By Peter Rainey
The Alexandria Aces, for the third consecutive season, are bound for the Cal Ripken Senior Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series.
The Aces earned a 6-5 extra-innings victory Monday on the road against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts to capture the best two-out-of-three game semifinal round. The Thunderbolts, out of Takoma Park, Maryland, proved to be no easy out for the Aces.
Despite a 2-11 start to their season, the Thunderbolts turned their season around and impressively climbed into the fifth seed of the Cal Ripken League Playoffs. The hot team then advanced out of a play-in round to meet the Aces in the League Semifinal Series.
“Absolute hat tip to [the Thunderbolts], they took [the game down] to the wire,” Aces head coach Chris Berset said. “There were plenty of times where we could’ve doubted ourselves, but we just grinded it out and found a way to win.”
Monday night’s ball game pushed 11 innings, ending just 11 minutes shy of 11 p.m. eastern time.
Aces’ Cameron Keshock, a sophomore pitcher from Au- burn University, stepped into the game at a crucial eighth-inning juncture with the game tied. Keshock dealt three innings, retiring seven batters via strikeout without allowing an earned run. The Thunderbolts put the potential winning run aboard in the bottom of the ninth and tenth innings, yet Keshock dealt through the traffic and held Silver Spring’s offense scoreless when it counted most.
“I have enough trust in my stuff to be able to just attack the zone,” Keshock said. “[I] trust my infield, my outfield; we got great guys back there … I’m excited to keep playing with my brothers.”
In the top of the ninth, trailing by one and down to their final two outs, Aces’ infielder Dylan Grego, who attends Ball State University, sent a ball perfectly into the right field corner and advanced
to third for the team’s first clean triple of the entire sea- son. He would be driven home by an RBI single from Asa Wilson, a catcher from the University of Pennsylvania, in the next at-bat to tie the game.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit, get on any- way I could,” Grego said. “I was lucky enough to get one down the line and hustle out a triple.”
The Aces would score the go-ahead run off of a bases-loaded walk in the top of the 11th inning. Aces’ reliever Thomas Lamar, a product of Lehigh University, closed out the Thunderbolts with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 11th.
The Aces now look for- ward to the Cal Ripken League Championship Series, where they will meet the Bethesda Big Train for the third straight sea- son after the Big Train defeated the Olney Cropdusters 15-7 in a decisive game three from that semifinal series on Tuesday night. Bethesda defeated Alexandria for the championship in 2021, while the Aces claimed the title last year.
“This is what these kids want to play for; you know, a championship is so much fun to play for,” Berset said. “It’s going to take a full roster to win it.”
Game one of a best-of-three championship series will be played Wednesday night in Alexandria at Frank Mann Field. Results were not available in time for the Times’ print edition. In the event that a decisive game three is needed, the Aces will again play at home on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
Game dates and times can fluctuate with playoff results and weather interference. For updates, follow the team on Twitter @Alexandria_Aces or visit the team’s website at alexandriaaces.org.