After breezing through regular season play a year ago, the Gaithersburg Giants Blue baseball team has found the going a lot tougher this summer, largely because of an injury-decimated pitching staff.
But back-to-back wins, including a 9-6 road victory against the Maryland Red Dogs on Thursday at Glenelg High School, moved the Giants to 11-8 and put them two games out of first place in the Maryland Collegiate Baseball League with two weeks remaining before postseason play.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries to our pitching staff and we really haven’t pieced things together consistently,” Gaithersburg manager Jeff Rabberman said. “We have one game where we play lights out and the next game, we play awful. It just hasn’t really clicked, but I think now we have some healthy pitching and some other guys coming back. I think we’re coming together at the right time. It’s good to playing well in July.”
Sparking Thursday’s victory was a mammoth two-run, inside-the-park home run by Our Landy of Good Counsel graduate Brandon Grove, a costly two-run error in the eighth committed by the Red Dogs (13-9-1) and a sterling relief appearance by Good Counsel graduate Kyle Hamby.
Grove’s titanic shot to dead center field of the fenceless Glenelg field supplied the Giants with a 6-3 lead through five innings. The ball sailed well over the head of Maryland center fielder Kyle Porter and then skipped through the metal bleachers some 400 feet from home plate, allowing the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Grove to round the bases.
“It was a fastball right down the middle, I hit it good,” said Grove, who has seven homers this summer. “I just had to do a lot of running with no fence. It’s first time I’ve had one inside the park.”
The Red Dogs tied the contest in the bottom of the sixth on a pair of walks, a run-scoring single by Cody Ruben, a sacrifice fly by Christian Laidley and a wild pitch by Giants reliever Josh Kohn.
The score remained deadlocked until the top of the eighth when a sharp ground ball to shortstop by Gaithersburg’s Ryan McGuigan was booted into shallow center field, allowing a pair of unearned runs to score with two outs. Lane Farmer later added a run-scoring single for the final three-run advantage.
Meanwhile, Hamby (2-0) worked three scoreless innings in relief of Kohn with three strikeouts and a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
“I was just throwing a lot of fastballs,” Hamby said. “It was getting a little dark so I think it was tough for them to see. They weren’t really making good contact so I just stuck with that. We’ve been playing better the past couple of games, hit better and fielding better, so hopefully we can keep getting better and get back to first place.”
Maryland opened a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning on a two-run triple by Porter, a Good Counsel graduate, and a run-scoring single by Ruben. The Giants rallied for four runs in the top of the third on four hits, an error, a three-run double by Kurtis Voytell and a sacrifice fly by Kory Smigocki.
Gaithersburg Giants Blue 9, Maryland Red Dogs 6
Gaithersburg (11-8) 0 0 4 0 2 0 0 3 0 — 9 9 1
Maryland (13-9-1) 0 3 0 0 0 3 0 0 — 6 11 3
WP — Kyle Hamby (2-0). LP — Chris DeFeo (0-1). 2B: Gaithersburg — Kurtis Voytell. Maryland — Liam Aquino. 3B: Gaithersburg — Tom Gilchrist. Maryland — Kyle Porter. HR: Gaithersburg — Brandon Grove. RBI: Gaithersburg — Kurtis Voytell 3, Brandon Grove 2, Lane Farmer, Kory Smigocki. Maryland — Kyle Porter 2, Cody Ruben 2, Christian Laidley.