Waldorf, MD – On Monday, Aug. 14 the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (39-31) won the long-awaited First Half Freedom Division Championship Game over the Lancaster Barnstormers (38-32) 8-3, clinching a berth in the playoffs.

Both teams threatened in the first inning, stranding a pair of runners each to start the game. Two scoreless innings followed for Gaby Hernandez (9-3), as he sat down seven in a row. The Blue Crabs were finally able to strike first in the third, with a little help from the Lancaster defense. Luis Alen singled to lead off, moving to second on a groundout to second. Edwin Garcia singled to move Alen to third, putting runners on the corners for L.J. Hoes. Hoes hit a hard groundball to shortstop, forcing an error by Nate Coronado that allowed Alen to score the opening run in the game. Two batters later, Garcia came across to score on an error in left field, putting Southern Maryland up 2-0 early in the ballgame.

The Barnstormers were never going to fold, responding with a run in each of the next two innings. Cole Garner led off the fourth with a single, moving up on a walk to Sean Halton. Both runners advanced on a groundball to first, before Garner came across to score on a groundout from Garret Weber. After Hernandez retired three straight, Trayvon Robinson’s solo shot to left field tied the game 2-2.

Brad Bergesen (9-7), the starter for Lancaster, took the scoreless game into the bottom of the fifth, having already stranded five runners in the game. Hoes singled to start the rally in the fifth, before a two-out single from Devon Rodriguez kept the inning alive. Cory Vaughn followed with a three-run homerun to put the Blue Crabs back on top. Vaughn’s third homerun in three days gave Southern Maryland a 5-2 lead heading to the sixth.

The Barnstormers weren’t done yet, putting up one to climb back into it in the sixth. Garrett Weber narrowly missed a homerun with two outs, settling for a ground-rule double instead. Nate Coronado followed with a single to left-center, scoring Weber to cut the lead to 5-3.

The Blue Crabs iced the game with three more runs in seventh. Hoes walked to start the inning, with Snyder getting hit by a pitch to put two men on. Rodriguez doubled down the first base line off new reliever Daniel Moskos, scoring both runners. Two batters later, Rodriguez came around to score on a Zach Cone double, putting the Blue Crabs 8-3.

Zack Thornton worked around a lead-off single in the eighth, before closer Cody Eppley came on for the ninth. Eppley worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning, with a flyball to left field securing the win and the First-Half Freedom Division Championship. With the win, the Blue Crabs snap a season-long losing streak, and clinch a berth in the 2017 Atlantic League Playoffs.