By Chris Damond
The Alexandria Aces are on a three-game winning streak for the second time this season, as they staved off a Gaithersburg Giants comeback to win, 9-7, at Criswell Automotive Field on Monday night. With the victory, Alexandria (10-5) retains sole possession of second place in the Cal Ripken League Standings.
The Aces had another stellar offensive outing, recording 10 hits. They lead the league in batting average (.287) and OBP (.417). Gaithersburg (8-9) also registered 10 hits, but for them, it was too little, too late.
Down 9-2 in the ninth, the Giants mounted a comeback that just fell short. After Alexandria walked four straight batters, which scored one run, Gaithersburg had the bases loaded. Jeremiah Jenkins then shifted the momentum with one smooth swing of the bat, hitting a grand slam to bring the Giants within two.
But it would end there. Yuchen Wang (Jiangning CC) retired the next two batters for the save.
Crucial to Gaithersburg’s downfall were errors. It recorded six throughout the game, while the Aces had none.
Joseph Quelch crushed a solo home run in Gaithersburg’s first at-bat of the day, but the Aces responded with three runs in the second and held onto that lead for the rest of the game, with a four-run eighth that widened the gap even further.
On offense, Alexandria received large contributions from the bottom of the order. Connor Offshack (Elon), batting out of the number-six spot, ripped a ball to left field for a single in the second. The next two Aces walked to load the bases, before Drew Collins, the number-nine hitter, smacked a two-run single to right field, giving the Aces a 2-1 lead.
Collins continued to stay hot, as he reached base in his first three at-bats. In the fourth, the Oregon, Ohio native hit an infield single, which was followed by an Eddie Hacopian (Maryland) double that just stayed fair down the left field line, scoring Collins, and extending Alexandria’s lead to 5-1.
Cade Sullivan (Western Michigan) launched a solo homer in the third, and Cade Law (Vanderbilt) led the charge in a four-run eighth by drilling a double to center field. Hacopian came to the plate with the bases loaded and drove all three runners in, including Law, with his second two-bagger of the game. The Aces leadoff hitter finished with a team-high three hits and five RBI.
Starting pitcher Alex Walsh (Lafayette) built off Jacob Hartlaub’s (Ball State) lockdown performance against the Big Train on Saturday and pitched four solid innings. The right-hander from Ashburn gave up two runs on five hits, while recording one strikeout. The Giants stranded three batters against him and eight total in the game.
The Aces’ relievers were lights out until the ninth, with Alexandria native Reese Crochet (George Washington) replacing Walsh in the fifth and allowing two hits in two innings. He picked up the win. Ryan Osinski (Bucknell) took the mound next and struck out four of the nine batters he faced.
Chris Baumann was tagged with the loss for Gaithersburg.
Next up, the Aces return home to Frank Mann Field tomorrow against the D.C. Grays, where they’ll look to win their fourth in a row. First pitch is at 6:30.