By Chris Damond
It was the Jacob Hartlaub show at Frank Mann Field on Tuesday night. The Ball State ace was almost as hot as the 90-degree weather, striking out nine batters and pitching eight innings of one-hit baseball to lead Alexandria to a 5-0 victory over the Metropolitan Braves.
“[I was] just trusting my stuff, trusting guys behind me,” Hartlaub said. “I got a great infield, got a great outfield, got a great catcher back there in Jacob [Friend] calling a great game. Just trusting all my pitches and trusting him, and it worked out.”
Tuesday marked the first shutout of the season for Alexandria (21-10) and the longest outing for an Aces pitcher this year. The win also clinched a playoff bye for the Aces, as they are now guaranteed to finish second or higher in the Cal Ripken League Standings. Alexandria is just three games back from the first-place Bethesda Big Train with a crucial doubleheader against them on Thursday.
Myles Webb singled in the second at-bat of the game for Metropolitan (14-17), but from there, Hartlaub was nearly perfect. He attacked the zone, varied his pitches and allowed only two baserunners after the first inning. The Milwaukee native was efficient too, recording five 1-2-3 innings.
“Before the game I was very tired,” Hartlaub said. “[That’s] what we got to do when playoffs are coming around. We just gotta lock down, lock in and get the job done.”
But it wasn’t just Hartlaub who excelled on Tuesday night, his Ball State teammates Adam Tellier and Ryan Brown also had stellar games.
Tellier smacked two singles and, more importantly, played exceptional defense at shortstop. The Aces’ leader in batting average (.378) had several blazing fast throws to first base that saved a few hits. Ryan Brown then entered in the ninth and closed out the game by striking out the side. Aces pitchers had 12 strikeouts on the day.
“We get together; we play for each other,” Hartlaub said of his teammates. “We always got each other backs. We’ll pick each other up no matter what. I’m very thankful for Adam saving me a couple times and [Brown] did what he did.”
Second baseman Eddie Hacopian (Maryland) also had a crucial stop in the eighth inning to save Hartlaub’s one-hit masterpiece. The Braves cranked a ball to right that Hacopian fielded with the backhand of his glove before spinning around to make a beautiful throw to first.
It was a pitcher’s duel through the first three innings, as Braves starter Nick Lottchea had a great game of his own. But when he was pulled at the start of the fourth, Alexandria went in front.
After Metropolitan walked a run in, number-nine hitter Drew Collins (Oakland) drilled a two-RBI single to put the Aces up 3-0.
Hacopian would add two more runs in the sixth and eighth innings with a RBI single and a sacrifice fly, respectively.
Kyle M. Lewis was tagged with the loss.
The Aces return to action tomorrow for a matchup with the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts at Frank Mann Field. First pitch is at 6:30 p.m.
South County Braves