Category: Game Recaps

Aces Face 0-1 Deficit in League Championship Series

By Peter Rainey

July 27, 2023

The Alexandria Aces head out to Bethesda, Maryland, tonight for game two of the Cal Ripken League Championship Series. After a loss in game one yesterday at home, the Aces must win two in a row to be crowned league champions. They’ll look to claim the first of two tonight at Shirley Povich Field at 7:00 p.m.

Game one was an exciting affair for the 277 in attendance yesterday; a combined 34 hits between the two teams led to a four-digit final score of 16-10. The Aces battled back from a 5-0 deficit early to take the lead, but a seven-run top of the fourth from the Big Train put them ahead for good. Big Train’s Jason Schiavone of James Madison University shined brightest on the star-studded night, sending out three home runs and tallying eight RBIs. Big Train’s Dean Toigo of Oregon University tallied four RBIs with a home run of his own.

Aces’ Tim Nicholson of George Washington University highlighted the Aces’ offense, leading the team with three RBIs along with three base hits. A Nicholson triple in the bottom of the first inning initiated the Aces’ comeback in the early going.

“Being a lead-off hitter, I was trying to set the tone there in that first inning, just that we’re not gonna quit.” Nicholson said. “[Game two] will be fun; we’re really excited.”

The Aces were 30-6 in the regular season, and three of their six losses came after clinching the number one seed in the playoffs. Whether it’s a blessing or a curse, adversity has been little to none for the Aces this season; they now find their backs against the wall with a league championship on the line versus the Big Train. Aces head coach Chris Berset is ready to see what his team is really made of.

“Adversity bleeds championships. With all the championships that you want to earn and garner, adversity is going to hit at some point. We haven’t had much this whole year . . . but now is our time,” Berset said. Berset has led the Aces to the League Championship Series in three of his four years at the helm; he’s in search of his second championship title.

The League Championship Series continues tonight in Bethesda with game two of the best-of-three set. Again, the first pitch from Big Train’s Shirley Povich Field is set for 7:00 p.m.

The Aces Enforce Mercy Rule in First Playoff Win of 2023

By Peter Rainey

July 24, 2023

The Alexandria Aces opened their postseason run last night about as well as any fan, coach, or player could ask for—a 18-4 mercy rule-enforced victory after seven innings in game one of a best-of-three League Semifinal Series against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. Six Aces hitters recorded multiple RBIs in the win last night; leading all hitters with four RBIs was Aces’ Dylan Grego of Ball State University.

“We were just trying to set the tone early, just hit the baseball, get runners on, and get them over,” Grego said. “I was lucky enough to be in situations where I could do [that] job.”

While it was already a comfortable 9-4 lead for the Aces prior to the bottom of the sixth inning, it was a nine-run offensive explosion that doubled the Aces run total and put the mercy rule in play for the seventh. The 18-run total for the Aces as the game went final was good for a season-high.

“Coach Berset talked about the importance of game one, so we really took that to heart, and we came out here and played Aces baseball,” Aces’ Tim Nicholson of George Washington University said. “I think we could’ve played a lot better than we did [last night], which is kind of scary.” Nicholson recorded three RBIs on two base hits in the win.

The Aces, now leading the series 1-0, have the opportunity tonight to close the series on the road in Silver Spring, Maryland, at Montgomery Blair High School. A win tonight in game two of the series would clinch a third consecutive trip to the League Championship Series for the Aces.

“The boys are ready to play . . . we’re just trying to win a ball game anyway we can,” Aces’ head coach Chris Berset said. “[Thunderbolts’ head coach] Brock [Hunter] is gonna get those guys rolling over there, so we gotta answer his energy and hopefully go right back at them.” The first pitch for game two is slated for 7:00 p.m.

Eyes Are on the Postseason for the League-Leading Alexandria Aces

By Peter Rainey

June 12, 2023

It’s been almost a month since the Alexandria Aces have lost a baseball game (June 15th); in that time, instead, they’ve won 16 in a row. The Aces sport a league-best 23-2 record and have already clinched the South Division—still with a whole 10 games left on the schedule. With this division title secured, the Aces will, at minimum, receive a top-two seed in the Cal Ripken League Playoffs and a bye to the League Semifinal Series.

