BOWIE— The players for Bowie began arriving at Prince George’s Stadium about six hours before Game 1 of the Double-A Northeast League Championship Series against Akron.
Baysox manager Buck Britton would rather have had the players arrive later to conserve their energy, but he could understand their excitement.
That excitement built when Jordan Westburg, who started at shortstop, led off the first with a homer to right-center off Akron right-hander Peyton Battenfield. However, that was Bowie’s only hit as Akron took the series opener, 5-1, before an announced 1,494 at Prince George’s Stadium on Tuesday night.
Akron won the regular-season series, 8-4, but Bowie won 12 of its last 14 games to earn a spot in the postseason.
“They have a brand new team since we last saw them,” Bowie manager Buck Britton said. “[Manager Rouglas Odor] does a really good job with them. They do a lot of the same things. They’re very aggressive on the bases. They really played us tough.”
Battenfield, who was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays at the deadline in exchange for Jordan Luplow and DJ Johnson. shut down the Baysox throughout the rest of his outing, finishing with 10 strikeouts and no walks in seven innings.
Akron took the lead, 2-1, in the fourth with a two-run homer by catcher Bryan Lavastida off Gray Fenter, who has spent his 2021 season with Bowie. Fenter allowed two runs and four hits with four strikeouts and two walks in 3 2/3 innings.
Fenter, who was selected by the Orioles in the seventh round of the 2015 draft (223rd overall) out of West Memphis High School in Arkansas, was 3-3 with a 3.66 ERA during the regular season.
Baysox reliever Cameron Bishop entered in the fourth and hit the first batter he faced to load the bases. However, Bishop got centerfielder Will Brennan to fly out to end the threat.
Akron first baseman Jonathan Engelmann led off the seventh with a homer off Bishop that boosted the RubberDucks’ lead to 3-1. Bishop loaded the bases again later that inning and allowed a two-run single to George Valera that provided a four-run cushion.
Bowie will look to bounce back with Grayson Rodriguez starting Game 2 of the best-of-five series on Wednesday at 6:35. The Baysox are going to need to generate some offense, which has been solid throughout the regular season.
“The talent is there,” Britton said. “We’re very dynamic. We can run and that’s one of the things we take pride in, being aggressive on the bases, going from first to third. We walked so much. Swing decisions are huge here.”
Bowie advanced to the championship series for the second consecutive time. In 2019 — the last minor league season that was played because of the pandemic — the Baysox lost to the Trenton Thunder, then the Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees.
Bowie won the Eastern League title in 2015, defeating Reading in five games, and that club included Trey Mancini, Mike Yastrzemski, Terry Doyle and Mychal Givens.
Notes: The Orioles made a couple of moves that affected the Baysox before the game. Infielder Adam Hall and right-handed pitcher Conner Loeprich were transferred from Aberdeen to Bowie. Right-handed pitcher Mickey Jannis was transferred from Bowie to Norfolk. Left-hander Bruce Zimmermann was transferred from Bowie to Norfolk for a rehab assignment.