Category: Previews

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.

Aces vs. Big Train Championship Preview

By Peter Rainey

July 26, 2023

For a third consecutive season, the Alexandria Aces will compete in the Cal Ripken League Championship Series, and for a third consecutive season, they will meet Bethesda’s Big Train in the final round. The Aces clinched their position in the championship series Monday with an extra-innings 6-5 victory over the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. The Big Train solidified their position last night with a come-from-behind win over the Olney Cropdusters, taking the deciding game three of that semifinal series by a final score of 15-7 after trailing 5-0.

The anticipated championship series gets going tonight in Alexandria with a 6:30 p.m. first pitch time; the Aces, as the top seed of the playoffs, are awarded home field advantage in two out of the three games in the series. If the series is tied 1-1 after two games, a deciding game three will be played Friday night at Frank Mann Field; tomorrow’s game two will be played in Bethesda at Shirley Povich Field.

The Big Train feature an intimidating front of offensive weapons, which they displayed at full volume in their semifinal series win over Olney. Cal Ripken League All-Star Outfielder Jeffrey Heard, a Sacramento State product out of San Jose, California, has batted .300 this postseason, he crushed a game-tying two-run bomb in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one, setting course for an extra-innings Big Train victory—a win that proved crucial as the Cropdusters went on to win game two. In the deciding game three last night, Big Train’s Dixon Williams, an infielder from East Carolina, batted five for five for a staggering seven RBIs, also sending out a grand slam. The Aces will look to slow down his strong momentum in the championship series.

The third installment of the trilogy begins tonight. The Aces won the season series 3-2, but in postseason baseball, that means zilch.

“Once we get to the playoffs, I don’t care about records.” Aces head coach Chris Berset said. “It’s anyone’s game; we just gotta find a way to win two ball games.” Again, the first pitch tonight from Frank Mann Field is at 6:30 p.m.; it is the opening game of a best-of-three series for the title.

Aces Playoff Preview

By Peter Rainey

July 23, 2023

The Alexandria Aces concluded a historic regular season Friday in the Cal Ripken Senior Collegiate Summer League; finishing with a record of 30 wins and six losses, the Aces set a franchise record for regular season wins and secured the league’s number one seed for postseason play. The team is set to embark on their playoff run tonight with the opening game of the League Semifinal Series at 6:30 p.m. from their home Frank Mann Field, where they will meet the number five seed Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts.

After a home loss to the Bethesda Big Train on June 15, the Aces went on a near month-long tear, racking up 17 consecutive wins—they would not lose again until June 13 on the road versus the Southern Maryland Senators. Prior to their loss at the Senators, the Aces were 24-2, good for a staggering 92.3 win percentage at the time. While the back end of the regular season saw momentum slow with the Aces, finishing 6-4 in their last ten, the team locked up the regular season championship by a wide margin—the second-place Bethesda Big Train finished their regular season at 23-13, a whole seven games behind the Aces.

“It’s huge (getting the number one seed). We get to play in front of our home crowd now . . .  We’re going to keep playing hard and keep playing good baseball, as we have all year long,” Aces’ Matt Ossenfort of Vanderbilt University said. Ossenfort, now officially the home run king of the Cal Ripken League, tallied a league-high eight home runs during the regular season.

The Aces swept the season series against the T-Bolts 4-0, but down the stretch of the season, the cobalt-blue squad out of Silver Spring, Maryland has proven to be no pushover. The T-Bolts have climbed out of the league basement and into the playoff ranks, and they are peaking at the perfect time. After a 2-11 start to the season, the Thunderbolts responded with a five-game winning streak and a stretch of eight wins in 12 games. Following the 2-11 slump to open the season, the T-Bolts have since tallied a winning 13-11 record; now, they’ve earned a meeting with the Aces in the League Semifinal Series.

Four T-Bolts’ batters average over .300 from the plate: Beck Urofsky (.340 AVG, Cornell University), Zane Gross (.338 AVG, Barry University), Matthew Sicoli (.337 AVG, Emory University), and Quincy Via (.304 AVG, Marymount University); of the four mentioned, two were named Cal Ripken League All-Stars—Gross and Urofsky.

The most exciting of the four regular season meetings between the T-Bolts and Aces was far and away an extra-innings affair at Blair Stadium on June 14th; a ten-inning, 9-6 victory for the Aces saw tempers fly as T-Bolts head coach Brock Hunter was ejected during an Aces rally in the top of the 10th. T-Bolts’ Amani Jones, another Cal Ripken League All-Star, led the team in hits with three in five at-bats that night. Jones’ success against the Aces is worth noting—he’s recorded a base hit in all but one of the four meetings between the two teams this year.

The Aces will feature a new weapon this time around against the Thunderbolts in the form of Outfielder Amani Allen, a Chipola University commit out of Washington, D.C. Jones stepped away from the team for roughly a month to focus on garnering feedback during this year’s MLB Draft; he returned to the Aces on July 12th in a win versus the D.C. Grays, and came up big in a 3-2 victory at the Bethesda Big Train with a go-ahead two-RBI double July 18th.

“It’s really like a family here,” Allen said. “They bring everybody in, and it’s always fun playing here.”

There’s a lot to be excited about as we arrive at playoff baseball, as said best by Aces’ Assistant Coach Jen Hammond: “Aces fans are in for a real treat. While we’ve been fortunate to have had some really strong teams, especially the championship squad from last year, this team has been historically dominant and has already accomplished so much. I’m most impressed by different guys stepping up over the course of the season—the regular season championship was truly a collective effort.” Hammond stepped in for head coach Chris Berset in a 14-6 win at the Gaithersburg Giants Thursday, becoming the first woman to manage a game in the Cal Ripken League.

“I’m honored to be the first woman to break this barrier, but I very much hope not to be the last,” Hammond said. “I hope others will earn similar opportunities and that you’ll see more women on the field [and] in the dugout in the seasons to come.”

The first pitch from Frank Mann Field tonight is slated for 6:30 p.m., the opening game of a best-of-three series with the Thunderbolts to decide who will advance to the League Championship Series.

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.

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 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.

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.