After taking two of three games against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, the Somerset Patriots start a three-game series against the Camden Riversharks tonight at TD Bank Ballpark. Tonight, southpaw Graham Taylor takes the hill for the Patriots against Brian Bass for the Riversharks at 7:05 p.m. with fireworks after the completion of the game. Tonight’s game is the first meeting of 2013 for the New Jersey teams.
While it’s early in the 2013 Atlantic League season, the Somerset Patriots have shown a gritty resolve in starting 18-8. Of those 18 victories, 10 are come from behind wins and that is due to the strong offense the Patriots put on the field every night along with a bullpen that has been locking down opponents. North Planfield native Jon Hunton leads the league with 11 saves, including a streak of 10 consecutive save conversions that was broken on Wednesday night.
The Patriots have three of the top ten batting average leaders in the Atlantic League with Eddy-Martinez Esteve, Piscataway’s Corey Smith and Luis Montanez. In addition, Somerset has drawn more walks (104) than any other offense in the Atlantic League while the pitching staff has allowed the least (62).
Somerset trails the Sugar Land Skeeters by 3.5 games in the Freedom Division going into this series, with Sugar Land playing the fourth of six games against Bridgeport.
Somerset’s strong start to 2013 can also be attributed to players that have already left the team. Shortstop Yunesky Sanchez was the Atlantic League player of the month for April, hitting .381 with five home runs and 15 RBI in 10 games played.
Sanchez hit over .600 for Spain in the World Baseball Classic and was coming off a strong second half of 2012 for the Patriots which led to his signing with Oaxaca of the Mexican league.
On Wednesday, opening day starter and Timothy Christian High School alum Erik Arnesen was picked up by the Oakland A’s Double-A affiliate while former Seattle Mariner Mike Wilson went to the Triple-A affiliate of the Sand Diego Padres. Arnesen had a 3-1 record with a 4.10 ERA through five starts, striking out nearly a batter an inning.
Wilson was solid in the outfield and at the plate, giving the bottom half of the lineup some pop by hitting .325 with three home runs and 18 RBI with 14 runs scored, 12 walks and five doubles.
In contrast to Somerset’s hot start, Camden comes in at 9-18 overall, trailing the aforementioned Bridgeport Bluefish by four games in the Liberty Division standings. Camden took two of three games against Lancaster earlier this week but is only 3-7 over their last ten contests.
Recent Camden signee Delwyn Young leads the team with a .381 average while Paddy Matera and Raul Padron are hitting .306 and .293 respectively. Matera leads the Riversharks in runs, hits, doubles and home runs early in the season. Former Patriot Johnny Drennen leads Camden in RBI with 19.
With the Patriots showing a flare for the dramatic, this series should be exciting and it looks like a great weekend to come out and watch. Keep up with Somerset Patriots news here on Double G Sports.com and via Twitter (@philipgmathew) where we live tweet during the games.