“The guys do a really good job of staying on each other and keeping focus,” Aces’ pitching coach Chris Rooney said. 

Last night, the Aces swept the visiting Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts (10-17) in a double-header at the Frank—the Aces’ second double-header sweep in a week’s time. The Aces shut out the Thunderbolts through 13 innings of action, a credit to stellar starting pitching from Aces’ Ryan Edmonds of George Mason University, who earned the win in game one, and Aces’ Ethan Houghtaling of Western Michigan University, who earned the win in game two. Both pitchers dealt five scoreless innings: Edmonds tallied six strikeouts, and Houghtaling tallied ten.

“I just tried to get ahead in counts because that usually leads to success,” Houghtaling said. “[Head] coach [Chris Berset] does a great job of just telling us one game at a time, one pitch at a time, and that [approach] will lead to wins, which it has.”

Tallying 11 runs across the evening’s two games, it wasn’t powerful bats that propelled the Aces’ offense—only one extra base hit was cracked in each game. Instead, it was savvy baserunning on the Aces’ part that led to a majority of their scores. Combining both games, the Aces stole a total of ten bases, and five Aces scored via wild pitch.

“What we’ve been focused on is playing hard,” Aces’ Tim Nicholson of George Washington University said. “Just keep running hard until someone stops you.” Nicholson boasts a season total of 12 stolen bases.

The Aces are currently six games ahead of the North Division-leading Bethesda Big Train (17-8)—the race for the number one seed will prove to hold heavy importance. Securing the number one seed would award home field advantage (1-1-1 best-of-three format) to the Aces in both the semifinal and championship series; it would also put the Olney Cropdusters, the only other winning record in the Cal Ripken League at 17-11, on the other side of the bracket. 

Clinching the number one seed would most likely pave a postseason route explained below: 

League Semifinal Series versus a number four seed who will likely have a losing record at season’s end (currently in the fourth seed are the Southern Maryland Senators, who are 12-17), with home field advantage awarded to the Aces in two out of three possible games (1-1-1 best-of-three).

League Championship Series versus the Bethesda Big Train or Olney Cropdusters, with home field advantage awarded to the Aces in two out of three possible games (1-1-1 best-of-three).

The Aces are back in action tonight, playing host to the D.C. Grays, who are currently sitting in the fifth seed with a 11-18 record. The Grays are battling for playoff position and lie just half a game ahead of the current number seven seed, the Metro South County Braves (10-18)—only the top six seeds qualify for the postseason. The first pitch from Frank Mann Field is slated for 6:30 P.M.

Aces Sweep Home Double-Header vs. Cropdusters

By Peter Rainey

The Cal Ripken League-leading Alexandria Aces (20-2) entered Saturday night on an 11 game winning streak. After consecutive rainouts, the team returned to action, facing arguably their greatest test yet—a double-header versus the third-place Olney Cropdusters (15-10). With any double-header, especially in the evening, it’s easy to let focus slip and settle for a split, but after taking game one with a 5-1 final, the Aces kept their foot fully on the gas, matching their run total from game one in the first inning of game two, jumping out to a healthy 5-0 lead, which they would not relinquish. The Aces swept the two-game set versus the Cropdusters, and the win streak is now at 13.

“Any time you can win two in a double-header, it’s pretty special,” Aces head coach Chris Berset said. “It’s especially hard to do against such a great team in [the] Olney [Cropdusters].”

Combining both games, Aces’ Nick Gregory of Ball State University led all hitters with 4 RBIs. 

“I’ve been struggling a little bit lately; in the first half of the season, I was just trying to find something I could handle,” Gregory said. “A couple things went my way [last night] . . . I put some good swings on it, and after that, you can’t really do anything about it.” Gregory recorded hits in four of his six at-bats of the evening.

