By Chris Hirons
BETHESDA, Md. — Cody Bosak (Catholic) was worked into a stressful situation in the bottom of the eighth inning. With the game tied at three, runners on the corners and with one out, he took a deep breath and paused before throwing his first pitch to the Bethesda Big Train’s No. 7 hitter Keith Torres (Sacramento State).
He had already worked himself out of the same jam in his first frame of work in the inning prior by forcing Bethesda’s No. 3 hitter Matt Thomas (William & Mary) to ground into an inning-ending double play.
Bosak, working in his second multi-inning appearance since joining the Grays just under a week ago, threw two straight balls to Torres that missed the strike zone by inches — one a touch high, the other an inch or two low-and-outside. The third pitch slipped out of his hand, out of the reach of catcher Burke Camper’s (Towson), striking the home plate umpire in the mask, and allowed the go-ahead run to score and the runner on first to reach third.
He forced Torres to pop up to second base on the next pitch, but an error followed suit and allowed the runner at third to score. Bosak, a high school senior, was sharp aside from the pitch that ran wild, and, by the end, took the loss in Bethesda's 5-3 win over the DC Grays (7-14) on Tuesday night.
The Big Train’s two scores in the bottom half of the eighth were just enough to squeak by DC, which led off the top of the ninth with a walk from Jahli Hendricks (Southern) that brought the tying-run to the plate three separate times. But the next three Grays’ hitters went down in order, ending a game defined by their spotty hitting and few pitching mistakes.
Tuesday marked Tucker Alch’s (Catholic) second start against Bethesda this year, eight days removed from his gutsy 4 ⅔ inning and six-run (three earned) performance at Shirley Povich Field. A start in which Bethesda taggedAlch for the first runs he had allowed all season, after beginning the year with 16 ⅔ scoreless frames. He was solid in his first start against Bethesda. But on Tuesday, he turned it up a notch — Alch shoved.
It’s Alch’s nature to deceive hitters with his craft. He won’t light up a radar gun with every pitch he throws, but he makes up for it by mixing his speeds, movement and pitches. He gutted through all 88 of his pitches — 62 were thrown for strikes — on Tuesday night in his five inning, three-run (two earned) start.
He was knocked around a bit early, allowing two runs to score in the first inning before bouncing back in the second. The Big Train tacked on another run in the third, but that was it. Alch then worked around a runner on third with no outs in the fourth and fifth innings. With a little bit of defensive help, Alch and his defense kept Bethesda's offense quiet.
And then, about an hour-and-a-half after the first pitch was thrown, Cooper Vest (BYU) was the first pitcher asked to loosen in the Grays’ bullpen. It was a winning formula manager Reggie Terry would have liked to turn to later in the game, but Alch was pulled a tad early after Bethesda ran up his pitch count and forced him into multiple high-leverage situations. Vest got two quick outs and then worked around a two-out infield single to keep the game tied at three in the bottom of the sixth.
Yet the Grays’ offense wasn’t able to use Alch’s performance and Vest’s dominance as a springboard.
They missed multiple opportunities to score runs in innings they didn’t, and even when they scored runs in the innings they did, missed more opportunities to tack on and distance themselves from the Big Train. In the first, Scott Bandura (Princeton) reached to leadoff the game, stole second and was moved to third on a ground out. Back-to-back strikeouts stranded him. And then the Grays left nine more runners on base.
Jay Tarkenton (Old Dominion) drove in the Grays’ first run of the day with an infield single in the second and Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette) followed that up with a single up the middle to load the bases with an out. Bandura smoked a hard ground ball to the third baseman, who threw Peter Costigan (Charleston) out on a force play at home, and the next hitter grounded out to short.
The same thing happened in the fourth and sixth innings when the Grays loaded the bases with less than two outs but only came away with a run from each inning.
And then the Big Train offense broke through in the bottom of the eighth to score two runs to break the tie in the bottom of the eighth. And finally, after Hendricks reached on a lead-off walk in the ninth, Jared Sprague-Lott (Richmond) almost kept the Grays’ mini-rally going with a rope to right-center field that was just in reach of the right fielder’s glove.
It ended the Grays’ chances and left them with their 10th game that they’ve lost by two runs or fewer. On a night where it looked like they could finally piece it all together for their first back-to-back wins of the season, the Grays buckled.
The DC Grays look to bounce back on Wednesday evening against the Alexandria Aces at Frank Mann Field. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.