For a baseball season that started amid uncertainty, with limited capacity crowds sequestered in socially-distanced pods, the Portland Sea Dogs wrapped up their home schedule in style Sunday afternoon.

Not only did they pull off another pitch-perfect Field of Dreams entrance through a makeshift cornfield in center field, wearing baggy gray uniforms with PORTLAND stitched across the chest, they also extended their winning streak to seven games with a 10-3 victory over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies before a crowd of 6,398 at Hadlock Field.

“It was a really cool experience,” said Sea Dogs Manager Corey Wimberly, who led his team across the grassy expanse to the infield before thanking those in attendance. “The whole environment, the atmosphere, the uniforms. I kind of got chills at home plate when the fans are clapping and the energy is good. It’s one of those things I’ll always remember, for sure.”

Hadlock fans were treated to their first glimpse of ballyhooed Red Sox prospect Jay Groome, a first-round draft pick in 2016 whose career had stalled and sputtered through a series of injuries and other misfortunes.

On Sunday, however, Groome was masterful. The 6-foot-6 left-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Antoine Duplantis blooped a clean one-out single into shallow right field. Groome (2-0) allowed one more single but extended his scoreless innings streak to 11 since earning a promotion to Double-A earlier this month.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” said Groome, 23. “I feel like I’m at a really good place in my career, where I’m finally taking off and going out and throwing five or six innings and trying to get a win.”

In six innings Sunday, he mixed his pitches well, topping out at 94 mph with a fastball and throwing sliders, curves and changeups for strikes. He struck out nine, walked one, hit a batter and largely avoided solid contact. The hardest-hit ball may have been a line drive snared by a sliding Jeisson Rosario to end the top of the fourth and keep the no-hit bid intact.

“I’m just trying to stick with my plan, just attacking the strike zone with everything,” Groome said. “Getting swings and misses gives you more confidence, but it’s mainly telling me stuff that I’m doing is working, so keep attacking.”

Every Sea Dogs batter in the lineup contributed to Portland’s 12-hit attack. A two-out, two-run single by Ryan Fitzgerald capped a five-run outburst in the second inning. Ronaldo Hernandez drove in two with another hit up the middle in a three-run fifth. Kole Cottam homered over the Sea Dogs bullpen in right-center in a two-run seventh, a blast that traveled an estimated 440 feet.

A three-run homer by Carlos Rincon off Sea Dogs reliever Jose Disla in the eighth provided the only Binghamton scoring. The Rumble Ponies have brought in 14 new players from lower levels after suffering through a COVID-19 outbreak that forced the cancellation of two games earlier in this series.

Even with the extended winning streak, the Sea Dogs failed to gain ground on either Bowie or Somerset in the chase for the final playoff berth in Double-A Northeast. Second-place Somerset has won eight straight and wraps up its season with a six-game series against league-leading Akron. Bowie has won seven in a row and has seven games remaining against Altoona.

The Sea Dogs have six games left, all against Hartford in Connecticut. They’re 3 1/2 games behind Somerset and 2 1/2 behind Bowie.

Denyi Reyes, who closed out the game with a two-strikeout ninth inning, was one of only a few Sea Dogs who actually had experienced the cornfield entrance in 2019.

“Almost everybody, that was their first time,” said reliever Rio Gomez. “That little experience ties it all together and makes you realize how special of a place Portland is, and the way they go about things here.”

NOTES: Instead of climbing through the grandstand to shake hands with fans, as was the case in previous years, the Sea Dogs players and coaches autographed a dozen baseballs and ushers distributed them to kids as souvenirs.


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