By Will Locklin
It was an empty game of baseball for over half the runtime of the DC Grays and the Silver-Spring Takoma Thunderbolts under the lights of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. But as daylight ceased and the chilling breeze of summer night fell over the field, the Grays awoke. Ten runners crossed home plate and the game quickly ended just as soon as it began.
Before their 11-0 victory over the T-Bolts, the Grays struggled to find their footing in the young 2022 Cal Ripken League summer season. A 12-0 loss to the Gaithersburg Giants and a 15-3 defeat to the Alexandria Aces were tough tests. That was until Saturday night's coming-out party. In many ways, that sixth inning served as the Grays getting the monkey off their back.
Before the sixth inning dawned, both offenses mustered up nothing of substance. DC’s first hit came off the bat of their catcher Logan Scully (George Mason) in the fifth inning. Other than that one hit, DC had three walks to show for the day halfway through. Luckily for the Grays, the Thunderbolt's offense was just as quiet as they were. The starting pitcher for the Grays was Tony Allen out of Xavier, who yielded just three hits, no earned runs, and notched two strikeouts in five innings of work.
After five-and-a-half innings of a pitcher’s duel, the bats of the Grays woke up in a major way. It started with a Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette) walk followed by an Ozzie Pratt (BYU) grounder to third base. The T-Bolts were unable to turn the double play so Pratt stood on first with one out. Dane Camphausen (Wooster) took a trot down to first base after a walk which put a runner in scoring position for Aaron Thomas (Wofford). Thomas carried on his hot hitting from Friday night by plating Pratt from second with a well-poked single into the outfield for the first run of the night.
Scully, meanwhile, grounded out but was able to advance the runners to second and third. Then Max Harper (BYU) came through with a two-RBI single to score the runners and open up a 3-0 lead for the Grays. But this was just the beginning of what would become an offensive explosion for DC. Next, Diego Barrett (George Mason) kept the line moving with a single which would set up the onslaught of runs. They did it by showing tremendous plate discipline. Derrick Booker (St. Mary’s) walked to load the bases then Henry Zipay (Omaha) was hit by a pitch to bring across the Grays’ fourth run.
With the score at 6-0 after back-to-back run-scoring walks from Vandenbergh and Pratt, the Grays were on the verge of breaking the game wide open. And they did so in a bases-loaded situation when Camphausen launched a grand slam over the wall in right-center field. Now the game was out of reach for the Thunderbolts and it was the Grays who were in control.
Jesse Lacefield (Catholic) came in to relieve for the final three innings. Lacefield delivered some high heat, letting up no runs and no hits while striking out three batters and walking two. DC got one additional run in the form of a Scully solo home run – his second of the season.
After Chandler Moeller of the T-Bolts flew out to Thomas in right field, the ball game was over and the Grays came away with their first win of the summer.
That all set the stage for the Grays to carry the momentum into their second win of the year on Monday night against the Olney Cropdusters.
The mugginess of the Monday night forecast didn’t faze the DC Grays one bit against the Olney Cropdusters as they came away with the 10-5 victory. Their first win over the Thunderbolts on Saturday was backed with an explosive sixth inning that propelled them to victory. On Monday, the Gray's offense churned runs across home plate in both the first and third innings.
Olney scored two runs in the top of the first inning off starting pitcher Kai Cummings (Mount St. Mary’s) but the Grays would soon have the response. They loaded the bases after the first three batters of the night reached base. Dane Camphausen (Wooster), the tall first baseman, struck a ball into the right-field grass which scored Henry Zipay (Omaha) and Sam Blancato (Georgia Southern). After Aaron Thomas (Wofford) drew a walk, the Grays’ shortstop Ozzie Pratt (BYU) delivered a single past the infield that scored two more runners.
In CJ Mervilus’ (Alabama A&M) first at-bat of the season for the Grays, he hit a sacrifice fly into center field that scored the tagging Thomas from third base. After just one inning of baseball, Grays led 5-2 with more action to come. Cummings worked his way through the second inning with no runs allowed and a strikeout on Quinn Allen.
A quiet second inning set the stage for a loud and action-packed third inning that saw the Grays tack four more runs on the scoreboard. Once again, the Cropdusters loaded the bases for the Grays to start the inning. Donovan Frayer (Shorter) and Alex Terry-Emmanuel (Canisius) had good eyes at the plate and drew walks. Patrick Vandenbergh (Lafayette), next, was hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, the rising junior from Georgia Southern, Sam Blancato, crushed a grand slam over the right-center field wall to break the game open early for the Grays.
From then on the Gray's offense could take a break and cruise for the rest of the game. They’d done their job by putting up nine runs on the scoreboard and gave the Grays a six-run advantage. However, Olney slowly chipped away with a few runs in the middle innings. They scored a run in each of the third, fourth, and fifth innings. This made it a 9-5 ball game.
Cummings did well enough on the bump considering the Gray's healthy amount of run support.
He went through five innings, yielding 11 hits and five runs with a strikeout. Diego Barrett (George Mason) came in to replace Cummings on the mound in the sixth inning and performed well. He threw two scoreless frames and allowed two hits with two strikeouts. Heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Grays were still in need of a bit more run support to be satisfied.
They got that run support off the bat of Aaron Thomas (Wofford) who launched his second home run of the summer. This one was a two-out solo shot to dead center that scraped over the wall and gave the Grays a 10-5 lead. Now DC was grand slam proof and had just six outs to get.
The eighth inning belonged to Sam Stratton (Wofford), who sat the Cropdusters down in this frame. He struck out two batters, allowed one hit, and got the final batter to ground out to end the inning.
In the ninth inning, Kai Leckszas (Georgetown) got some of his first action as the Gray's closer. He walked the first batter but got the next one to ground out into a fielder's choice. Then incredibly, Leckszas sent the next two batters and the Cropdusters team packing. Back-to-back strikeouts ended this game and any hope the Cropdusters had at a comeback against the Grays.
The DC Gray's next matchup will be against the Aces in Alexandria on Tuesday night. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, the Grays return home against the Gaithersburg Giants at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, where admission is always free. First pitch will be thrown at 7:00 p.m.