GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Jake Davidson (Keyon) looked up, then down at the baseball in his glove, before returning to the mound and shaking his head. The Gaithersburg Giants’ center fielder, Dustin Mercer (Virginia Tech), stood on second base, grinning. Davidson was an out away from working out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the second — an error bent Davidson’s and the DC Grays’ luck to pieces on Wednesday afternoon.
The result, after the Grays had led 3-0 after Scott Bandura’s (Princeton) lead-off home run and a couple more runs crossed the plate soon after, was a 13-3 defeat in the first game of an atypical doubleheader. The Grays lost the second game, too, but that score was much closer, 4-3. After Bandura singled in Kyle Chmielewski (Lafayette) in the top of the second, the Grays were held off the scoreboard for the next 12 innings. The first leg lasted nine innings; the second was seven, the Cal Ripken Collegiate League’s solution to rescheduled games that turn into doubleheaders,
The error that hurt DC in the bottom of the second was the result of a bad baseball decision and play. Davidson loaded the bases with a walk, a single and another single with one out. He forced the next hitter to lineout to left, before Mercer’s single tied the game and a throwing error from first baseman Jared Sprague-Lott allowed the fourth run of the inning to score. Davidson worked out of the inning on the next pitch with another lineout to left field, but the damage had already been done.
The next inning, the bad luck spiraled. Six more runs came across to score, giving the Giants a seven-run lead. And even for an offense, like the Grays, that had scored 16 runs in both Sunday and Monday’s win, was too surmountable to overcome. Seven of the Grays first 12 hitters reached base in the first and second inning.
After that? Seven of their final 27 batters reached base as the timely hits — and hits in general — stopped falling.
The second game began about 45 minutes after the first one ended. The Grays, with a fresh slate, couldn’t take advantage of it. After Bandura led off the game with a walk, he was thrown out attempting to steal second base for the first time in 26 tries this season. A pitch later, Evan Smith (West Virginia) flew out to deep center field to end the inning, continuing the Grays’ evening of bad luck.
Cooper Vest (BYU) was one of the few silver linings all of Wednesday. He received the start, throwing three shutout innings and striking out six in his eighth appearance on the bump. He yielded four hits and worked around a few errors in the second and third innings, stranding the bases loaded in the second and two runners in scoring position in the third. He lowered his season ERA from 0.95 to 0.82 — his first full season back on the mound since he had elbow surgery in high school.
It seemed like the Grays’ luck had turned the corner when Vest departed following his 55 pitches in three innings. In the top of the fourth, Bandura led the inning off with a seven-pitch walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt that Patrick Vandendergh (Lafayette) almost beat out for an infield single. Smith advanced Bandura to third, but couldn’t beat out the ground ball that he hit to second base. Burke Camper (Towson) drew a two-out walk, leaving Cam Bufford (Grambling), who hit a towering home run on Sunday, up with runners on the corners and two outs. But a pitching change, and two pitches later, Bufford flew out to center to end the short-lived rally.
Walks and a base hit burned the Grays in the bottom of the fourth when the Giants put up a four spot in the inning. DC responded two innings later when Ben Nardi (Catholic) scored on Vandenbergh’s sacrifice fly, and Smith drove in Bandura on a groundout to second, trimming the deficit to two.
Frank Craska (Lafayette) trotted in from the bullpen to pitch the fifth and sixth innings, holding the Giants off the scoreboard. And in the seventh, the Grays comeback came up just short when Bufford hit his team-leading fifth home run of the season to lead off the final inning. In the end, the next three hitters went down in a row, dropping the Grays to 10-20 on the season.
The Grays travel to Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring Maryland to take on the Silver Spring-Takoma T-Bolts on Thursday night. First pitch is set for 7:00 p.m.
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