BOWIE, Maryland -- Bowie turned to David Hess to save its season on Friday night. He'd made only three starts at the Double-A level, but Baysox manager Gary Kendall gave him the ball, with Reading needing one more win to lock up the Eastern League title. And the 22-year old came through.
Hess cleverly mixed all of his pitches and gave up one run on three hits while striking out eight over seven innings as Bowie cruised to a 9-1 victory that evened the best-of-5 Championship Series at 2-2.
Game 5 is Saturday at 6:05 p.m. at Prince George's Stadium in Bowie.
Hess was promoted from Class A Advanced Frederick on Sept. 1 and went 1-1 in two regular-season starts, then threw seven shutout innings in the series-clinching victory over Altoona in the Western Division finals a week ago. The Baysox needed another big effort from him on Friday, and the Orioles' 10th-ranked prospect answered the call.
"There was a lot working," he said. "I was able to throw the curveball, slider and changeup for strikes and where I wanted."
Hess often used his 95 mph fastball and followed it with a big overhand curveball that floated in at 72. He also repeatedly used a nasty slider and changeup to throw off the timing of the Fightin Phils, especially when behind in the count.
That's how the 22-year-old right-hander was able to retire the final 11 batters he faced, striking out the side in the seventh.
"That has been a big thing throughout the year," Hess said. "Earlier, I struggled and in those counts I would go to my fastball primarily. The big adjustment I made this year was going to my off-speed pitches in hitters' counts and trying to keep them off-balance."
Hess (2-0) limited Altoona to one hit in Game 4 of the division finals and has a 0.64 ERA in two postseason starts. That's certainly caught Kendall's attention.
"It just seems like he's getting better and better," the manager said. "He's just been really good since he's been up here. He's just a kid who rises to the occasion."
Hess had to do that early Friday as an error and a single gave Reading runners at first and second with nobody out in the top of the first. The 2014 fifth-round pick did not blink, retiring the next three batters and preventing the Fightin Phils from taking an early lead.
Instead, Bowie did that in the bottom of the first. Garabez Rosa lined a two-run double off starter Ben Lively and Orioles No. 8 prospect Chance Sisco added a sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead that proved more than enough for Hess.
"That kind of set the tone," Kendall said.
Orioles No. 12 prospect Trey Mancini had been 1-for-10 in the first three games of the series but went 2-for-5 with two RBIs on Friday. Sisco, Rosa and Quincy Latimore also drove in two runs apiece as Bowie totaled 10 hits. Corban Joseph combined for three hits, an RBI and three runs scored at the top of the Baysox's lineup.
Bowie didn't need too much offense, thanks to Hess. On the brink of elimination before he took the mound, the Baysox have a shot to win the first championship in their 23-year history.
"I got here a couple of weeks ago and stepping in the clubhouse knowing we were in that race was [great]," Hess said. "The vibe in the clubhouse is win. Hopefully, we can go out tomorrow and do it."