innings Tuesday night at Delmarva.

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