Saturday evening saw a downpour in Northern Maryland that postponed both the Big Train and Grays previous matchups before their Sunday night battle. These two teams were on opposite trajectories this season. Bethesda rode high at the top of the standings while DC had lost a few tough battles in a row. But the Grays had come close to downing the Big Train before this matchup so they weren't invincible.
Kai Cummings (Mount St. Mary’s) made his first start since June 19 in Alexandria, where he shutout the Aces in his six innings of work. Cummings came with some high heat to open up the game in the first two innings. He allowed a few base runners but ultimately no runs scored for the Big Train and Cummings registered two strikeouts in the first inning.
The bats started the game on the right track. Three-hole hitter Cam Bufford (Grambling State) smoked a double off the bat and into left field. In the second inning, Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette) notched a single, one of his two on the day. The Grays had a couple of walks in the second but no runs to show for it yet.
After Cummings delivered two strong innings, Joe Bladel (William & Mary) took over in the third inning. The story of this inning, though, was Vandenbergh who made a spectacular catch at second base. There was a hot shot to his left which was snagged by Vandenbergh for the out. Bethesda scored the first run of the game in the process, however, to make it 1-0 after three innings.
The fourth inning was a bit of the same story. A new pitcher took the bump for the Grays. Camden Mounts (Catholic) stood in and pitched a flawless fourth inning which included a strikeout. Like the last inning, this one featured a Golden Glove worthy defensive play from Vandenbergh once more. This time it was a softer ground ball to his left side. Vandenbergh dove to his knees to stop the ball from rolling into the outfield. In the process, Vandenbergh twisted his body and spun around to fire a bullet into the glove of Camphausen.
In the fifth inning, the Grays struck gold and found the runs they were looking for. Aaron Thomas (Wofford) led the charge with a single struck to right field which was followed by a Vandenbergh single that was poked into center. With Thomas holding steady at third, he was able to sprint home off a wild pitch and get the Grays on the scoreboard. But they weren't done just yet because Derrick Booker (St. Mary’s) hit a well-placed RBI base hit to score Vandenbergh from second and propel the Grays into a 2-1 lead at the halfway point.
When the second half of the game was underway, the Grays saw a familiar face take the mound. The team leader in strikeouts with 19, Kai Leckszas (Georgetown) returned to the mound in the fifth inning. Leckszas worked through a clean frame and registered a strikeout. The inning was also highlighted by a wonderful defensive play by starting catcher Humberto Torres (Gardner-Webb). Torres nailed a runner trying to steal second for his fourth runner caught base runner of the summer.
Not only did Torres make some great plays behind the plate but he also delivered a single at the plate in the sixth inning. The Grays weren’t able to cash in, however, so Caleb Causey (Mississippi Valley State) took over pitching duties in the bottom half of the sixth. That sixth inning was the Big Train tie the game. Picking back up in the seventh inning, Bryce Molinaro (St. John’s) came in for a relief appearance. He gave up no runs in the inning and Bufford made a smooth glove and throw play from third to first to close the inning out.
In the eighth inning, Tyler Horvat (Washington & Jefferson) got the Grays a base runner by hustling down the first base line and was called safe. Horvat didn’t end up reaching home so the Grays and Big Train remained tied 2-2 with an inning of baseball remaining.
Adam Bogosian (Lafayette) started the bottom of the eighth in relief but was replaced by Sam Stratton (Wofford) after giving up the go-ahead run. Stratton was able to work through the remainder of the inning and send the Grays to the ninth with three outs to play with. The Grays didn’t go down without a fight. Bufford drew a two-out walk and Dane Camphausen (Wooster) singled into the opposite field just a few inches away from the first base foul line. But after Harper struck out swinging the Grays fell just short of conquering the Big Train for the first time this season.
Sunday marked the Grays final contest before the All-Star break. Seven Grays will represent the team in Bethesda for Tuesday night's All-Star game. Those players are Sam Blancato (Georgia Southern), Henry Zipay (Nebraska-Omaha), Cam Bufford, Dane Camphausen, Kai Cummings, Kai Leckszas, and Jake Davidson (Kenyon).
After the All-Star break wraps up the Grays will play the Giants in Gaithersburg Thursday night at 7 p.m. Then, DC will then return to Nationals Youth Baseball Academy the next night on Friday to face the Alexandria Aces at 7 p.m.