A lead in hand, the Lancaster Barnstormers shifted into cruise control early on Sunday. When the road suddenly got bumpy, it was up to Pedro Echemendia to bail them out.
Entering a 3-1 game in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded and one out, Echemendia struck out a pair of Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, preserving the lead and spurring the Barnstormers to a 4-1 victory at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
“That’s what you’ve got to have,” Barnstormers manager Ross Peeples said. “Your back end guys, they’ve got to be able to come in with guys on base and get a big strikeout when you need one and get out of some jams.”
No one has done that more effectively than Echemendia, who entered the game Sunday with a 2.03 ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He helped secure a 5-1 homestand — the second winning homestand of the season for Lancaster (7-9 second half).
He preserved a strong effort on the mound from starter John Anderson.
The lefty went 6.1 innings, allowing just a single earned run and four hits while tallying eight strikeouts on the way to his sixth win of the season.
An elevated fastball and sharp breaking pitch combined to make for a pair of electric strikeout pitches for Anderson, but Peeples was more impressed with Anderson’s ability to pitch to contact.
Six of the 11 outs Anderson collected on balls in play came in the first three pitches of an at-bat, keeping his pitch count low and enabling him to go deep in the game.
“He actually got a pretty good little rhythm and tempo there after the first inning or two,” Peeples said. “He had a lot of quick outs. That’s one of the things we’ve been preaching with him.”
Scott Shuman pitched a scoreless eighth and Cody Eppley locked down the ninth for his 16th save.
As it turned out, the only run support the Barnstormers would need came before Southern Maryland (9-6) starter Kyle Simon registered an out.
Newly assigned leadoff hitter Caleb Gindl singled and scored on a misplay in the outfield on a Joe Terdoslavich single.
Andrew Aplin then took advantage of the short fence in right for his third homer of the year, a two-run shot that gave Lancaster a 3-0 lead.
The arms took control of the final eight frames, bending only when Southern Maryland tallied a run in the second on a Josh McAdams single, and when KC Hobson blooped a single into center in the eighth for the fourth Lancaster run.
The Barnstormers will now travel to Sugar Land, Texas for a seven-game series with the Skeeters.
“We’ve got to keep this momentum going,” Peeples said.