GAITHERSBURG – With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, the Gaithersburg Giants’ attempt to move up in the standings have stalled momentarily as they split their doubleheader series against the D.C. Grays on July 7 at Criswell Automotive Field at Kelley Park.
The first game was a continuation of the July 1 matchup between the two teams, which had been postponed due to inclement weather. Even though the second part of the game took place at Gaithersburg’s home field, the Grays were considered the home team. The matchup kicked off in the third inning with the two squads knotted at one run apiece. The Giants strung together six runs in the fifth inning to win the first game by a score of 9-3.
The second game went on as originally scheduled, about an hour after Gaithersburg’s victory. While thunderstorm warnings popped up on radar throughout most of the evening, Criswell Automotive Field remained dry, and the two teams were able to complete their doubleheader.
The second game had playoff implications; if the Giants were victorious again, they would catapult to number two in the league standings behind the Bethesda Big Train.
Instead, the Grays held off a ninth-inning Gaithersburg surge to earn a 7-4 win and the coveted second place in the standings.
The first three innings were quiet for both teams. D.C. earned four runs on three hits at the top of the fourth. Catcher Reece Yeargain from Randolph-Macon College capped off the go-ahead points by sliding on his chest across home base.
Then, an error by the Grays resulted in a sacrifice fly by North Alabama sophomore and Gaithersburg infielder Harris Kain, and the play generated a run for the Giants.
The Grays extended their lead at the top of the fifth with one RBI courtesy of Yeargain. Meanwhile, the Giants endured an offensive lull in the next three innings, as D.C. pitcher Kyle Subers, a sophomore at Lafayette College, struck out batter after batter.
Subers’ success on the mound carried the Grays into the eighth inning, where outfielder and Eastern Kentucky junior Jay Hester hit a double. It generated two runs and increased D.C.’s lead to 7-1.
However, Subers did not pitch in the final inning. Grays Head Coach Reggie Terry substituted Southern University sophomore Blake Martin at the bottom of the ninth. The pitching change came just in time for Gaithersburg to make one last push for back-to-back victories.
Gaithersburg infielder and Chesapeake College sophomore Paul DiPino kicked off the comeback with a hard hit, which reached the fence on the other side of the field and sent the Grays’ outfielders scrambling. Then, Harvard junior Buddy Mrowka and Austin Peay State University sophomore Gino Avros each earned one RBI to cut D.C.’s lead down to three.
The Giants had two outs and a runner on first and second bases when freshman Cade Doughty from Louisiana State University sidled up to the plate. Martin appeared unfazed and quickly struck out Doughty to cap off the win for the Greys. After the game, the visitors’ dugout surrounded Martin and congratulated him for finishing off Gaithersburg.
“We didn’t want to make any errors, and we wanted to play sound baseball,” said Terry on the Greys’ game plan heading into the second game. “We had some errors, but if you limit those, you win the game. We did well behind the plate; we did well on the mound. We used some guys we ordinarily don’t use, and it worked out.”
Grays pitcher and Marymount University sophomore Jacob Hardney said that Terry emphasized the need to be extra focused as D.C. headed into two back-to-back games against the same team.
“We had just come off that loss, and we weren’t prepared at all coming into that continuation game, so our mindset was to come out and hit the ball a little bit better and limit our walks,” said Hardney. “Terry just pulled us in and told us that we needed to focus more again on eliminating our walks, and that’s what we did. And we got more runs than the other team.”
Avros said that Gaithersburg planned on dominating D.C. defensively; in the second game, though, the Giants were not able to follow through on the game plan.
“In the first game, we wanted to have a good approach to some plays, to be dominant, no strikes, and the defense to be stellar, and that’s how we got the first game,” said Avros. “The second game, our bats weren’t there and pitching had a few mishaps. It’s baseball; sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t.”