By Chris Hirons
WASHINGTON -- On the 16th day and in the 12th game of the 2021 Cal Ripken Collegiate League season, the DC Grays pieced together a reusable winning formula at home.
The return home mattered. The Grays needed a change of scenery, of direction, of results, really, and they got that in an 8-6 win over the Alexandria Aces on Monday night that improved the club’s record to 4-8. DC had come off a weekend in which they were blown out and walked off in a doubleheader on Saturday, and then walked off again on Sunday night after surrendering three separate leads.
This one was kick-started by Jake Davidson (Kenyon) — who struck out four in six innings — and was preserved, in the end, by Cooper Vest (BYU) and Dylan Seisky (Lafayette).
Aces starter Brendan Beaver (Lansing Community College) held the Grays to just three runs (two earned) in four innings. But they chased Beaver early, working long at-bats, and scored five in a two-hit, four-walk fifth inning, and matched strong pitching with timely offense and a bullpen that didn’t cave. Sometimes, it takes a few weeks to get your bearings.
Fans braved the looming, dark clouds that hovered above the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. They stayed even after the Grays had lost a suspended game that was made up before the start of Monday’s scheduled nine inning game that was reduced to a seven-inning game with the threatening weather that lingered in the distance.
Yet, it was sort of a beginning for the Grays. They had stumbled out of the gates, losing eight of their first 12 games, marked by untimely hitting and bullpen issues. Not to mention, Monday night was DC’s seventh game in six days. The Grays didn’t and couldn’t have used an off-day during the middle of the week to ease into Saturday’s doubleheader. Instead, they were ready to go.
The Grays turned to Davidson, the junior right-hander, who had limited the league’s best offense, the Bethesda Big Train, to just three runs (one earned) on Thursday. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff to blow away hitters. He uses his smooth mechanics and mixes in his fastball and off-speed pitches, and often lets the defense he has behind him do the rest.
Davidson gave up four runs in the first two innings, including a two-run homer in the second, but found his rhythm later on.
He allowed a one-out walk in the second to Blake McRae (Lansing Community College) but he’d be the Aces’ last base runner until Matt Stone (Georgetown) singled to lead off the fifth. Between those at-bats, Davidson set down six straight hitters – on 13 pitches no less — and the Grays inched back.
Beaver’s control began to slip as he issued a walk to catcher Burke Camper (Towson) and allowed a single to Cam Bufford (Grambling). They both later scored in the inning – Drew Calhoun (Wofford) doubled to drive in Camper and Bufford was singled home by Vince DiLeonardo (Elon). Calhoun scored on a throwing error from third by Stone, who was attempting to cut down DiLeonardo on a stolen base attempt.
That was the Grays’ last threat against Beaver, who was pulled after throwing 67 pitches for the likes of Ben Koomey (RIT). The Aces’ final rally came in the fifth — they had already led 4-3 coming into the inning — and added two more runs on three singles from Garrett Farquhar (Auburn), Stone and McRae.
Trailing by four runs, and with just under three innings to play, a fire lit under the Grays’ offense. They came out with a patient approach against Koomey, who walked Scott Bandura (Princeton), Robbie Wacker (Emory) and Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette) to begin the inning.
A fielders’ choice to third base by Camper drove in Bandura to pull the Grays to within two runs. DC has had its problems with timely hitting so far this season but seemed to turn the corner on Sunday in the loss to the Braves. The Grays broke multiple ties before the pitching fell apart in the 12th inning.
On Monday, too, timely hits weren’t hard to come by. Bufford drove a double to the right-center field gap that scored Vandenbergh and Camper home to tie the score at five. And later in the frame, Kenny Bell (Southeastern Louisiana) drove home the go-ahead run by hustling out a ground ball that the Aces’ third baseman had to hurry a throw on.
Davidson bounced back in the sixth with a shutdown inning, and was pulled after 79 pitches after yielding two walks. The second walk he surrendered was with one out and a wild pitch allowed Scott Morgan (George Mason) to scamper to third. But that’s where Davidson settled down.
He struck out Stone on three pitches and forced McRae to flyout to medium-deep center field to keep the Grays’ two-run lead intact.
Not wanting to let Monday’s win slip from the club’s grasp, manager Reggie Terry called on Vest to start the seventh on the mound. Since slipping on a Grays uniform, Vest has been the team’s ace and its most dominant pitcher. He last pitched seven days ago, and with the Grays’ off-day on Tuesday, Terry decided that it’d be best for Vest to get some work in before his next start.
He threw 10 pitches and recorded two outs before Terry turned to the best bullpen arm he has, Seisky, for the final out of the ball game. And without any drama, or doubt, Seisky recorded the final out and the game was sealed.
It was a win the Grays felt good about, from start to finish, from their starter to their lineup to the two pitchers that came on in relief. And that, too, was a change.
