By Peter Rainey
For a second time in a week, the Alexandria Aces (17-2) erased a five-run deficit and walked away with a home victory at Frank Mann Field. After falling behind 7-2 in the third inning, the Aces stormed back—most notably with a four-run fifth—eventually retaking the lead 9-7 in the bottom of the seventh. In face of the deficit, Aces’ reliever Brent Herrmann of Allegheny College dealt through two and a half innings for no earned runs, stalling the Grays’ offense and giving the Aces’ bats an opportunity to chip away.
“That’s the life of a reliever,” Herrmann said. “You come into a game down, but then come back—you know, that’s the rollercoaster of a baseball game.”
Even after surrendering their sizable lead, the visiting D.C. Grays (8-15) continued to battle—a very gutsy team led by first-year head coach Maurice Bankston. In the top of the eighth inning, Grays’ Myles Sergeant of the University of Maine sent out a game-tying two-run homer over left field, evening the score at nine. The Aces were blanked in the bottom frame, setting up a fresh ballgame in the ninth.
The Aces turned to their most reliable closer, Michael Gillen of Seton Hall University, who sports a team-high three saves. Gillen entered and, as always, delivered efficient work in the clutch, retiring the Grays scoreless with three strikeouts and setting up the Aces’ offense with a premier opportunity to walk it off.
“Just had to go out, attack the hitters, get the boys back in the dugout, and let them do their thing,” Gillen said. “It’s fun pitching out there when you have such a good lineup on the sheet every morning.” Gillen would go on to be named the night’s winning pitcher, his third win of the season—all in relief.
Less than a week ago, Vanderbilt commit RJ Hamilton crushed a three-run walk-off homer into the trees over left field, capping off a 9-6 extra innings victory over the Gaithersburg Giants (8-14). Last night, the Aces’ hero came in the form of another Vandy commit, rising freshman Matt Ossenfort. With no one on and one out in the bottom of the ninth, Ossenfort looked at a first-pitch ball before sending out a 330+ foot bomb over right field to win the game on the second pitch of the at-bat. Ossenfort leads the team with five home runs on the season.
“The approach was to stay short and get on base; we needed it going into a tie game,” Ossenfort said. “I got a pitch that was absolutely hung and just turned on it.”
Aces head coach Chris Berset offers Commodore fans a glimpse into the talent they can look forward to next season: “[Vanderbilt] has got two special kids right there (Hamilton and Ossenfort), really, really special kids who live in the moment . . . [Ossenfort] is the hardest worker, and for these guys to get rewarded is awesome,” Berset said.
The Aces will enjoy Independence Day with an ongoing ten-game winning streak before returning to action tomorrow night at home against the Southern Maryland Senators (9-14). The first pitch from The Frank is slated for 6:30 PM.
“We have to clean up some of our ball,” Berset said. “[Last night] was a really sloppy game, and the Grays really deserved to win that ballgame . . . but finding ways to win shows character.”