The Rockville Express came back not once but twice in order to win their Monday night game against the Gaithersburg Giants by a margin of 4-3 at Kelley Park. The win is Rockville’s fourth in a row and their seventh in the last ten games.
Both teams struggled early in the game to move offensively despite making repeated good contact during their at bats. Express starting pitcher Cole Bradley was able to take a no-hitter into the fifth inning, before finally giving up a leadoff single to Giants’ DH Michael McCann. Rockville was able to record outs on the next two at bats and Giants third baseman Pat Hisle stepped up to the plate with two men down and a runner on second.
Hisle took the 3-2 pitch and walked to first, giving Gaithersburg runners on first and second. Left fielder Tate Shaw hit a shot to third base, which should have ended the inning but the ball was bobbled by Billy Lennox and no throw to first was made, loading the bases for all-star second baseman Jake Slaughter. Bradley threw a fastball away and Slaughter ripped a grounder down the first baseline line, driving in 2 runs. The inning would end when Slaughter was caught stealing during the next at bat.
“I was just trying to relax and go the other way with it because I had been out in front and the pitcher wasn’t throwing it very hard and I was just trying to help my team out,” Slaughter said. “I’m always looking fastball and adjusting to off-speed, so I was looking for a fastball and trying to get a base hit to the right side.”
Rockville entered the sixth down 2-0 and looking to respond immediately. Express shortstop Jason Reyes advanced to first on a walk before moving to second base on a fielders choice hit by center fielder Mason Koppens. Second baseman Eddie Nevins put contact on the ball during his at bat with one man down, but while he reached first safely, Reyes was thrown out at third.
Then, first baseman Tyler Galazin stepped to the plate with two men down and a runner on first. Nevins stole second base on the second pitch throw to Galazin. Four pitches later, the Giants walked Rockville’s all-star first baseman putting two men on with two outs. Left fielder Corey Howard was able to score both runners with a single to right field, narrowing the Giants’ lead to 2-1.
Right fielder Kyle Baker drove in Galazin and sent Howard to third on a knock to right center, but the inning would end as he was tagged out on second, trying to stretch his hit into a double. After the sixth, the game sat tied at 2-2.
“We just started to hit the ball, we’re catching fire at the right time,” Koppens said. “We’re looking pretty good right now.”
Gaithersburg recaptured their lead in the bottom of the seventh inning. Once again, Hisle stepped to the plate with two men down and McCann on second base, but this time, rather than walking, he scorched a grounder between the legs of Nevins at second and McCann was sent home, giving the Giants a 3-2 lead.
In the eighth inning, Rockville immediately got two runners on before Galazin stepped to the plate with no outs. Galazin hit a grounder to short, but the ball struck Koppens’ foot as he ran to third. After the play, Rockville had runners on first and second, but Koppens was called out and he went to the dugout to ice his foot.
Howard then advanced both runners with a flyball to center field and Baker stepped to the plate with two runners in scoring position and two men down. Baker hit an infield single to short, scoring Nevins and sending Galazin to third.
With the game tied, Conrad Kavalcik stepped to the plate and singled to left field, giving Rockville the lead, 4-3.
The Express maintained their narrow lead, and the game ended on a strikeout by Express reliever Brian Mroz.
Reliever Kyle Lefelar earned the win for Rockville, and Mroz registered a save. Baker had two RBIs and two hits on four at bats and catcher Cole Warrenfeltz returned from injury to appear as a pinch runner in the game.
“We just got to their bullpen,” said Express assistant coach Chris Williams. “We had Baker step up, and Kovalcik and Corey Howard and Billy Lennox made a hell of a play in there to keep us in the game.”
The Express enter the all-star break with a 13-19 record; they are 1.5 games out of third place in the North division of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League.