The DC Grays return to the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy against the Bethesda Big Train on Wednesday night. First pitch is set to be thrown at 7:00 p.m.
By Chris Hirons
FAIRFAX, Va. — Burke Camper (Towson) sprinted towards the backstop, chasing a baseball that he wasn’t able to catch, before slowing down once he reached the fence. Some 15 feet away, Nehemiah Wright (Grambling) stood at the plate, eyes wide, hoping Camper could corral the ball and throw out the winning run to send the game into a 13th inning. But the ball never arrived.
Quinn Madden (Hartford) slid head-first across the plate after Wright bounced the baseball in front of the plate, lifting the South County Braves over the DC Grays, 10-9, on Sunday night at South County High School.
Wright put his head down and looked at the baseball in his glove for a moment. He had been handed a three-run lead in the 12th inning after Drew Calhoun’s (Wofford) two-run blast the half inning prior gave the Grays the lead and Patrick Vandenburgh (Lafayette) scored on an error to stretch the lead to three.
It was Wright’s first collegiate appearance on the mound. He was called on to pitch the 12th inning, succeeding Kai Cummings’ (Mount St. Mary’s) five brilliant innings in relief, and to help a taxed bullpen that had thrown 8 ⅔ innings in a doubleheader on Saturday. But it just wasn’t enough.
DC’s bullpen coughed up yet another victory the Grays had within their grasp — the fourth occurrence in the team’s last eight games — and was walked-off for the second time in as many days. This falter dropped DC to 3-6, and it came after relievers Vince DiLeonardo (Elon) and Cummings worked a combined six innings of one-run ball to back Tim Jinks’ (Drew) best start all season.
With the season in a 37-game sprint, and with the Grays falling into fifth place in the league, trailing the Bethesda Big Train by six games, something needs to change for the Grays — and it needs to happen rather quickly.
But when you play seven games in six games in five days, and with just 12 true arms in the bullpen to lean on, days like Saturday and Sunday are bound to happen occasionally. Earlier in the week, it seemed like the bullpen had it figured out after blowing a six-run advantage to South County at home on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Jinks and Cummings impressed by allowing three runs in 4 ⅓ innings against Bethesda’s seemingly unstoppable offense. And on Friday, Dylan Seisky (Lafayette) worked around a two-out walk and Frank Craska (Lafayette) allowed two unimportant runs in a 7-2 win over Silver Spring.
Playing its fourth and fifth game in four days, the true pitchers in DC’s bullpen gave up 10 runs (six earned) in two games on Saturday in Gaithersburg. And all of a sudden, the bullpen woes were back.
The start to Sunday’s eventual loss was ideal as Jinks worked around a lead-off single and walk to keep the Braves off the scoreboard. DC’s offense gave Jinks a lead to protect with a pair of runs in the third and fourth. Vandenburgh went deep for a solo blast — his first of the season — and Jay Tarkenton (Old Dominion) scored on a passed ball in the third. And in the fourth, Scott Bandura (Princeton) added on to the lead with a two-run blast that landed on top of the hill in right-center field.
He would toss four more innings and was in line for the win after allowing three runs (zero earned) in five innings. He finished his fifth and final inning, stranding two runners in scoring position with the lead intact, 4-3.
Then DiLeonardo, a position player who made his debut on the mound on Saturday, stranded two base runners and worked a scoreless sixth; Cummings worked the seventh through 11th innings, but allowed the tying runs to score in the ninth to send Sunday night into extra frames.
Cummings worked around eight hits and three walks to help the Grays keep their bullpen as fresh as possible for the upcoming week. He struck out seven to keep the game within reach for the Grays, who scored three runs in the 12th inning, putting Cummings in the drivers seat for the win.
Down Joe Richardson (Southern) who’s dealing with an arm injury, the bullpen received encouraging signs from its middle relievers, DiLeonardo and Cummings. They both created messes and cleaned them by the end of each frame. Wright couldn’t do the same.
He walked four batters and threw several pitches to the backstop, but managed to get two outs and even had the Braves’ down to their last strike. But South County battled back, scoring four runs on walks and wild pitches before Madden dove across the plate to seal the comeback win for the Braves.
The surge up the standings — if there is one this summer — will have to wait another day.
The DC Grays return home Monday night with a continuation game from June 14 against the Alexandria Aces that begins at 6:30 p.m. That game is tied at nine in the top of the 13th inning. Once that game concludes, the Grays will play a full nine inning game against the Aces. Both games will be played at the Grays’ home park, the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
By Daniel Butler
GAITHERSBURG, Va. – The DC Grays were fresh off a dominant victory Friday night, one that ended a losing streak and had them feeling as scorching hot as the sun beaming down on them Saturday afternoon. The team came to Gaithersburg for an afternoon doubleheader set on being above .500 and climbing up the league standings with two victories.
The hometown Giants had other ideas, however – and the result was a Gaithersburg sweep that sent the Grays back to DC with a 3-6 record.
