For the Somerset Patriots, the final home series of the first half did not work out as planned. Losing two out of three games was not the biggest problem – the lack of runs produced and losing multiple players made a huge difference in the outcomes.
On Friday, Paul Phillips made his last start for the Patriots. Phillips recently signed with the Lamigo Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League. Phillips was the Atlantic League leader in wins with eight and stood to take his ninth victory, after leaving with a 3-2 lead in the sixth.
However, Somerset reliever Derell McCall surrendered seven runs in the seventh to the Bluefish and the 9-3 deficit was too much to overcome. Leading Patriots hitter Freddie Bynum would hit his second home run of the year over the left field fence to cut the lead to 9-4 in the eighth inning but Bridgeport tacked on another run for the eventual 10-4 final.
Saturday saw one of the biggest crowds of the season and the Patriots looking for redemption. 7,789 fans came to TD Bank Ballpark and initially saw a pitcher’s duel between Somerset’s Doug Arguello and Bridgeport starter Jonah Bayliss.
The Bluefish would strike first off the bat of Brock Peterson, who hit a solo home run in the fourth inning. This was his league-leading 14th home run of the season. After stranding four base runners over the first five innings, the Patriots were able to get a run across in the sixth inning.
Right fielder Joe Holden led off with an infield single to third base and advanced to second on a balk by Bayliss. Center fielder Jonny Tucker hit a sacrifice bunt to move Holden over to third base. Designated hitter Jeff Nettles hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Holden and tie the game at one.
Bridgeport would answer in the seventh inning, with timely two-out hitting. Former Patriot Elliott Ayala singled to left field and stole second during center fielder James Simmons at-bat. Simmons would draw a walk to give the Bluefish runners at first and second. Shortstop Eddie Rogers took the first pitch to left-center field, scoring two and giving Bridgeport a 3-1 lead.
Bridgeport would tack on runs in the eighth and ninth innings to get the 5-1 final. Arguello worked seven innings, giving up four hits, three runs, one walk and striking out 10 Bluefish batters but took his third loss of 2012. Bayliss worked seven innings, giving up four hits, one run, one walk and striking out five Patriots for his second victory of the season.
Somerset needed to salvage a game in this series and were able to on Sunday evening with a 2-0 win. Patriots starter Mike MacDonald earned his third win of the season, after throwing seven shutout innings, striking out three.
Dan Hennigan reached on a bunt single in the third inning and scored on a Jonny Tucker RBI double for a 1-0 Patriots lead. Somerset tacked on an insurance run in the eighth with Hennigan scoring on an RBI single by Nettles.
Patriots closer Josh Rupe earned his 12th save and Somerset earned their 30th win of the season. Somerset goes on the road for the next week before the Atlantic League All-Star Game, taking place at Camden.
- Patriots 1B/DH Jesse Hoorelbeke will be out until the start of the second half with a back injury.
- Patriots OF Johnny Drennen sustained a concussion after being hit by pitch in the fourth inning of Thursday’s game against the Long Island Ducks.
- McCall stands to take the spot vacated by Phillips in the Patriots rotation.
- Look out for upcoming profiles on Patriots Yusuf Carter and Freddie Bynum, along with N. Plainfield High School’s Jon Hunton of the Ducks.
- Follow Phil on Twitter @philipgmathew