By Joe Southern
The Sugar Land Skeeters started the 2017 season right where they left their 2016 campaign, with big wins and wild plays.
As of Sunday night, the Skeeters are 2-2 in their opening home stand against the Bridgeport Bluefish and tied with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for first place in the Freedom Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Having finished the 2016 season with a four-game sweep of the Blue Crabs and a 6-0 run through the playoffs for the league championship, the Skeeters opened the season at home Thursday with 5-2 win over Bridgeport. On Friday night, however, the Skeeters lost for the first time since Sept. 14 when the Bluefish took a 3-1 victory. Sugar Land rebounded on Saturday, winning a slugfest 13-10 in which the Skeeters belted four triples and pounded former Skeeter Chris Rearick and Alex Burgos for eight runs in the fourth, including back-to-back triples by Travis Scott and Joe Benson.
“We had four triples. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that,” manager Gary Gaetti said.
When asked if it is a record, he said, “I think it is for us it might be, back-to-back triples.”
Jeremy Barfield, the league and team MVP for 2016, blasted a pair of home runs in the game. He followed them up with an inside the park homer on Sunday in the Skeeters 7-1 loss to the Bluefish.
“It felt good. It was a good team effort tonight,” he said after Saturday’s wild game. “We just want to get the ball rolling.”
In addition to the high score, the game was unusual in that the wind was blowing out and the temperature was plummeting throughout the game.
“Kind of an interesting game,” Barfield said. (There’s) A lot of offense when the wind blows out.”
Gaetti continues to be impressed with Barfield’s level of play.
“He can just hit. He’s a really good player. I just can’t believe he’s still here,” he said.
Gaetti said he is pleased with the way his team played Saturday.
“They swung the bats good and played good; it was a nice clean ballgame,” he said. (Brett) Marshall probably could have gone longer but he had two long sit down innings with runs being scored and I just wasn’t taking a chance.”
Marshall got the win, pitching six innings and giving up two earned runs and getting five strikeouts. Andrew Johnston and Felipe Paulino pitched in relief and Evan Reed and Dustin Richardson came in the ninth to close. Reed was pulled after giving up five runs in the inning.
“It looked like Evan (Reed) just felt uncomfortable out there, you know,” Gaetti said. “Even working together with the catcher there was no rhythm or anything and they were using, I don’t know if it was too complicated signs, using something that wasn’t working, and they weren’t on the same page.”
Assessing his team early in the season, Gaetti likes where they are at but thinks they can do better.
“I feel good. I’m a little concerned about my bats but they’re starting to engage right now,” he said.
The Skeeters are in the middle of a seven-game series with the Bluefish. With a travel day Thursday, the Skeeters head to Lancaster for three games with the Barnstormers (0-4) and then four games at Southern Maryland (2-2). They return home May 5 for a six-game series against the New Britain Bees and four more against Lancaster.
Skeeter of the week
Continuing his dominance at the plate and being ever vigilant in right field, Jeremy Barfield brings home the Fort Bend Star’s Skeeter of the Week honors. With three home runs and four RBIs in the first four games, Barfield continues to be a league leader in stats. He is also sporting a chin guard on his batting helmet this year.
“My wife saw it in the World Series with (Javier) Baez and Jorge Soler and those guys, (Jason) Hayward, and said I’ve got to protect this pretty face,” he said.