Game 1 began how Grays fans have come to expect: a quick, dominant first inning of work by the starting pitcher, Michael Eggert (Wofford). Thereafter, however, things began to fall apart.
The Giants plated four runs in the second and third. All of this was occurring while the Grays bats stayed silent, the team mustering only four baserunners in the first four innings of play on just a single hit.
As DC was looking to bounce back from the early deficit, a familiar face came out of the bullpen – righthander Joseph O’Connell (Harvard). O’Connell’s appearance began not unlike the pitcher that preceded him – a solid scoreless outing followed by a crushing slew of runs.
The fifth inning of the ballgame, and O’Connell’s second, was marked with a pair of errors by second baseman Max Power-Kruger (Holy Cross) that led to an eventual four unearned runs for O’Connell and a greater deficit for the DC Grays. The sixth inning only got worse as the Giants boomed a pair of two-run homers over the wall to tack on four runs to their lead.
The Grays bats made some efforts to get back in the game. The fifth inning featured a flurry of baserunners as six Grays reached first base; however, a double play followed by an eventual three men left on base got the Grays no more than two runs on the inning.
The offense followed up with another three runs across the next three innings, but it was too little, too late for DC. The final was 15-5. Grays catcher Burke Camper (Towson) swung the bat well, going two for four and driving in a run. The pair of hits raised his average to .385 on the still-young season.
The nightcap of the twinbill was much closer, but the result still was not what the Grays faithful was hoping for.
After another quiet first inning, the Grays offense got going in the second. Hot-hitting Jay Tarkenton (Old Dominion) singled and came around to score on an RBI single by Jahlil Hendricks (Southern), giving the Grays their first lead of the day. Unfortunately, the team left the bases loaded – squandering a chance to take on more. DC plated another run in the third to go up 2-0 when Ben Avila (Grambling) drove in Robby Wacker (Emory) before the Grays stranded two more runners to end the frame.
Lefty starter Hasan Aquil (Lincoln) gave the Grays a solid outing – throwing 3.2 innings of one-run ball. (The run was unearned.) He was relieved by Andrew Calhoun (Wofford), who gave up one in 1.1 innings of work.
In the fifth the Grays scored on another RBI hit by Avila, before the Giants answered back to tie the game. It stayed tied through the end of seventh innings (the back-end of Ripken League doubleheaders are seven-inning contests) and the game went into extra innings.
The Grays struck first. A pair of singles by Kenny Bell (Southeastern Louisiana) and Scott Bandura (Princeton), helped by a passed ball that allowed Bell to get in scoring position, gave DC a 4-3 lead.
Yet again, the Gaithersburg Giants bats stepped in to rain on the Grays’ parade.
Pitcher Frank Craska (Lafayette) came out for his third inning of work, and it was one inning too many. Three hits and a costly Grays error added up to two runs and a walk-off win for the Giants. A long day in the hot sun and evening shade yielded only a pair of disappointing losses for the visitors.
The Grays look to bounce back on Father’s Day Sunday as they travel to Lorton, VA to take on the South County Braves at 7:00pm at South County High School.
By Chris Hirons
WASHINGTON — The cheers were loud, and for good reason, while Tucker Alch (Catholic) made his final walk to the dugout Friday night. He had done this six times already, after each of his six clean innings, and now exited after recording the final out in the seventh to a standing ovation from the DC Grays’ dugout and its fans scattered across the stands at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
All 243 onlookers appreciated his effort — no runs in seven frames — but also recognized its continued significance for his team. When Alch pitches well, and for more than a few innings at a time, the Grays have another top-flight arm to lean on. That matters when a team that plays seven games in six days has just 13 arms that it can use.
The Grays knew that they were getting a quality pitcher when they landed Alch in the offseason. He threw 51 ⅓ innings with a 1.40 ERA for Catholic in 2021. And a 7-2 win over the Silver Spring T-Bolts provided further evidence of that.
Combine his performance with lefty Cooper Vest (BYU), who leads the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League in innings pitched and ranks third in ERA, and you just might have the best 1-2 pitching duo in the league.
It was Alch’s longest start since May 8 — he pitched Catholic to a 7-0 victory over Moravian — and home runs from CJ Mervilus (Grambling) and Jay Tarkenton (Old Dominion) helped turn it into a victory. It was his third straight summer league start — including three innings of a suspended game against the South County Braves — of throwing three-plus innings of shutout baseball. Had Alch’s start against the Braves counted, he would lead the league in innings pitched (14) and ERA (0.00).
As the bullpen figures its kinks out in the first few weeks of the season, the starting pitching knew it needed to step up. It responded at a crucial point early in the season and has a combined 1.83 ERA in its last 19 ⅔ innings.
