By Chris Damond
After a dominant three-game winning streak that saw Alexandria outscore opponents by a combined 18 runs, the Aces were shut out for the first time this season, as the D.C. Grays defeated them 7-0 at Frank Mann Field on Sunday night. It marked the second time D.C. (4-7) has beaten Alexandria at home this season, with a 12-4 victory on Tuesday.
“We just didn’t get any hits when we needed to. We just didn’t play good baseball,” manager Chris Berset said. “We played sloppy all-around. We gave some other guys some opportunities out there to see what they got. Part of summer ball is letting everybody get their [at-bats] and everything. You can’t ride everyone every single day, so they had their opportunities and tonight wasn’t our night.”
However, the loss didn’t overshadow Alexandria’s spectacular play this past week. The Aces (7-4) have won five of seven dating back to last Sunday and, despite the loss, still sit at second place in the Cal Ripken League Standings.
The Aces’ lineup was drastically different on Father’s Day, as Berset wanted to give some other players a chance. The most glaring absence was Adam Tellier, who is batting .438 with 14 hits on the year, a team high.
Alexandria’s offense was stagnant early on. The only exception was Matt Wolfe (Vanderbilt), who singled in his first two at-bats, but no one could drive him home. The Aces had multiple baserunners in just one of the first five innings. Alexandria leads the Cal Ripken League in walks, but only drew two on Sunday night, a season low.
In addition to Wolfe, JT Carter (Coastal Alabama North CC) had a good offensive showing with two singles. He was the only other Ace with multiple hits.
Alexandria barely had any opportunities through the first six innings. Their best chance came in the sixth when Dylan Koontz (Campbell) walked and Brendan Harrity (Western Michigan) was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second with one out. Alexandria’s next two batters were retired, however, which stranded them.
In the eighth, Eddie Hacopian (Maryland) led off with a double to give the Aces life. Koontz was then hit by a pitch, and Cade Sullivan (Western Michigan) singled to load the bases with one out, but once again, Alexandria couldn’t capitalize. The Grays struck out the next two batters.
Jacob Hartlaub (Ball State) started for Alexandria and was tagged with the loss. He struggled to find the zone early, walking two batters in the first, which helped D.C. take a quick 2-0 lead. But after that, he settled down and pitched a solid second and third. In the end, though, the Grays’ offense was too much. Hartlaub allowed seven hits and six earned runs in 5.2 innings.
One of the few bright spots in the game was Alexandria’s relief pitching. Brody Valentine (Salve Regina), Reese Crochet and Joe Shapiro (Western Michigan) retired six of the last nine batters, holding D.C. scoreless after the sixth. Crochet (George Washington), a native of Alexandria, even struck out the side in the eighth.
“They came in there and did their job,” Berset said. “That’s how you get more innings in bigger games. You have to do it in these games … They stepped up in the back of the bullpen and let’s carry that forward and build that momentum there.”
The Aces finished with seven hits to the Grays’ nine. Kai Cummings picked up the win.
Alexandria returns to action on Tuesday night against the league-leading Bethesda Big Train at Frank Mann Field. First pitch is at 6:30.
“Overall, we’re very happy. Sure, you want to win every single game, but I don’t know if that’s possible,” Berset said. “We’re here to improve every day, and these boys will be ready to go on Tuesday.”