The Aces’ starting pitching proved stellar in both games; the Seton Hall tandem of Anthony Ehly and Ryan Reich combined for nine innings and no earned runs across both games. Reich, the game two starter, dealt five innings without surrendering a hit; he also tallied nine strikeouts.

“The offense really helped me out . . . putting up five in the first inning . . . it made me comfortable on the mound,” Reich said. “We’ve all been working really hard, and it’s showing.” Reich was relieved in the sixth inning, and the no-hitter at hand was broken up two innings shy of the finish line—double-headers in the Cal Ripken League play only seven innings.

“It was not [my decision to exit the game], but it was the right decision,” Reich said.

The Aces return to action tomorrow night with an away matchup versus the Metro South County Braves (10-16). Tonight, the Aces were slated to send 15 players, a league-high, to Olney, Maryland, for the Cal Ripken League All-Star Game—unfortunately, tonight’s game has been canceled due to thunderstorms.

“These kids deserve [to be named All-Stars],” Berset said. “I’m really, really proud of them. I’m proud of their effort, and everything they do.”

The Aces’ 15 honorees are listed below in alphabetical order:

Sam Belliveau, Pitcher — Davidson — 2.31 ERA

Anthony Ehly, Pitcher — Seton Hall — 4-0, 2.88 ERA, 28 SO

Michael Gillen, Pitcher — Seton Hall — 3-0, 3 SV, 3.00 ERA

RJ Hamilton, Infielder — Vanderbilt — .289 AVG, 1 HR, 11 RBI

Ethan Houghtaling, Pitcher — Western Michigan — 2-0, 3.60 ERA, 26 SO

Cameron Keshock, Pitcher — Auburn — 1 SV, 1.92 ERA

Thomas Lamar, Pitcher — Lehigh — 2-0, 2.63 ERA

Gavin Miller, Infielder — Auburn — .289 AVG, 17 RBI

Tim Nicholson, Catcher — George Washington — .358 AVG, 14 RBI

Matt Ossenfort, Infielder — Vanderbilt — .328 AVG, 5 HR, 23 RBI

Jonah Oster, Infielder — Campbell — .314 AVG, 16 RBI

Ryan Reich, Pitcher — Seton Hall — 3-0, 2.59 ERA, 33 SO

Cory Taylor, Infielder — Eastern Michigan — .364 AVG, 4 HR, 17 RBI

Alex Wade, Outfielder — Auburn — .263 AVG, 15 RBI

Asa Wilson, Catcher — Pennsylvania — .273 AVG

The Aces, Winners of 11 Straight, Prepare for Five Games in Three Days

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.”

Aces’ Matt Ossenfort Walks-Off For Aces Tenth Straight Win

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.”

Aces Bats Hot in Win vs. South County Braves

By Peter Rainey

The Alexandria Aces (16-2) won their ninth in a row last night in an 11-4 thumping of the Metro South County Braves (8-14) at Frank Mann Field. Headlining what was a powerful night for the Aces’ offense were two three-run homers, the first coming from Aces’ Vandy commit Matt Ossenfort in the bottom of the first inning.

“My lower half works so well, and I rotate really efficiently,” Ossenfort said. “They laid me a fastball, and it felt good.” Ossenfort’s four home runs on the season are good for a team-high.

Trailing right behind Ossenfort in the home run tally is Aces’ Cory Taylor of Eastern Michigan. Taylor sent out the team’s second three-run shot in the fifth inning, tallying his third of the season and keeping the chase in high pursuit for Ossenfort’s home run crown.

“I’m gonna beat [Ossenfort],” Taylor said. “No question about it.” Taylor batted 4-4 on the night, just a triple shy of the cycle.

The Aces return to action tonight looking to extend the winning streak into double-digits; in their way stand the D.C. Grays (8-14).

“Just gotta keep rolling,” Aces head coach Chris Berset said. “Just taking it game by game . . . hopefully we can stay hot with the bats.”

The first pitch tonight versus the D.C. Grays is set for 6:30 PM at Frank Mann Field.