Over the past week, DC received the major boost it needed from its starting pitching — Tim Jinks (Drew) threw three innings of three-run ball on Monday; Vest gave his all in five scoreless on Wednesday; Jake Davidson (Kenyon) chipped in on Thursday, allowing three runs (one earned) in 4 ⅔ innings; and on Friday, Alch didn’t yield a single base runner until the fifth inning and gave up his first hit with two outs in the sixth.
The Grays came into the season with questions surrounding their pitching, a shaky way to begin the season, but Alch’s consistency has given DC a major lift and made a case for him to become the team’s ace.
His outing started with a 12-pitch first inning that ended with a leaping grab for a high chopper that he fielded at the front of the mound. He took his time on the throw and pumped his fist when the ball nestled into first baseman Cal Rucker’s (Georgetown) glove. And then he was off.
Alch mixed his fastball and off-speed pitches — almost to perfection — all evening. He struck out nine, one of them being a red-hot Naighel Calderon (Hawaii) in the fourth inning, who entered play with the seventh-best average in the league (.385). His bid for a perfect game ended with an out in the fifth when third baseman Alex Rosen’s (Georgetown) took Rucker’s foot off the bag. And his no-hit bid ended with a hard line drive that was smacked five feet over Mervilus’ head at short with two outs in the sixth.
Alch lasted another four outs before exiting to high-fives and bear hugs in the Grays’ dugout. He kept his head high as he walked into the dugout. Dylan Siesky (Lafayette) worked around a two-out walk in the eighth inning to keep the game scoreless. Frank Craska (Lafayette) allowed two runs as he recorded the final three outs to give the Grays their first win since Sunday.
After Alch recorded the first out of the fifth inning, he had officially completed the longest start for any DC starter this season, and it only grew by night’s end.
He clicked for Catholic during its regular season in 2021, and continues to keep clicking for the Grays.
The DC Grays take on the Gaithersburg Giants in a doubleheader at Criswell Field on Saturday, and then go to Lorton to play the South County Braves on Sunday. DC returns home on Monday night to play the Alexandria Aces.
By Chris Hirons
WASHINGTON — In the eighth inning, Nehemiah Wright (Grambling) smacked an 0-2 single to right field to score Kenny Bell (Southeastern Louisiana) to finally put the DC Grays on the scoreboard — a place they hadn't been all evening. In the ninth, Wright strolled to plate as the tying-run, but struck out looking on a questionable strike call that appeared to miss the zone high-and-away.
The Grays’ (2-4) trailed the entire way in a 6-4 loss to the Bethesda Big Train (8-1). The game was full of missed opportunities, missed pitches and a missed call in the guts of DC's attempt at a ninth inning comeback just two batters prior.
DC’s dugout stood up in unison to chirp at the first base umpire. A few players leaned over the dugout railing, and smacked it with closed and open palms. And Robbie Wacker (Emory) threw up a “safe” motion with his arms as he pleaded for an appeal before walking back to the dugout.
Wacker was still called out after grounding into a double play with the bases loaded, but had clearly beat the second baseman’s return throw by a step or two with Bell, who reached on an error and drove in a run, in the on-deck circle. Nonetheless the damage was done and the blown call halted the Grays’ momentum at a possible five-run comeback.
Had the Grays pushed any of their 11 baserunners across the plate in the earlier innings, had they picked up more than two hits in the first six innings, or had they not waited until the last three innings to inflict damage into Bethesda's pitching staff, maybe the blown calls wouldn’t have mattered.
Nine of DC’s 11 runners reached base in the seventh inning or later. Two came in the seventh, two more came in the eighth and the other five came in the final frame, where the Grays scored three of their four runs on Thursday night.
For a team with aspirations of a league championship at the end of the season, it knows that it can’t have more offensive showings like it did against Bethesda’s starter Noah Carabajal (Long Beach State) who threw five scoreless innings and only allowed two hits.
The pitching staff — especially Thursday’s starter Jake Davidson (Kenyon) who threw 4 ⅔ innings of three-run (one earned) ball — did all it could to keep the score at a manageable deficit. Tim Jinks (Drew) and Kai Cummings (Mount St. Mary’s) combined to allow just three runs in 5 ⅓ innings of work out of the bullpen.
Ryan Lynch (Notre Dame), who relieved Carabajal in the sixth, shut the offense down before the Grays broke through the pitching staff’s armor. Right fielder Sam Kaplan (Cornell), who paces the offense in numerous categories, led off the seventh inning with a base hit against the Big Train’s Zach Locke. Catcher Burke Camper (Towson) followed Kaplan’s knock with a single of his own and suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, the Grays were in business.
But Locke locked-in with the task at hand and struck Cam Bufford (Grambling) out on four pitches, forced Jared Sprague-Lott (Richmond) into a flyout and got Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette) to line out to the perfectly shaded shortstop — that almost lifted the crowd to its feet — to end the frame with nothing to show in the score column.
But in the eighth, DC finally broke through on the scoreboard with Wright’s RBI single, and inched closer in the ninth inning.
