Inconsistent starting pitching was one of the biggest problems for the Bowie Baysox last season. Starters rarely made it past the fourth or fifth inning, which led to an exhausted bullpen.
Things are much different this season.
The Baysox are 32-23, thanks in part to the recent promotion of hot pitching prospect Matt Riley from Class A Frederick.
Bowie Manager Joe Ferguson now has a solid starting rotation, which also includes Josh Towers (6-2), Javier De la Hoya (8-1), Brian Falkenborg (3-4) and Carlos Medina (0-4).
Riley has been impressive in three starts for Bowie, the most recent a 2-1, nine-strikeout complete game against Trenton Thursday.
He is 3-0 since coming to Bowie, and the 6-foot-1, 205-pound left-hander has shown a strong fastball, big-breaking curve and a nice change-up.
"He's a guy that's going to have the ability to have three major league pitches," said Bowie pitching coach Dave Schmidt. "I think experience will only help him."
Towers has shown excellent control, striking out 41 and walking only 10 in 72 2/3 innings.
De la Hoya has been the biggest surprise, holding opponents to a .229 batting average while leading the team with 60 strikeouts.
Falkenborg has lacked offensive support, pitching better than his 3-4 record indicates.
Medina has struggled since coming up from Frederick last month, but did strike out 25 in 30 1/3 innings. He took the loss against Trenton yesterday.
Closer Ryan Kohlmeier leads the bullpen. The right-hander, inconsistent throughout 1998, is 2-1 with 11 saves and a 2.76 earned run average. Opposing batters are hitting only .184 against him, and he has 40 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 29 1/3 innings.
The departure of Riley to Bowie was just the latest loss for the Frederick Keys' pitching staff, which has undergone nearly a complete overhaul in recent weeks.
In addition to the promotion of Riley (3-2, 2.61 ERA at Frederick), who had been the team's most dominating pitcher in recent weeks, the Keys also lost two more members of their original starting five in May.
Medina was promoted to Bowie on May 6 and Josh McNatt, an 11-game winner last season, was shipped to extended spring training on May 18 to work out control problems
In their places, Frederick got John Parrish and Brandon Huntsman from lower Class A Delmarva, and Chad Paronto, who had struggled at Bowie.
The results have been mixed. After winning six of their first seven games since Riley's departure, Frederick has fallen to eight games behind Wilmington in the Carolina League's Northern Division.
The Potomac Cannons have had little success at the plate this season. The Cannons (20-37) have an anemic team batting average of .229 and seven players are hitting less than .215.
Outfielder William Ortega is the team's top hitter at .300, and designated hitter Andy Bevins is hitting .294.
Bevins leads the team with 12 homers and 38 RBI.
Special correspondent Rich Scherr contributed to this report.