RJ Hamilton Heroics Cap-Off Aces Comeback Win

By Peter Rainey

The Alexandria Aces (14-2) returned to Cal Ripken League play last night after a two-day hiatus, meeting a cross-division foe in the Gaithersburg Giants (6-11). The Aces, riding a six-game winning streak into last night’s game, ate an early gut punch as the Giants’ bats drove four runs across in a second-inning rally. An inning later, the deficit grew to 5-0. Alexandria was playing in front of a great turnout at Frank Mann Field; 180 paid fans were on register for last night’s ballgame, but easily over 200 were in attendance as little leaguers entered for free due to the franchise’s collaboration with the local Fort Hunt Little League. With families enjoying an evening of Aces baseball, Gaithersburg appeared more than poised to play the role of spoiler.

That all changed in the bottom of the fourth inning. Opened by an RBI sacrifice fly from Tim Nicholson of George Washington University, the Aces would rally for a four-run inning of their own, bringing the game back within reach at 5-4. Aces’ Jonah Oster of Campbell University clutched a two-RBI single with two outs down.

“I was just trying to find pitches I could handle,” Oster said. “My first couple of at-bats, I was swinging at bad pitches, so I was really trying to find pitches in the zone that I could handle and get the job done.”

With both starters out of the game by the fifth inning, the game evolved into a battle of the bullpens—a pitcher’s duel with two very different approaches. The Giants stuck through until the ninth inning with just one reliever, Jackson Bauer of Catonsville CC. Bauer dealt masterfully, surrendering just two hits and no earned runs through four and a half innings of work. The Aces, on the other hand, utilized the arms of five different relievers down the stretch. A reliever tandem of Tucker Narkinsky of Tallahassee CC and Josh Rivera of UMBC combined to retire 12 straight Giants batters, cruising the Aces defense through the backstretch of the game before being relieved in the ninth inning. After exchanging four-run rallies in the early going of the game, both offenses had run dry. By the ninth inning, the game remained a 5-4 deficit for the Aces.

The first team to break ice in the ninth were the Gaithersburg Giants, who brought across one run of insurance on an RBI fielder’s choice hit by Kazuya Jordan of Virginia Military Institute. Arriving in the bottom of the ninth, the Aces trailed by two, 6-4. Aces’ lead-off man Tim Nicholson got aboard with a dribbler through the infield, and the Aces’ home crowd began to come alive. Two batters later, Gavin Miller of Auburn University pulled a line drive fair of the left field foul line for a double, advancing Nicholson to third and putting the tying run, himself, in scoring position. Next up, Aces’ Jonah Oster. Oster entered the batter’s box and laid good contact with back-to-back baseballs, the first falling just foul and the second landing fair. His second two-RBI single of the night brought Nicholson and Miller home, tying the game at 6-6. Oster would go on to steal second and enter scoring position, but the side was retired before he could do more—extra innings forced.

In the top of the tenth, the Aces turned to Michael Gillen, a rising sophomore out of Seton Hall. Gillen answered the call terrifically, retiring the Giants swiftly in three batters. Gillen would go on to be named the night’s winning pitcher—his first win of the season to go along with two saves.

With a chance to win it in the bottom frame of the tenth, the Aces went down two outs with no men on base. A single from Aces’ Nick Gregory of Ball State University gave the offense life, putting the winning run aboard. Following his act, Tim Nicholson grounded what should have been a routine inning-ending out to shortstop, but a critical E-6 put the throw to first in the dirt, and Nicholson advanced safely. With two on and two out, Aces’ RJ Hamilton, a Vanderbilt commit out of Hoover, Alabama, approached the plate with his head bobbing to “Russian Creme” by Key Glock—his coined walk-up song. Cool, calm, and collected, RJ crushed the first pitch he saw, sending a walk-off moon shot into the night over left field, a three-run home run.

“It feels so good that my work in the lab is all coming out to fruition,” Hamilton said. “It was a really good moment for me and my teammates . . . it’s special having the Alexandria community come out and support this team.”