Camper began the inning with a lead-off walk, which Bufford and Jay Tarkenton (Old Dominion) followed up with singles to load the bases with no outs. Vandenbergh drove Camper home with a perfectly-placed opposite field single that snuck through the hole between Bethesda's shortstop and third baseman.
And with the Grays trailing by four with no outs and the bases still loaded, Wacker drove in a run but was retired — on a throw he likely beat out — with the controversial 6-4-3 double play the Big Train turned.
DC pushed across its final run after Bell beat out an errant throw from Bethesda’s third baseman. And down to its last out, DC couldn’t catch a break from the home plate umpire who had called — what should have been ball two — strike three to Wright to end it.
The Grays look to get back in the win column when they host the Silver Spring T-Bolts on Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
By Chris Hirons
WASHINGTON — In a week where the DC Grays were playing their best baseball, on a day where they could get back over the .500 mark for the first time since Opening Day, in a game where they were facing a 1-5 opponent, it all went wrong.
The bullpen melted down — once again — in an 8-6 loss to the South County Braves (2-5) that kept DC’s and players standing around in the outfield, talking about the loss for 30 grueling minutes after catcher Ben Avila (Grambing) struck out looking at a curveball down the middle of the plate to end Wednesday night’s ballgame.
The demolition came just when the Grays (2-3) seemed ready to contend with the top dogs in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League. Instead, the Grays find themselves closer to the bottom of the league than the top.
Hasan Aquil (Lincoln) surrendered a two-run lead and the decisive blow — a grand slam in the seventh by the Braves’ Nic Ericsson — but it began before Aquil ran out to toe the rubber with an out left to record in the inning.
The meltdown started with a familiar face — Joseph O’Connell (Harvard) — who due to the cancellation of the Ivy League season has yet to throw a pitch at the collegiate level. He has been up and down thus far this summer. Aquil, who’s more of a crafty left-hander that doesn’t overpower hitters by blowing fastballs by, had his troubles as well.
The loss seemed almost improbable after the Grays’ built a 6-0 lead by scoring all six runs on singles in the first inning.
The six-run lead lasted up until the sixth inning when O’Connell was called on from the bullpen, replacing starter Cooper Vest (BYU), who had turned in his third solid outing in as many appearances. The BYU left-hander departed after throwing five shutout innings of two-hit, six strikeout ball. Yet at the end of the night all he had to show for it was another no-decision.
O’Connell allowed the advantage to be slimmed to 6-3 when Ericsson hit his first home run of the night, a three-run shot that the outfielders could only turn around and watch.
Right after Ericsson’s homer, O’Connell allowed a single but quickly bounced back by getting the next batter to fly out to medium-deep left field to end the inning.
Manager Reggie Terry couldn’t turn to closer Frank Craska (Lafayette) after he pitched three innings in the suspended 12-inning marathon on Monday night, nor could he turn to Joe Richardson (Southern), who’s dealing with an arm injury.
With the Grays’ playing six games on six consecutive days, Terry knew that going deep into his bullpen on Wednesday could have severe consequences by the end of the week so sent O’Connell back out to work the seventh.
O’Connell hadn’t made an appearance since giving up six runs on seven hits in two innings in an extra-innings loss to the Gaithersburg Giants last Saturday, but he delivered favorable results on June 7 against the Silver Spring T-Bolts where he pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
Terry sent O’Connell back out to the mound to find his stuff, but unfortunately it never came. The inning started off with loud contact — a double to No. 7 hitter Jonathan Fisher. Then, he issued a walk to the next batter and then a single to the next.
It looked like he had found his groove, striking out the Braves’ leadoff hitter Cooper Benzin with the bases loaded. And then he forced the next batter to hit a sacrifice fly to right field.
No harm, no foul, right? The Grays still led by two runs with two outs and runners on the corners. Terry gave O’Connell one final chance, one final batter. But the move to pull him was at least one hitter too late.
He issued a six-pitch walk to re-load the bases before Terry retrieved him for Aquil. By the end of his outing, O’Connell had surrendered five hits and two walks on 47 pitches.
Aquil jogged in from the home bullpen out in left field — his last appearance came in Silver Spring on Sunday where he threw a scoreless inning. His task: force a red-hot, right-handed hitting Ericsson into an out to keep the Grays’ two-run lead intact.
Ericsson made contact with the first pitch Aquil threw. He just missed the sweet spot and fouled it off. On the second pitch, Ericsson swung again and didn’t miss.
He launched a fastball up-and-over the left field fence. Everyone in the ballpark knew it was gone as soon as it left the bat. And in one swing, a game the Grays felt that they had in their hands, fell out of their grasp.
Aquil recorded the final out of the inning two batters later, but the damage had been done. All told in O’Connell’s one-and-two-thirds innings of work, all seven runners he was responsible for had scored.
The Grays tried to battle back, putting a base runner on in the seventh and bringing the go-ahead and winning runs to the plate in the eighth and ninth. But once Ericsson’s second blast left the yard, it seemed all but over.
