By Chris Damond
With the game-winning run at the plate in the ninth, the Alexandria Aces had a chance to do the unthinkable – come back from a six-run seventh inning deficit and hand the Bethesda Big Train their second loss of the season. Alexandria was close but fell short, as it lost, 7-5, to the Big Train in a rematch of last season’s championship game. When the teams met in Bethesda (10-1) on June 11, the Big Train rallied in the ninth to beat Alexandria. The Aces (7-5) tried to return the favor Tuesday night at Frank Mann Field.
Representatives of the Knights of Columbus were in attendance, and Father Kevin Dansereau of St. Thomas More threw out the first pitch.
Down 7-1 in the seventh, Alexandria scored four runs in the last three frames, including three in the eighth, to narrow the gap. Dylan Koontz (Campbell) doubled to lead off the eighth, and CJ Boyd (East Carolina) singled right after. With runners on the corners, Cade Sullivan (Western Michigan) singled to bring in Koontz, and then Connor Offshack (Elon) loaded the bases after he was hit by a pitch the next at-bat.
Jacob Friend (Davidson), who led the Aces with three hits, singled to bring in another run. Quiet for most of the night, the Aces dugout was brought back to life, as it erupted with cheers during the play. JT Carter (Coastal Alabama North CC) then walked to score Offshack and close the gap to 7-5.
With the momentum shifted, Koontz and Offshack walked in the ninth to bring the winning run to the plate with two outs, but Jacob Friend flied out to right field.
“We had our guys in a position to win the game. [We] put a bat on the ball, just couldn’t quite get in past the defense out there,” bench coach Jennifer Hammond said. “It’s one of those games where a couple calls go one way or another, [which] changes the situation, changes where your defense is playing, and maybe you get a double play ball instead of a bases clearing double.”
Tied at one entering the third, Bethesda pulled away with a five–run inning full of controversy. With the bases loaded and a full count on Bethesda, Britt Yount (George Mason) threw a pitch to the outside corner that Alexandria thought was a clear strike. The home plate umpire disagreed, and the batter walked, scoring a runner to put the Big Train up 2-1.
Bethesda hit a three-RBI double the next at-bat, but the last run was highly debated. The throw from left field beat the runner, and the Aces believed catcher Jacob Friend tagged him out in time. Once again, the umpire disagreed.
Berset got ejected after another controversial call in the seventh, when Mike Eze (Georgetown) was called out for batter interference, the second such call of the game against Alexandria.
If a few calls had gone Alexandria’s way early on, there could have been a different outcome. The Aces’ pitching was lights out after the third, allowing just one run to Bethesda. While Alexandria had two errors, some spectacular defensive plays were still made. Catcher Jacob Friend showcased his arm by throwing out three players throughout the night, and Dylan Koontz made a diving grab in the third down the left field line.
Britt Yount picked up the loss, giving up six earned runs in 2.1 innings. Ryan Sanders got the win, striking out seven while allowing one run.
The Aces had nine hits to Bethesda’s 10.
Next up, Alexandria takes on the Olney Cropdusters, whom they’ve beaten twice before, on Thursday evening at Frank Mann Field. First pitch is at 6:30.
Bethesda Big Train