It might not have been the ending the DC Grays wanted, but the journey to get there won’t be forgotten by the DC faithful.
Sitting behind the Silver-Spring T-Bolts by three games in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League standings when play began after the All-Star break on July 7, the Grays catapulted into a playoff spot, using a late-season push – via a five-game win streak – to move from dead last in the standings and into the postseason.
The All-Star break gave the Grays a much-needed rest after they stumbled out of the gates in the first half of the season. They were so close, inches even, away from turning early season losses into victories, but bad luck would sometimes get in the way of success.
However, when the calendar flipped to the second half of the season, the Grays suddenly ignited a spark that was set ablaze. That started in the All-Star game where Sam Blancato (Georgia Southern), Cam Bufford (Grambling State), Dane Campahusen (Wooster), Henry Zipay (Nebraska-Omaha), Kai Cummings (Mount St. Mary’s), Jake Davidson (Kenyon) and Kai Leckszas (Georgetown) all pitched in for the South’s 7-1 win over the North.
From there, the Grays caught fire with a 9-5 record over their last 14 games. That was until they were defeated by the Gaithersburg Giants in the play-in round, 10-1. But along the way, DC was led by a solid top of the lineup in Zipay (.386 batting average), Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette; .359), Max Harper (BYU; .304), Camphausen (.283) and Blancato (.266).
Vandenbergh, a returner from 2021 when he hit .325, found his groove in the second half after a slowish start because of inconsistent lineups. But once he was penciled into the lineup for good, his bat took off. He finished the year with a .529 on-base-percentage, drawing 19 walks and only striking out eight times.
Zipay, meanwhile, burst onto the summer scene after redshirting at Omaha in the spring. He was the Grays lead-off hitter for most of the summer and led the team in average. Blancato, who arrived in D.C. after playing in Georgia Southern’s NCAA Regional, crushed three homers and drove in 16 runs for the Grays.
Harper (four homers) and Camphausen (eight homers) emerged as steady middle-of-the-order bats once the Grays got rolling in the second half of the season. Their bats were hot once the calendar flipped to July and they didn't cool off until the end of the year.
The pitching, too, did its job for the entirety of the year as it was led by Cummings and Davidson, both returners from 2021. After his first season with the Grays last summer, Davidson led starters in ERA with a 2.58 mark in 38 ⅓ innings. Cummings, meanwhile, wasn’t too far behind with a 2.95 ERA.
The backend of the bullpen, too, was stones all summer. Led by the rising freshman Leckszas, who boasted a 1.22 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 14 ⅔ innings, relief pitching was never much of a worry for the Grays. Sam Stratton (Wofford) worked 19 ⅔ innings which was good for a 2.58 ERA. And Diego Barrett (Potomac State), who came in from relief more times than not, carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning on the last day of the regular season.
Backed by a solid top of the lineup, frontline starting pitching and a solid bullpen, the Grays had all the right pieces to put together a solid 2022 season. Unfortunately, it never turned out that way, but DC was on the brink of winning just about every night. Luck never seemed to turn the Grays’ way as they were in contention all season.
The Grays would like to thank their sponsors, players, host families, coaches, and of course, the great Grays fans for their continued support. The Grays appreciate all of the support from so many wonderful people for supporting summer collegiate baseball and the DC Grays RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program.