The bullpen’s struggles overshadowed a six-run outburst in a five-hit, four-walk first inning, where the Grays played it safe, moving runners station-to-station. Cam Bufford (Grambling) and Max Power (Holy Cross) both picked up RBI singles, while Sam Kaplan (Cornell) and Evan Smith (West Virginia) drove in two runners with their singles. And the meltdown gave DC a loss it can ill afford to have against one of the younger, less experienced teams in the league.
If the Grays felt good about the progress they made in the past week, if the defense, the pitching and the timely hitting had jumpstarted the hopes of making a deep run into the postseason, this was a reminder of how low a team could feel — and how quickly.
The Grays host the Bethesda Big Train Thursday night at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. This is the make-up game for last Friday's rain-out.
By Chris Hirons
WASHINGTON — “The center fielder is back at the wall… And it’s gone! Grays walk it off,” DC Grays’ play-by-play announcer Craige Smith bellowed after catcher Jay Tarkenton (Old Dominion) hit a moonshot that smacked the base of the left center field wall in the 11th inning at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
“Wait, no,” Smith continued. “The ball stayed in the park and the Grays have actually tied the game at nine here with two outs in the 11th inning.”
Smith’s commentary provided the perfect summary of the Grays’ 9-9 game against the Alexandria Aces that wound up resulting in a suspension in the 12th inning: Close but not quite enough.
After the Grays tied the game up at three apiece in the fourth inning, the Aces and Grays see-sawed for the remainder of the night. DC gave up two runs in the fifth, only to tie the game and score two runs in the sixth. Then again in the seventh, Kai Cummings (Mount St. Mary’s) allowed a run to score, only for Cam Bufford (Grambling) to tie the game once again on a solo home run — in his first game since arriving in DC, no less.
And it happened once more in the eleventh.
In his third inning of work, Frank Craska (Lafayette) allowed a bloop single and then a home run to Aces’ right fielder Anthony Migliaccio to break the 6-6 tie. Then two pitches later, Matt Stone smacked his second home run of the night that Scotty Bandura (Princeton) could only look up and watch.
But even as Bandura watched the ball sail over the bullpen out in left field, the Grays had Bandura’s speed and baserunning aggressiveness to thank for giving the team a chance to battle back.
In the fourth, Bandura was hit by a pitch and reached first with an out. Following Burke Camper’s (Towson) strikeout, Kenny Bell (Southeastern Louisiana) walked to give DC runners — with game-changing speed — on first and second with two outs.
Bell’s walk gave Sam Kaplan (Cornell) a chance to drive in Bandura who stood at second base. On the first pitch of Kaplan’s at-bat both Bandura and Bell took off for third and second base, respectively.
They both slid into the bags safely as the risky and aggressive baserunning gave Kaplan a chance to drive in a run with two runners in scoring position, something DC has had trouble with all season.
Kaplan stared at his bat, knocked the turf pellets off of his cleats before getting back into the box. He fouled off a tough 2-2 curveball, sending it slowly down the third base line. He unloaded on the next pitch.
Kaplan swung and sent a deep fly ball to left-center field that landed in DC’s bullpen, tying the game at three.
For the first time seemingly all season, the Grays bench could finally breathe a collective sigh of relief — one of their hitters finally came through with runners on base.
Kaplan’s home run opened the floodgates for timely hits. When the Grays trailed by another two runs in the sixth with runners on first and second, Kaplan and Ben Nardi (Catholic) drove in separate RBI singles to tie the score at six.
And then after the Aces grabbed the lead back with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, Bufford’s opposite field home run tied the game again.
After Bufford’s shot, the clutch hits stopped falling. In the first extra inning, DC loaded the bases for an over-aggressive Cal Rucker (Georgetown), who replaced Nardi at first in the seventh inning, as he grounded out in an inning-ending double play after swinging at the first pitch he saw.
And then in the 11th, trailing by three after the two home runs in the top half, the well-timed hits found their way back to the Nations Youth Baseball Academy.
Kyle Chmielewski (Lafayette) singled and Robby Wacker (Emory) walked to open the frame. Patrick Vandenburgh (Lafayette) lined a single to center field that found open grass, scoring Chmielewski from second, bringing the score back to a manageable 9-7 deficit.
A wild pitch allowed both Wacker and Vandenburgh to move up 90 more feet, giving the Grays confidence that they could easily tie the game.
But it turned out to be anything but easy. Bufford hit a hard ground ball to short that stopped Wacker in his tracks and Bandura — who leads the Grays in hits — struck out after a six-pitch battle.
It seemed as if all hope was lost. Tarkenton, who entered the game in the top half of the inning after replacing a pinch runner, expected Monday night to be his day off. Even as one of DC’s leading hitters, Tarkenton didn’t see himself in a situation where he would come off the bench — unless in an emergency situation.
