GAITHERSBURG – Locked in a one-run game, an eighth inning collapse by Rockville handed Gaithersburg a 5-1 win on Friday night at Kelley Park. The loss brings Rockville’s record to 13-21 on the year.
The Giants entered the bottom of the eighth up 2-1 before blowing the doors open, and helped in part by shaky defense from the Express. Nick Egli started out the inning for the Giants, but he quickly flew out to center field on the third pitch he saw.
Then Blake Burton stepped to the plate for Gaithersburg and took advantage of a 2-1 count, ripping a grounder to Express shortstop Jason Reyes; Reyes made an errant throw to the far right of first base, allowing Burton to reach the base safely.
During Joel Paulino’s subsequent at bat, the Giants brought in Matt Pita as a pinch runner for Burton. Pita then stole second on a wild pitch, putting himself into scoring position.
On a 1-2 count, Paulino cracked the ball off his bat, sending it into the deep right center gap and where it rolled to the wall. By the time the ball made it back to the infield Pita scored easily and Paulino was at second with a stand-up double, extending the lead to 3-1.
“[The hit] was a huge momentum moment,” said second baseman Pat Hisle, who also had two RBIs in the game. “It was a scoreless game, pretty good pitchers duel going to that point… To be able to punch those runs in, it was a big moment for the team.”
After another out, shortstop Patrick Causa stepped up to the plate for the Giants with two down. Causa hit a shot down the third-base line into the left field corner for another Giants stand-up double. Paulino scored on the at bat, extending Gaithersburg’s lead to 4-1.
Then, during Tate Shaw’s at bat, a high pitch from reliever Eric Brown forced Express catcher Kailer Smith to jump up to try and stop the wild pitch; he was unable to do so and Causa advanced to third on the play. Rockville intentionally walked Shaw, putting runners in the corner for Trey Bridis.
“[Brown] was throwing well for most of the game,” Smith said. “He’s a reliever (so) he kind of went a little bit long. I could see some fatigue in him so I tried to go out there and talk to him a little bit to calm him down and try to get him back in but a couple hits they had and it really got away from us.”
Rather than let Bridis hit, Gaithersburg subbed in all-star Jake Slaughter as a pitch hitter for the at bat. With a 2-0 count, Shaw attempted to steal second, and when he became stuck in the pickle, Causa took off for home plate.
Rather than tag out Shaw, the Express tried for the play at home plate, and an errant throw that bounced in the dirt in front of the plate over Smith’s head allowed Causa to score, extending the Giants’ lead to 5-1.
When Eddie Nevins stepped to the plate for Rockville, his team trailed by four runs. He immediately swung on the first pitch he saw, scorching a line drive directly at Paulino, playing third, who caught the ball to record the first out.
On Rockville’s next two at bats, Corey Howard doubled to left field and Conrad Kovalcik drew a walk, putting two men on with one down for pinch hitter Mitch McCrary, who was subbed in for Tyler Galazin.
McCrary, during a 2-2 count, was forced into a defensive swing as he tried to protect the strike zone, leading to a chopper to third; Paulino put out Howard, by stepping on third, rather than making the throw to first, giving the Express men first and second with two down.
Smith singled to right, loading the bases for Andrew Valichka of the Express with two men down.
On a 1-2 count, Giants’ closer Adam Neveski struck out Valichka out on a curve. As Neveski trotted off to meet his teammates in celebration, Valichka tossed his bat and his helmet in disappointment as the game ended on the strikeout.