By Chris Damond
Trying for their fifth-straight victory, manager Chris Berset helped preserve the Aces’ win streak by utilizing a sometimes-overlooked tool – the bunt. Tied in the eighth with a man on first, Thomas Hollingsworth and Brendan Harrity reached base on back-to-back bunts to load the bases.
Two runs scored soon after, and Alexandria rallied from two down to defeat the Metropolitan Braves, 6-4, at Frank Mann Field on Wednesday night and edge closer to first-place Bethesda in the Cal Ripken League standings.
“We got to get the guys in scoring position,” said Berset when explaining his decision to bunt. “We get a guy in scoring position, I’ll take my chances with any hitter out there to drive them in. So, it turned out in our favor.”
Eddie Hacopian’s (Maryland) sacrifice fly brought in the winning run, and Matt Wolfe’s (Vanderbilt) first hit of the game, a single, added another for insurance.
“It feels good, anytime you get a ‘W’ it’s a good feeling,” Berset said. “We’re hitting the ball great. We’re staying with our approaches, and we’re giving our pitchers a little bit of a bump. Hitting is gonna be there, but it’s a team game, and our pitching was really, really good tonight. So, no complaints all around, good stuff.”
Alexandria (12-5) is now only two games back from the Bethesda Big Train, winners of the past five league championships, and will face them on Friday at Frank Mann Field in a clash between the Cal Ripken League’s two best teams thus far.
In their first meeting against Metropolitan (8-11) this season, the Aces won an offensive shootout that featured 43 combined runs, but tonight was much more normal. Both teams combined for 10 runs, and Alexandria outhit the Braves 11 to eight.
But for the first time in a while, the Aces, who outscored their past three opponents by 19 runs, faced adversity.
The Metropolitan Braves took what seemed like a commanding 4-2 lead in the seventh in a game where runs were hard to come by.
“Just stay the course,” Berset said when asked about his message to the team down two. “We need to put up more than two runs, and with our offense I feel like we can.”
He was right.
Alexandria eventually found its offensive footing and scored four runs in the final three frames.
The difference in the game proved to be fielding, as Metropolitan finished with two errors while Alexandria had none. The Braves’ sloppy defense helped the Aces tie the game in the seventh.
After a Dylan Koontz (Campbell) RBI infield single, the Aces equalized after a one-in-a-million play. With Koontz on third, Cade Sullivan (Western Michigan) popped a ball straight up that catcher Will Pope could not track. After lingering in the air for a long time, the ball miraculously dropped in front of home plate and did not roll foul, much to the Braves’ surprise. When Sullivan realized what had happened, he dashed to first and made it safely before Metropolitan could catch him. Meanwhile, Koontz took advantage of the confusion and scored to bring the crowd back into the game.
Sullivan was already having a spectacular day, as he displayed his power with a pair of doubles that both bounced off the center field wall in consecutive at-bats early on.
On the pitching side, Sasha Kamenjasevic (U Fraser Valley), whose 3.11 ERA is the lowest among Alexandria’s starting pitchers, had a solid outing. The Canadian kept Metropolitan at bay after getting out of a jam in the first by allowing just two hits in the next four innings. He struck out six in 5.1 innings of work, while allowing two earned runs.
Metropolitan jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the first after Quinn Madden’s sacrifice fly to center field. Alexandria responded, though, by scoring a run in each of the next two innings to go up 2-1, which held until the sixth, when the Braves scored two runs to retake the lead. They added another in the seventh.
Reliever Jacob Snell (Mississippi Gulf Coast) picked up the win for Alexandria, and Ryan Brown (Ball State) recorded the save after striking out the side.
Dominic Buonadonna was tagged with the loss.
The Aces go for six straight tomorrow against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts at Blair Stadium. First pitch is at 7:00.