But there he was, walking up to the plate slowly after Bandura’s strikeout. He settled in and watched a pitch whiz by.
On the next pitch, Tarkenton didn’t take his time to wait out the pitcher any longer. He swung and sent a fly ball to center field. Everyone in the stands thought it was gone. Everyone in the press box thought it was gone. And even a few players and coaches on the Grays bench thought it was gone.
It looked like it had flown over the fence. Until it hit off the base off the wall, tying the game at nine with two outs in the 11th. Excitement, yet filled with a little bit of disappointment.
And after Bell struck out to end the inning, the game played on.
Aces’ shortstop Adam Tellier reached on a Rucker error after he wasn’t able to pick Wackner’s throw out of the dirt and stole second with an out.
And then, a bolt of lightning struck about 10 miles away from the Grays’ home field. The umpires, who had ignored the heat lightning in the sky, suspended the game when the lightning became too clear to miss.
Monday night’s matchup was officially suspended at 10:33 p.m. with a resumption date to be announced in the coming days.
When the lightning bolt struck, a collective groan could be heard from the Grays dugout.
It was their first complete performance as a team all season. The bats were hot, picking up hits with runners on base. The pitching was solid (for the most part) all evening. And the defense, especially with Bell running around with his hair on fire and stealing hits in center field, wasn’t bad.
A team performance that was close, but not quite enough.
The Grays take on the South County Braves on Wednesday at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. First pitch is set to be thrown at 7 p.m.
SILVER SPRING, Md. — If the DC Grays could do what they did in their 10-1 win over the Silver Spring T-Bolts on Sunday night at Blair Stadium on a consistent basis, they’d have no problem claiming the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League championship at the end of the season.
If the baserunners could stretch a lead out that’s just far enough to dive back into the bag safely, but not before forcing the opposing pitcher to throw wild pickoff attempts that reach the dugout behind the first base bag; if the bullpen could deliever five innings of three-hit, one-run baseball; if Max Power-Kruger (Holy Cross) could reach base four times every night; and if Alex Rosen (Georgetown) could pick up two hits and drive in a run each time he took the field … well, the Grays would be 4-0 to open the season.
But in all sports — in baseball especially — the highs and lows of a season humbles most, if not all, teams at some point in the season. But for the Grays, who were humbled in Saturday’s 9-7 loss in extra innings to the Gaithersburg Giants, they played at the highest of highs on Sunday night — just two games removed from a bullpen falter against the Alexandria Aces earlier in the week and a day removed from a total bullpen collapse on Saturday.
The Grays haven’t played with a ton of margin for error in the bullpen all season and have let their starters work deeper into recent games — Cooper Vest (BYU) threw five innings of one-run ball Saturday and Tucker Alch (Catholic) went four scoreless on Sunday. On the same day Alch threw his four scoress innings, DC finally got the bullpen performance it had been searching for all season.
It took the club four-plus games (last Tuesday’s game against the South County Braves was suspended in the fourth inning), but the bullpen finally delivered. After Alch was pulled, three pitchers — Jake Davidson (Kenyon), Hasan Aquil (Lincoln), Dylan Siesky (Lafayette) — combined to pitch the fifth through eighth innings without giving up a hit or a run. Michael Eggert (Wofford) pitched the ninth, allowing three hits and a run to score.
But the win wouldn’t have come had the T-Bolts’ defense hadn’t been so careless on the diamond. Silver Spring kicked the ball around, committing seven errors and aggravating their pitchers in the process. The Grays, though, weren’t complaining about the sloppy play.
Silver Spring’s defensive woes began just three batters into the night when Jay Tarkenton (Old Dominion) doubled to advance Jared Sprague-Lott (Richmond) to third. An airmailed throw from the T-Bolts centerfielder allowed Sprague-Lott to score easily, giving the Grays a 1-0 lead before Silver Spring came to bat.
And in the next inning, Sprague-Lott found himself in the middle of the T-Bolts’ sorrows again. On a 1-2 count, he rolled over on an off-speed pitch, chopping a bouncing ball to Silver Spring’s third baseman. He charged hard but overthrew the T-Bolts’ first baseman, allowing Rosen to score from third after initally stopping to head back to third base. The error gave DC a 4-0 lead.
After struggles of moving baserunners over and driving them in hurt the Grays in the first three games of the season, those same struggles didn’t seem to haunt them in the sixth, where DC scored four more runs — thanks to more poor defensive play.
With Vest on third and with a six-run lead intact, Power-Kruger walked on four pitches and turned his attention to the T-Bolts’ pitcher. Before a pitch was thrown to Tarkenton, Silver Spring’s pitcher threw attempted to pick Power-Kruger off at first, but threw wildly, sending the ball to the fence behind first, and allowed Vest to score easily.
