Offense struggles while Nationals jump out to early advantage
ALEXANDRIA – by Matt Krause – For the second day in a row, the Aces played a scorching afternoon game in 100-degree heat. Today’s foe, the Southern Maryland Nationals, came in with a Ripken League worst 7-15 record. That fact was not obvious on Sunday, as the visiting Nationals walked away with a 6-3 win. The Nats got started quickly. Ricky Alfonso led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. He promptly scored off of an RBI single by Bryce Shemer. The Nationals weren’t done yet, as Wes Hoskins doubled to right to put a pair in scoring position with only one out. Aces starter Ronnie Glenn induced a hard ground ball to third for a quick second out, and was poised to get out of the jam with only one run when a ball bounced his way. However, the ball took an odd hop off of Glenn’s glove and bounced into center field for a 2-RBI single, giving the Nationals a 3-0 lead. By the time the dust settled in the first, the visitors had pounded out three runs on five hits.
The Aces offense struggled with Southern Maryland starter Austin Poretz through the first two innings, going six up, six down. By the time they had a base runner in the third, the Nationals’ lead was up to 4-0 courtesy of a pair of singles surrounding a wild pitch. Alexandria had a golden opportunity in the third when Jacob Stockton led off with a walk and Nick Octavi recorded the team’s first hit of the day. What followed was an exercise in confusion. Stockton dug for third on the bloop hit to right, and was able to dodge an excellent throw from right fielder Cody Robinson. Octavi went to second on the throw and the Aces had a pair in scoring position with none out. Keith Picconi flew out to right, and Stockton dug for home, only to be thrown out. Adam Forrer walked, but a botched steal by Forrer resulted in Octavi being thrown out at home.
Southern Maryland added another run in the fifth off of a two-out triple by Ricky Alfonso, extending the lead to 5-0. The Aces got another opportunity in the fifth by loading the bases with a Stockton HBP, Octavi single, and another Forrer walk. Anthony Papio, however, struck out swinging.
A.J. Rosenthal took over a 5-0 game in the seventh for the Aces and was very effective, retiring seven straight before allowing a hit in the ninth. Rosenthal earned the third out of the inning on a strikeout, only to see the batter reach on a strikeout-passed ball. Another single and an error scored a run and the lead was out to 6-1.
The Aces just had to make it interesting in the ninth, though. Mike Bronakoski came in to pitch for the Nationals and tried to shut the door, but fell flat. Craig Sweeney worked a leadoff walk and Jacob Stockton launched a double to right to put two in scoring position. Nick Octavi reached on an error, the second of the game by Nationals 3B Danny Breen, scoring Sweeney. Keith Picconi singled to score Stockton, and the lead was down to three. Bronakoski was pulled in favor of John-Austin Shepard, who promptly hit Adam Forrer to re-load the bases. Anthony Papio came up, and hit into a bizarre 3-2-4 double play. Chris Sweeney got one final chance, but struck out to end the ballgame.
The two teams meet again on Monday night at 7:00 in Waldorf.
Notes: WP- Austin Poretz (2-2); LP- Ronnie Glenn (1-1) SV- John-Austin Shepard (1)