Aces head coach Chris Berset offered high praise for Hamilton in the aftermath of the game: “What a special kid, very respectable young man; just credit to his parents for raising him so well. Vandy is getting a special one,” Berset said.

The Aces, now with their win streak extended to seven, will look to settle down from last night’s high before locking in for a road double-header this afternoon at the Olney Cropdusters. The Cropdusters, despite coming in off a loss last night against the Silver Spring Thunderbolts (5-11), lead the Northern Division with a 13-5 record. The Cropdusters gave the Aces their first loss of the new season on June 11th, a 6-4 defeat.

“We have a great team [today] that we’re playing in the Cropdusters,” Berset said. “Day in, day out, it’s a little bit of a grind.”

The Aces face a four-game road trip through Saturday before returning for an extended home stand, with games at the Frank July 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 8th.

“We are looking forward to a well-attended home stand,” Aces Team President Frank Fannon said.

The Alexandria Aces Celebrate 17 Years With a 15-5 Win Over The South County Braves

By Peter Rainey

The Alexandria Aces (8-2) celebrated the 17th anniversary of their inception last night with a 15-5 victory over the visiting Metro South County Braves (4-7) at Frank Mann Field. Team co-founder Patrick Malone threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the ballgame.

“I see this program growing every year,” Malone said. “Chris Berset (head coach) has got a good program with the Aces. What he’s done [with] Jen Hammond (assistant coach), and then coach [Chris] Rooney (assistant coach); the three of them are a good core that we got here.”

The Aces bounced back in a big way offensively with last night’s victory, bringing across 15 runs just a night after being shut out by the rival Bethesda Big Train (10-2). Aces’ Tim Nicholson of George Washington University headlined the rallying Aces, adding five RBIs, highlighted by a three-RBI double that cleared loaded bases in the fifth inning.

“We have guys all around, so it’s really fun to hit in front of guys that are going to Vanderbilt and Auburn. I just kind of put good swings on, and guys happened to be on base,” Nicholson said. He’s set to enter his junior season with the Colonials next year.

A pair of Allegheny College standouts earned the pitching honors of last night’s victory: Aces’ Brent Herrmann tallied a relief win after pitching the Aces out of two innings with no earned runs; his teammate Mark Schweickert finished the job by dealing a scoreless ninth inning to earn the save.

“I had to come out and revive my team a little; you know, just had a flame lit under my butt again.” Herrmann said, boasting his effectiveness in getting the Aces out of a 4th inning jam where he was called to service. Herrmann now carries an impressive 1.92 ERA through three mound appearances for the Aces.

The Aces are back in action this afternoon on the road versus the Gaithersburg Giants (4-6), a team they shut out just five nights ago on home dirt. Ryan Edmonds of George Mason University will make the start for the Aces.

“[Edmonds] threw fantastic for us against the Cropdusters last time, so I’m really excited to see him,” Aces head coach Chris Berset said. Edmonds tossed five full innings in his start last week versus the Cropdusters; today will be his second appearance. First pitch for tonight’s ballgame is set for 4:00 PM at Kelley Park.

Aces Fall to the Big Train 0-5, Return to Play Tonight vs. South County

By Peter Rainey

The Alexandria Aces (7-2) are looking to bounce back tonight following a tough loss yesterday to the now Cal Ripken League-leading Bethesda Big Train (9-2) by a final score of 5-0. The Aces were shut out for the first time this season as the Big Train dealt near flawlessly across three different Division I pitchers—Davion Hickson of Florida State University earned a relief win for Bethesda, pitching through four full innings.

“You’ve got to give credit where credit is due; those were some phenomenal arms out there,” Aces head coach Chris Berset said, crediting Bethesda. “That’s part of what summer ball is; I want my guys to see that kind of pitching.”

The Aces will look to get back into the win column tonight as they return to action at home against the Metro South County Braves (4-6); first pitch is set for 6:30 PM at Frank Mann Field.

“These boys are understanding of how I want them to play, and we are really excited for the rest of the year,” said Berset. “Tomorrow (now today) is a new chance to execute.”