Aces Split Doubleheader with Braves

The Braves won the first game on a walk-off, but the Aces rallied to win game two.

Alexandria, VA – by: Paul Fritschner – Entering Sunday, the Alexandria Aces (26-10) were a game behind the Bethesda Big Train for first place in the South division. With two wins, they could re-enter into a tie with the Big Train as the final week of the season began. Instead, the Aces fell victim to a walk-off win by the Herndon Braves (15-21) in game one of the doubleheader. Alexandria was able to salvage a win and split the day with a win in game two, but with four games remaining, the Aces have left themselves very little margin for error in attempting to avoid the one-game wild card game next Sunday.

In the first game, play resumed in the bottom of the second inning from Friday’s rainout. With the Braves at the plate as the home team, Cooper Jeffers (High Point) returned to the mound with the exact same lineup in the field behind him. He allowed one run in the bottom of the second as Herndon took a 1-0 lead, but he kept the Braves’ offense in check for the next couple of innings to allow the Aces a chance to rally.

Alexandria did indeed take the lead in the fourth, scoring two unearned runs. DaVonn Griffin (James Madison) hit one that the shortstop couldn’t handle allowing Mack Nathanson (Wofford) to score, and Todd Elwood (UNC Charlotte) singled to drive in Logan Goodnight (Penn State). In the fifth, Eli Boggess (Morehead State) came through with another RBI single that put the Aces up by two. Then in the bottom of the inning, Herndon scored twice to tie the game at three.

It moved into the seventh and final inning with the score still locked at three. The Aces left two in scoring position in the sixth and a runner at third in the seventh, and failing to score those runs ended up allowing Herndon a chance to walk it off in the seventh. That’s exactly what they did, as Richard Constantine came up with the bases loaded and singled into right field to end the game and hand the Aces their third straight loss. The Braves committed five errors in the game, but the Aces were unable to take advantage of the mistakes.

The second game of the doubleheader was a different story, as the teams combined to score 18 runs. Herndon jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third, aided by a three-run home run from Ciaran Devenney. Not to be deterred, the Aces responded en masse in the bottom half of the inning. In total, six runs came home, but only one of them was earned. The Aces sent 11 batters to the plate, and Kam Smith (Northern Illinois) even had two hits in the frame while also scoring a run. DaVonn Griffin had the only official RBI of the marathon inning, but scoring six to take the lead was a very positive sign for the team’s offense.

The Aces added a run in the fourth on a Nick Slaughter (Houston) sacrifice fly before the Braves started to attempt a comeback in the fifth. They plated two runs on a 2-RBI triple by Richard Constantine, but once again the Aces responded to cushion the lead as Max Schuemann (Eastern Michigan) beat out an infield grounder for a hit to score the Aces’ eighth run. In the bottom of the sixth, Mack Nathanson hit a solo home run, his second in four games, and Kam Smith went deep for his first home run of the year. Smith had a solid day at the dish, as he finished 3-3 with two runs scored and two RBI’s.

As it turned out, those home runs came in handy when the Braves came up in the seventh. Herndon did not go down without a fight, and Kevin Kelly (James Madison) faced a tough situation with the bases loaded, two outs, and the tying run at second. Herndon had already scored twice in the inning, but Kelly just needed to record the final out. After several tough at-bats, he struck out Cayden Stover to end the game and get the Aces back into the win column.

Mark Tindall (Trinity) started the game and allowed four runs on four hits over four innings. Drew Holweger (Furman) threw an inning in relief and allowed two runs on three hits, and Chase Evans (West Florida) threw an inning of scoreless baseball before Kelly entered. All in all, it was a good win for Alexandria as they head into their final week of play.

The Aces only have two games remaining at Frank Mann Field, and one of those games is Monday at 7:00 against the Gaithersburg Giants. If you can’t make it to Alexandria, the game will be on Aces Radio or you can follow along on Twitter at @Alexandria_Aces.