Following Thursday afternoon’s 3-2 loss to the Gaithersburg Giants, Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts first-year manager Doug Remer gathered his team beyond the third-base dugout for a little heart-to-heart conversation.
The T-Bolts, which have lost six games in a row in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, have been close in a majority of the contests they’ve played this season. They just haven’t been able to break through.
“We have a team of over-thinkers,” Remer said. “The simpler we make baseball the better we’re going to get. We have great skill on the team, but we’re not putting ourselves in position to execute a play or come through with a hit and then we start chasing bad pitches.”
Twice during the T-Bolts’ current losing skid, they’ve lost a 2-0 lead at home in the ninth inning. Thursday, on an overcast afternoon at Creswell Automotive Field in Gaithersburg, a single by Ryan McGuigan in the seventh inning helped the Giants to the one-run victory, spoiling an otherwise solid pitching performance by Silver Spring right-hander Danny O’Donnell.
O’Donnell threw seven strong innings, scattering nine hits while allowing three runs (two earned) and striking out three.
“Anyone could look at our team and just shove it to the side, but we’ll pick it up. I’m confident of it,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell, an Olney native, recently completed his freshman season at George Washington University after graduating from St. John’s College High School. He threw 28.1 innings for the Colonials and posted a 6.04 earned run average while striking out six and walking 12.
“Freshman year is kind of an awkward stage,” said O’Donnell, who played for the D.C. Grays last season. “High school to college, no matter what level, you learn when you make a mistake that you pay for it tenfold. You know you can get away with things in high school, but as you keep climbing up you learn to adjust. Every single day is a learning process.”
He was far more efficient Thursday than his college stats would lead one to believe despite a slight dip in velocity. The 6-foot-3 right-hander does construction work for DuBois Construction, Inc., during the summer and often times comes straight to the CRCBL games to play. In four starts with the Thunderbolts this season, O’Donnell has a 3.04 ERA in 23.2 innings pitched.
“That’s the kind of stuff that’s going to build you as a man,” he said. “You work all day and then you come to the field and you’re still working. Twenty-four hours. Plus it’s the stuff you have to do as a college athlete. You need to play and work.”
The starting pitchers for the Thunderbolts are far from the problem. No pitcher with more than one start has an ERA greater than 4.00. Particularly effective for Silver Spring-Takoma has been Bishop McNamara graduate and future University of Maryland, College Park pitcher Tayler Stiles. In 14 innings (one start), Stiles has allowed no runs on five hits while striking out 21 and walking three.
“Our starters are just as good as anybody else’s,” Remer said. “We have five starters that will keep us in every game. It’ll be exciting when it clicks with the offense.”
Last season, the Thunderbolts finished in last place in the league, going 9-33. This season, they’re 4-11 through 15 games, but Remer, O’Donnell and the like are hopeful a turnaround is coming sooner than later.
“We’re so confident with this team, it’s almost like, ‘Let’s get another loss,’ just to give us that extra fire for later because I know that we’re going to finish strong,” Remer said.
Gaithersburg Giants 3, Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts 2
Thunderbolts 001 010 000 — 2 7 1
Giants 000 002 100 — 3 9 2
WP: Colin McGowan. LP: Danny O’Donnell. RBI: SST — Cody Acker 2. GG — Ryan McGuigan 2, Jay Knight.