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
DC Grays Baseball is proud to announce that the DC Grays RBI softball program is expanding!
DC Grays RBI is partnering with Mamie Johnson Little League to launch a Junior Softball programs for girls ages 10-12. This will complement DC Grays RBI’s existing softball program, which has players in three age groups (15U, 18U, College Division) and will now be known as Senior Travel Softball.
There are more than 20 girls paying softball at Mamie Johnson Little League this spring, in addition to other girls from Ward 8 Little League and JBAB Little League who have expressed a desire for additional softball opportunities in the summer. These girls will play softball for DC Grays RBI in the summer, with a schedule of weekly practices and games play against local programs. Practices and games will be at Jackie Robinson Field and at other venues as scheduled.
As with all DC Grays RBI programs, Junior Softball is offered at NO COST to all participants.
About DC Grays RBI: In 2016, DC Grays Baseball partnered with Major League Baseball to run the Reviving Baseball in Inner-Cities (RBI) program for Washington. That year, DC Grays RBI was born with the mission to make baseball and softball more accessible to more kids – regardless of ability to pay. The program includes travel baseball and softball teams across multiple age groups, as well as a coed “house” summer baseball league and a new junior softball program. Each year, DC Grays RBI baseball and softball teams represent Washington in MLB’s Mid-Atlantic RBI tournament. All DC Grays RBI programs are completely FREE to all participants.
It was the bottom of the first, and 17 people were tuned in to the Facebook broadcast of the DC Grays, a college summer league team playing its season opener against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. With one out and the count 3-1, the voice of the most famous person on the grounds of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy came confidently over the Internet.
“Get that hitter’s count,” Mo’ne Davis said, “get the pitch you want — and just drive it.”
To finish the article by Barry Svrulga from The Washington Post, click here.
LORTON, Va. — Max Power-Kruger (Holy Cross) strolled to the plate in the top of the fourth inning as cracks of thunder were heard and strikes of lightning flew through the sky about 10 miles from South County High School. A high school girl’s soccer game, which was on the football field about 120 feet away, had already been delayed for the developing weather nearly 10 minutes prior.
The DC Grays, who were leading 3-0 before the top of the fourth inning began, and South County Braves, however, played on.
The Grays’ second baseman pumped his bat once, twice and a third time as he stepped into the batter’s box while the Braves’ catcher threw down to second base to end warmups in the top of the fourth inning.
As South County’s pitcher toed the rubber, the team’s manager left the dugout steps and called over to the home plate umpire for a quick discussion. He had been eyeballing the radar for the past inning and asked the umpire to delay the game for half an hour so that the teams could wait out the impending weather with risk to injury.
“I guess they just didn’t want to face me,” Power-Kruger said to his parents with a laugh as they waited out the delay.
To kill time during the delay, players wandered around the South County High School sports complex, pitcher Joseph O'Connell (Harvard) grabbed a football out of the back of his car to throw with his teammates out in the right field bullpen, and others chatted and laughed with their teammates in the dugout.
The wait to resume play never came to an end.
Thirty-five minutes passed since the players left the field when the announcement to suspend Tuesday evening’s game in the top of the fourth was made. The Grays and Braves intend to make up or complete the game at some point later this season.
No storm ended formulating over the field by the time both teams left the ballpark, but one had been brewing on the field since the second pitch of the game when designated hitter Kenny Bell (Southeastern Louisiana) lifted a flyball to straight away center field to leadoff the first inning, as he picked up his first hit of the season.
Quick starts on offense and aggressive base running has given DC the early momentum swings it needs just two games into the summer season.
A night after Scott Bandura (Princeton) swiped home on a wild pitch in the first inning against the Silver Spring T-Bolts, Bell stole third and trotted home on an errant throw from the Braves’ catcher that found the grass in left field, giving the Grays a 1-0 lead.
The early advantage gave Tucker Alch (Catholic), who started on the bump for the Grays, all the confidence he needed. Alch used his fastball — working it on the inside and outside parts of the plate — to jam opposing hitters, forcing them into weak contact, and even broke a few bats in his three innings of one-hit, one walk ball.
Whether it was by design or coincidence, the Grays were aggressive early in the count, putting the ball in play two-or-three pitches into an at-bat or working a quick four-or-five pitch walk. Though DC was aggressive at the plate, the strategy to swing early in the count wasn’t overly-aggressive and it paid off in the second inning.
After first baseman Vince DiLeonardo (Elon) walked on four pitches with an out, Bell picked up his second double of the night to drive in DiLeonardo from first. Bandura, who picked up a hit and an RBI on a sacrifice fly in DC’s win on Monday, continued his hot start and brought in Bell with a single as he scored standing up.
