Aces eye a repeat championship. Team has dominated the Cal Ripken League with a 13-2 record.

Aces eye a repeat championship. Team has dominated the Cal Ripken League with a 13-2 record.
(Photo/Tess Wilhelm)

By Peter Rainey

Nearing the halfway mark of their 2023 Cal Ripken Senior Collegiate Baseball League campaign, the Alexandria Aces sport a league-leading 13-2 record through 15 games.

The Aces, led by fourth year head coach Chris Berset, entered the summer season as defending champions of the Cal Ripken League. They are three games ahead of their record at this point last season, when they were 10-5 at the halfway point in a year they would later raise the championship trophy.

“It’s awesome that we’re winning ball games, but I still think there are things we could clean up to be a championship-caliber team,” Berset said. “I still think we haven’t clicked on all cylinders yet, so it’s kind of cool to see in that sense where we have a little more to grow.”

The Aces have won six straight, led by a potent offense that has averaged more than eight runs per game during the streak. The Aces’ Matt Ossenfort, a Vanderbilt commit out of South Dakota, sent out home runs in back- to-back games last weekend, including a grand slam on the road Saturday against the Aces’ division rival Metro South County Braves.

“Just trying to stay in my two-strike approach, keep the foot down, and see the ball through. … I executed well and hit balls hard,” Ossenfort said. His 14 RBIs on the season to date are good for a team-high.

Alexandria’s bats were active again Sunday night in a 10-3 victory over the Southern Maryland Senators. Headlining

the Aces with two home runs and four RBIs was Dylan Grego, a rising sophomore representing Ball State University.

“It just felt good [last night]; I tried to keep my foot down and see the ball longer. I got lucky enough to catch a couple up front,” Grego said.

Ethan Houghtaling of Western Michigan University earned his first win in an Aces uniform Sunday, dealing through five full innings with five strikeouts. His catching partner, Ty Mancha of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, impressively gunned down three stray base runners, a season-high.

“Ty [Mancha] did a great job behind the plate, calling pitches and throwing guys out on the baselines,” Houghtaling said. “The defense really helped me out there towards the end, so hats off to them.”

The team as a unit enjoyed

two days off this week, during which a few team members were invited to Lynchburg, Virginia, for the “Sunbelt Classic,” a two-exhibition showcase versus non-league opponents at Liberty University.

“I think any opportunity to face solid talent – and get ex- posed to better pitchers and hitters – is an opportunity for challenge and growth,” Aces assistant coach Jen Hammond said in reference to players participating in the Sunbelt Classic. “The same can be said for exposure and scout- ing; it’s a chance to potentially position themselves on someone’s radar, all while be- ing in an environment with like competitors.”

Nine Aces players participated in the Sunbelt Classic, listed alphabetically: Ryan Edmonds, a sophomore at George Mason University, who has 12 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched this sum- mer; Anthony Ehly, a sophomore at Seton Hall, with 2.25 earned run average and 22 SO in 16 IP; Dylan Grego, a sophomore at Ball State with a .265 batting average, 8 RBI and 2 home runs; Cameron Ke- shock, a sophomore at Au- burn, with a 3.37 ERA in 8 IP; Gavin Miller, a sophomore at Auburn, with a .339 BA and 14 RBI; Tim Nicholson, a junior at George Washington, with a .354 BA and 12 RBI; Ryan Reich, a sophomore at Seton Hall, with a 0.00 ERA and 21 SO in 10 IP; Cory Taylor, a junior at Eastern Michigan, with a .327 BA, 2 HR, 12 RBI and 10 stolen bases; and Alex Wade, a sophomore at Auburn, with a .288 BA and 9 RBI.

The Aces returned to Cal Ripken League action Wednesday night in a home matchup against the Gaithersburg Gi- ants at Frank Mann Field. The results of that game were not available in time for the Times’ print edition.