Alexandria Aces continue search for consistency

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By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)

As the Vienna Riverdogs celebrated a walk-off win Monday night, the Alexandria Aces
were left to ponder a game in which they failed to take advantage of several opportunities to move into what would have been a commanding lead.

Vienna infielder Bradley McKay hit an RBI single in the bottom of the 11th inning to bring home out elder Will Malbon and hand the Riverdogs a 6-5 victory. The loss put the Aces’ record at 10-9 overall, good for second in the South Division of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, despite six losses in their last 10 games.

The Aces offense started Monday’s game on a high note, taking the lead in the top of the second inning on a solo home run from designated hitter AJ Spencer, and scored another run on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Kevin Heiss that brought home catcher Cody Miller.

But that 2-0 lead evaporated in the bottom half of the second, as Vienna out elder Shaun Wood hit a solo home run of his own, then catcher Garrett St. Laurent hit an RBI double that scored in elder Peter Nielsen. The home side took a 3-2 lead in the fourth as St. Laurent grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Nielsen, but the Aces roared back in the fifth to regain the advantage.

With two outs and the bases loaded, infielder Mike Annone drove in two runs with a single, then out elder Niko Hulsizer hit an RBI single to put Alexandria ahead 5-3. The bases loaded once again as Spencer walked, but Miller struck out to end the inning, stranding all three runners.

Malbon was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the sixth to cut the Aces’ lead to 5-4, then in elder Cole Perry hit an RBI double to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. As both teams cycled through several pitchers and the innings wore on, Alexandria had opportunities to regain the lead in extra innings, but could not take advantage.

Aces head coach David DeSilva said despite Heiss’ sacrifice fly, his team needed to be more aware of situational hitting.

“It’s things that they work on in their college season,” he said. “They know it. It’s all about the mental approach, so we talk about it, and we try to work on it in batting practice and the cages. It really comes down to execution.”

The walk-off defeat capped a rollercoaster run of games for the Aces, who lost 6-5 on a walk-off single to the Bethesda Big Train on June 25, then bested the D.C. Grays twice in a home doubleheader the following day. The second of those victories at Frank Mann Field saw the Aces walk off themselves, as catcher Andrew Bene was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the ninth to bring the hosts a 6-5 win.

DeSilva said such close results every night are indicative of a strong league, where almost no team is able to dominate.

“The league has a lot of parity in general,” he said. “The Baltimore Redbirds seem to be the standout team so far, but there’s a lot of parity [between teams] two through 10. There’s a lot of good talent in the league, and you’re going to have that throughout the season.”

It promises to be a busy couple of weeks for the Aces, who are not slated to have a day off until July 4, and will follow it up with another six games before the league’s all-star game on July 13. Such a rigorous schedule is complicated by injuries and other absences, with shortstop Christian Adorno nursing a twisted knee that is set for an MRI Wednesday, after the Times’ deadline.

But DeSilva said he hopes his players see the benefits of more playing time.

“I would like to give some guys a day off here or there,” he said. “[We’re] missing a few players that aren’t here, which doesn’t allow us the opportunity to get some guys the day off normally that I would. These guys just need to realize that this is a great opportunity for them to be out on the field and continue to play baseball. They need to bring that passion to the field every day.”

Despite some recent defeats, DeSilva said he still feels his squad has the talent to compile a strong record and make an impact during the postseason.

“You can still hear some of the energy,” he said. “We talked about it, that as the season goes on it’s going to get hotter. Guys are going to die down, that energy of the first week isn’t going to be there. For the most part, every single day these guys show up ready to play, and that’s all we can really ask.”

Alexandria returned to action Tuesday night with a 4-2 victory over the Rockville Express.

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