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.