The defensive failures weren’t over quite yet. In the same inning, Silver Spring’s second baseman misplayed a hard-hit ball from Tarkenton, allowing mayhem to ensue. After round first, Tarkenton walked into second base, while Power-Kruger and Sprague-Lott came across the plate to score the eighth and ninth runs for DC, respectively.
And then in the seventh, Peter Costigan scored on a wild pitch, giving the Grays their first double-digit lead of the season.
What went wrong for Silver Spring is exactly what went right for the Grays, namely playing clean baseball, throwing strikes and picking up timely hits. The bullpen, which had been somewhat taxed after Wednesday’s meltdown and Saturday’s 11-inning loss, stepped up for the first time this season on Sunday.
The Grays might not end up becoming accustomed to the dominance that came out of the bullpen when the season is all said and done. But thanks to its performance on Sunday, manager Reggie Terry can have a little more faith when he needs to turn to it in crucial situations later this season.
The DC Grays return home to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on Monday to face the Alexandria Aces. First pitch is set to be thrown at 7:00 p.m.
By Daniel Butler
WASHINGTON – After Friday night’s washout, the weather cooperated Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Gaithersburg Giants did not.
The Giants bested the DC Grays 9-7 in extra innings at the Washington Nationals Youth Academy, as a late game-tying rally ultimately wasn’t enough for DC. As with any closely-fought contest, there were plenty of impressive moments for this young Grays squad to build off of for the rest of the season.
The game began with the spotlight back on DC’s opening day hero, Cooper Vest (BYU) as he took the mound looking to put the Grays back in the win column after Wednesday’s loss at Alexandria and Friday’s rain-out against Bethesda.
Vest was able to make quick work of the Giants in the first, retiring them in order after only seven pitches (six strikes).
In the second, the southpaw got into a bases loaded jam. He managed to escape unscathed thanks to a sparking defensive play by third baseman Brandon Gibbs (Delaware State), who snared a line drive and saved at least two runs.
The Grays’ bats started cold, being shut down in order each of the first two innings.
The Giants broke through in the third inning against Vest, as a triple, hit by pitch, and balk plated the game’s first run. Once again, Vest got a helping hand from his defense, as Grays catcher Burke Camper (Towson) gunned down runners trying to steal third and second base to limit further damage and keep the score 1-0.
In the bottom of the third the Grays’ bats lit up as DC quickly answered the Giant’s run with three of their own – helped by two walks and two Giants errors.
The fourth inning mimicked the first as both teams went down quietly, failing to continue the offensive outburst.
Vest posted five strong innings for the Grays giving up five hits, three walks and just the single run. He left with a 3-1 lead.
Joseph O’Connell (Harvard) came on in relief for DC out to replace the sixth. He was hit hard, and wasn’t helped by some sloppy play behind him. He gave up six runs (all earned) in his two innings of work and by the seventh inning stretch the Giants lead by 7-3.
In the bottom of the frame, the Grays rallied – and as the offense heated up the crowd came back to life as well. Sabin Roane (ODU) had the only hit of the inning, a two-out RBI single – and the Grays took advantage of two walks, a hit batter and a Giants error to trim the deficit to 7-6.
Both offenses were quickly silenced in the eighth inning during this back and forth affair, making for a nervous ninth inning for the DC crowd.
Tim Jinks (Drew) and Frank Craska (Lafayette) kept the Giants off the board in the eighth and ninth innings – continuing their excellent relief work.
The bottom of the ninth started ominously for the home team, with a leadoff ground out then strike out. With the Grays down to their final out, Ben Nardi (Catholic) tied the game with a booming drive over the wall in dead center field to tie the score and send the game to extra innings.
However, in extra frames the Grays bats suddenly went cold, and they couldn’t answer after the Giants scored two runs in the top of the 11th against Kai Cummings (Mount St. Mary’s).
The 9-7 victory evened the Giants’ record at 2-2, while the loss dropped the Grays to 1-2.
The Grays look to get back in the win column as they travel to Silver Spring on Sunday to take on the T-Bolts. First pitch is scheduled for 6:00pm.
DC Grays Baseball is hosting a fundraising kickball tournament, called “Kick it for Kids,” on Saturday, July 31 at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. Proceeds will benefit the DC Grays RBI youth baseball and softball program, as well as Mamie Johnson Little League, Ward 8 Little League, and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB) Little League. The programs will use the funds raised at this event for uniforms and equipment. All four programs operate primarily in Wards 7 and 8 – some of the most economically-disadvantaged areas in DC.
“This will be a fun event for a great cause,” said Mike Barbera, president of DC Grays Baseball. “Our RBI program is expanding again this year, and our three Little League partners serve hundreds of kids every spring. The proceeds from this event will help us buy new uniforms and equipment, and make improvements to our fields so we can better serve even more families.”
Kick it for Kids will be a double-elimination tournament using approved kickball rules from the World Kickball Association. The cost is $2500 per team, and teams can have up to 12 players.
Teams can register at www.dcgrays.com