WASHINGTON — Another summer and another DC Grays season in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League has come and gone in the blink of an eye. Beginning in early June, the Grays — which featured eight members from the 2014 Little League World Series, including broadcast intern Mo’ne Davis — completed the CRCL season, nearly missing out on a berth in the League Championship Series.
Despite an up-and-down summer, the Grays defeated the Gaithersburg Giants in a thrilling 11-inning victory during the play-in round, but lost to the eventual league champions, the Bethesda Big Train, in the league semi-final series.
The seven players featured from the 2014 LLWS that suited up for the Grays this summer were Scott Bandura (Princeton), Jared Sprague-Lott (Richmond), Kai Cummings (Mount St. Mary’s), Jahli Hendricks (Southern), Joe Richardson (Southern), Brandon Gibbs (Delaware State) and Cam Bufford (Grambling). Every one of the aforementioned players, with the exception of Bufford, played on Davis’ team, the Taney Dragons (Pennsylvania) in 2014.
Three of the former Little League stars, Bufford, Bandura and Sprague-Lott, paced the Grays’ offense in just about every category this summer. Bandura, DC’s center fielder, was the centerpiece of the offense, leading the team in games played (28), batting average (.351), hits (34), RBIs (26), walks (21), and even led the league in stolen bases with 31. Bufford, meanwhile, flexed his muscles and mashed a team-leading seven home runs. And Sprague-Lott, after leading the Atlantic-10 in batting average, hit .284 and drew an absurd 20 walks in 26 games, while moving all around the infield to fill manager Reggie Terry’s needs.
Bufford, a CRCL All-Star, is headed up north to finish the summer out in the Cape Cod League — known as the best summer collegiate baseball league in the country — to play for the Falmouth Commodores. Cooper Vest (BYU) also received an invitation to play in the CCL, but turned it down in order to return home and prepare for the upcoming school year, which begins on Aug. 14, and BYU’s spring season.
Vest, named to the CRCL All-Star Team that lost to Team Israel in an Olympic exhibition, formed a three-headed monster with Tucker Alch (Catholic) and Mike Eggert (Wofford) at the top of the rotation for DC. Vest, Alch and Eggert combined to pitch in 20 games (15 starts) and yield a 1.92 ERA in 70 ⅓ combined innings with 71 strikeouts. Eggert threw five perfect innings against the Silver Spring-Takoma T-Bolts on June 23 before he was pulled and then pitched a five-inning, rain-shorted no-hitter against the South County Braves in his next start on July 3.
Alch led the league in ERA with a 1.82 average in 29 ⅔ innings, but Vest led his squad with a 1.12 mark in 24 innings on the bump. Vest, after completing his true freshman season with the Cougars, had planned to spend his summer at home, but was told by his coaches at BYU to head to Washington a week before the summer season began to pitch. He hit .261 as an outfielder in 27 games with BYU, but wasn’t able to take the bump in the spring because after undergoing an elbow procedure during his senior year of high school.
Both Eggert and Alch were named to the All-Star team, as well as catcher Burke Camper (Towson), reliever Frank Craska (Lafayette), starting pitcher Jake Davidson (Kenyon), left fielder Tanner Sagouspe (Cal Poly), Bandura and Sprague-Lott.
Evan Smith (West Virginia), who joined the Grays after his high school season concluded in mid-June, certainly deserved all-star honors after hitting .345 in 18 games with the Grays. Pat Vandenbergh (Lafayette) and Sam Kaplan (Cornell) also raked for the Grays as everyday players this summer, hitting .325 and .284, respectively. Kaplan lost most of his freshman season and his entire sophomore season due to the Ivy League’s covid-related cancellation, but bounced back well, hitting three homers and driving in 16 runs with the Grays.
The DC Grays are already counting down the days and looking forward to what next summer has in store.