A routine toss from the pitcher’s mound to first base.

A more challenging, but certainly doable, around-the-horn double play.

Had the Portland Sea Dogs been able to successfully execute either such action in the fourth inning of their playoff opener, they might be looking at knocking out the Somerset Patriots Thursday night in New Jersey.

Instead, the Dogs will attempt to stave off elimination.

The Patriots beat the Sea Dogs 9-4 Tuesday night before a crowd of 4,447 at Hadlock Field to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three Northeast Division playoff series. Portland needs a victory Thursday night to force a decisive Game 3 Friday night, also in New Jersey.

Consecutive home runs by Niko Kavadas and Hudson Potts in the second had given the Sea Dogs a 3-0 lead and the home fans plenty of reason to celebrate.


“There was some energy,” said Sea Dogs Manager Chad Epperson. “You get in these type of games and the crowd’s on every pitch, every potential scoring opportunity for either side.”

Christian Koss started the rally with his first of three singles and, one out later, Kavadas sent a Randy Vasquez pitch high into the night, traveling 418 feet before bouncing off the roof in right-center field behind the elevated home bullpen.

Potts followed with a 399-foot blast to left-center and the momentum built up from Portland’s September playoff push (13 wins in 16 games) appeared to be carrying into the postseason.

Sea Dogs left-hander Shane Drohan allowed the leadoff batter to reach base in each of the first two innings, but both times escaped trouble. He ended the first with a double-play grounder and the second with a strikeout.

“They had chances early and we were able to keep them off the board, then Niko comes up with the big hit and Potts follows right after, so we felt good,” Epperson said. “Drohan was throwing the ball very well.”

Indeed, Drohan threw exceptionally well to catcher Stephen Scott, retiring seven in a row, four by strikeout, until facing Andres Chaparro. The Patriots’ slugger (eight of his 19 home runs this season have come against Portland) drilled a comebacker that left his bat at 101 mph and Drohan managed to intercept the ball with his glove.


From the third-base side of the mound, Drohan paused, knowing Chaparro had barely left the batter’s box.

Instead of jogging closer to first base to make a shorter throw for the second out of the inning, Drohan tossed … well short of Kavadas at first base. The ball bounced past Kavadas and into foul territory, allowing Chaparro to chug to second base.

Elijah Dunham followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Then came Brandon Lockridge’s hard grounder to Potts at third base. Potts hesitated before throwing wide to second, where David Hamilton made an impressive stretch to get the force but no longer had a chance to turn what could have been an inning-ending double play.

Chaparro scored to make it 3-1, and things unraveled from there. The Patriots sent nine more batters to the plate and racked up eight runs – all of them unearned – in a half-inning that took an excruciating 35 minutes to complete. Eleven men in a row reached base, four of them on walks.

Drohan gave way to Ryan Zeferjahn, who forced in two runs with bases-loaded walks before yielding a two-run single to Austin Wells. Zeferjahn gave way to Jacob Webb, who allowed a walk and a two-run single to Dunham before finally striking out Lockridge to end the inning.

“That’s how you win ballgames, especially in playoff games,” Epperson said. “You take advantage of an opportunity and they sure did, pushing eight across.”


The only other time all season the Sea Dogs allowed eight runs in one inning? Back on April 28, also against Somerset. Dunham finished with four of the 12 Patriots hits.

Koss had three of the eight Sea Dogs hits and drove in their fourth run in the eighth, scoring Wilyer Abreu, who had two hits, including a double.

The Sea Dogs injected some life into the home crowd one more time. Kavadas came up in the eighth with two on and two outs. He took another mighty cut, but his fly to shallow left was caught on the run by Somerset shortstop Trey Sweeney.

Vasquez earned the victory, pitching into the sixth, allowing five hits, fanning six and walking nobody.

“Kudos to (Vasquez),” Epperson said. “It looked like we may chase him early but he settled in and did his job.”

The Sea Dogs used seven pitchers and made two errors, both in the fateful fourth. Both teams boarded busses after the game for the overnight trip to New Jersey.

“It’s one game,” Epperson said. “We’ve got two to play. We’ve played well on the road the whole year and I don’t see anything changing.”

Prior to the game, the Sea Dogs added right-handed pitcher Thaddeus Ward from the injured list and catcher Oscar Rangel from the development list. Ward is scheduled to start Thursday’s game. Somerset will counter with Clayton Beeter.

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