Both offenses were weathered down in the third, going down 1-2-3 before the storm forced the umpires to postpone the game.
Sometimes you create the storm and other times it finds you. In the Gray’s case, the storm that found them ended the storm that they created.
The Grays travel to Alexandria to take on the Aces on Wednesday and will play host to the Bethesda Big Train at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on Friday night.
By Chris Hirons
WASHINGTON — Six days ago, at the end of West Coast Conference season, Cooper Vest (BYU) was told to pack his bags and board a cross-country flight to Washington D.C. and play for the DC Grays this summer.
On Monday night, he found himself on the mound for the first time in months — leading his new team to a 5-3 win over the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts at the Washington National Youth Academy in the season opener for the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League.
Though recruited to BYU as a pitcher, an injury kept the lefty off the mound this spring. Instead, he played the outfield for the Cougars — hitting .261 in 29 games. The BYU coaching staff wanted him to begin to build up arms strength this summer, and he was happy to take the ball in the opener.
He made the most of the opportunity.
After striking out Silver Spring T-Bolts center fielder Naighel Calderon to begin the evening, he strutted around the mound and smiled. It was all warranted for a guy who hadn’t pitched since high school.
“I didn’t ask to go and pitch,” Vest said. “Coach told me I was pitching the first game of the season and I said ’okay, whatever you need, coach’.”
The left-hander used a mixture of his fastball and curveball to keep Silver Spring off-balance in his three innings of one-run ball. He often worked backwards, starting hitters off with his off-speed pitches, and later pounded the zone with his fastball later in each at-bat.
“I just have to get a couple more jogs in after the game [to get the blood flowing in the arm],” Vest said with a laugh.
His deception and long pauses in between pitches kept Silver Spring guessing, which resulted in four strikeouts and only a single walk. Vest received a scattered applause after his final strikeout of the day — his third via the fastball.
The scattered applause of 233 hometown fans felt welcoming for Vest and his teammates. For the past 681 days, there had been no D.C. Grays baseball. The pandemic cancelled the Ripken League season in 2020 and the Grays felt they had waited long enough.
After Vest struck out the side on a mere 11 pitches in the top of the first, center fielder Scott Bandura (Princeton) lined a 1-1 fastball between the shortstop and third baseman. Then after a flyout, Jared Sprague-Lott (Richmond), who led the Atlantic-10 conference in hitting, and catcher Burke Camper (Towson) walked to load the bases. A wild pitch from Silver Spring starter Zach Tsakounis allowed Bandura to score.
It would be the only run the Grays would score in the opening frame, however. Tsakounis stranded the next two runners after striking out center fielder Kenny Bell (Southeastern Louisiana) and third baseman Robby Wacker (Emory) to escape the first inning jam.
In the second, the Grays loaded the bases again with an out after first baseman Vince DiLeonardo (Elon) singled, Bandura walked, and a Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette) singled. But unlike the prior inning, the Grays couldn’t push a run across after Sprague-Lott grounded into a double play.
In the next inning, though, the T-Bolts finally got to Vest — breaking through with a two-out RBI-double. It would be all the T-Bolts could muster off of Vest, who was pulled after forcing the second baseman Noah Levin to pop out to second to end the inning.
After going down quietly in the third inning, D.C.’s bats woke up again in the fourth and fifth innings. The fourth inning run was highlighted by a Sprague-Lott RBI single that drove in Bandura.
And in the fifth, the Grays offense finally broke through. After Silver Spring reliever John Alvey plunked the lead-off batter and walked the next two, DiLeonardo came through with the hit that the Grays had been searching for all night.
He drove Wacker and Kenny Jones (Richmond) in with a seeing-eye single through the infield, and Bandura tacked on the third run of the frame with a sac-fly to center field to give D.C. a 5-1 lead.
Silver Spring, however, didn’t go down without a whimper, scoring two in the sixth to inch closer, 5-3.
Stellar bullpen work, though, closed the door on a T-Bolts comeback.
After giving up a run in his first inning of work, Joe Richardson (Southern) bounced back with a scoreless seventh inning, and Joseph O’Connell (Harvard) and Frank Craska (Lafayette) allowed just a single base runner in the final two innings of the evening.
After Craska recorded the save in the ninth, the Grays gave their fans a win for the first time since July 2019. And it all felt worth the wait.
The Grays travel to Lorton on Tuesday for a 7:00pm road game against the FCA Braves at South County High School. The Braves lost their opener 3-1 to the Alexandria Aces on Monday.