By Peter Rainey and Brent Herrmann
The Cal Ripken League-leading Alexandria Aces (18-2), winners of 11 straight games now, will see their win streak face its toughest test yet: a stretch of five games over just three days. Tonight, the team heads on the road to meet a cross-division foe in the Gaithersburg Giants (8-14), a team the Aces are 3-0 against this season. After tonight, the Aces will return home for challenging double-headers in back-to-back days: first, a Friday evening pair against the Bethesda Big Train (15-6), and then Saturday, two games against the Olney Cropdusters (13-8).
The Aces won their 11th straight game last night in front of a healthy home crowd at Frank Mann Field. Another lively night for the bats, the Aces tallied 10 runs in a 10-4 victory over the Southern Maryland Senators (9-15). Aces’ Cory Taylor of Eastern Michigan led the team with three RBIs, including a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning—his fourth homer of the season.
“I got a really good pitch to hit and took advantage of it,” Taylor said in reference to his home run. “I’ve been seeing [the ball] better these past few games.”
Aces’ starter Ethan Houghtaling of Western Michigan impressed on the mound, throwing six full innings with ten strikeouts and earning the win in last night’s ballgame—his second of the year.
“Tim [Nicholson] did a great job calling pitches,” Houghtaling said. “Some things to clean up; some of the 0-2 pitches were kinda left up . . . but other than that, it was a good outing . . . my defense stepped up when I needed them.” Houghtaling surrendered two earned runs in his six innings of work last night; his ERA on the season stands at an impressive 3.60.
Back-to-back double-headers against two of the Cal Ripken League’s best offer Aces fans a lot to look forward to this coming weekend. Aces head coach Chris Berset emphasized focus, both as a key to success this weekend and to the greater goal of summer baseball: player development.
“My job here is to develop these boys,” Berset said. “If we’re winning, the college coaches are gonna be like, ‘Alright, cool, but did my player improve?’ So, like, I kind of sent a message (to the team) like that where I was like, ‘Guys, handle your business. If you’re playing sloppy out there, that’s gonna translate for you guys when you go in the fall.’”
The first pitch times for the weekend’s double-headers are each set for 5:00 PM, with the second game to begin thirty minutes after the conclusion of the first.
“It’s gonna be really fun,” Taylor said in reference to Friday’s matchup with the Bethesda Big Train. “We’re gonna be throwing our best arms; they’ll be throwing theirs . . . whoever comes up with the big knocks will win both games.”