One night after a loss to the Baltimore Redbirds in the opening round of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League playoffs, the Rockville Express kept its hopes alive for winning the league title Wednesday by defeating the visiting Alexandria Aces, 7-2, at Montgomery College, Rockville.
Rockville starter Ryan Callahan limited the Aces to one run in seven innings and the Express benefited from several Alexandria mistakes. Lewis Guilbeau and Romeo Cortina recorded two-run hits to help Rockville stay alive in the double-elimination tournament. The Express is set to travel to the Bethesda Big Train on Thursday to face the tournament’s top seed. Bethesda lost 5-1 to the Redbirds in a winner’s bracket game on Wednesday.
“Baltimore has a really good team,” Rockville coach Rick Price said. “They got us pretty good last night. They always seem to peak at this time, which is why they won the league the last two years.
“Tonight it was all about Ryan. He had really good command of his pitches. We took advantage of a few mistakes they made early. Then when they scored, we answered. Now we have to go face Bethesda at their place. It’s never easy when you get sent to the losers’ bracket.”
Rockville wasted little time getting to Alexandria left-handed starter Andrew Witczak, who struggled in the second inning when the Express scored three runs — only one was earned. Devon Mahoney led off with a bloop single to right, then Guilbeau sacrifice bunted and reached on a throwing error by Witczak. Dakota Dean followed with another bloop single to left that scored Mahoney. Guilbeau went to third on the hit and scored on an errant pick-off throw by Witczak. Dean eventually scored on a sac fly to left by Cole Warrenfeltz.
Alexandria got a run against Callahan in the fifth, but the Express countered with two more in the home half of the inning. Brandon Benson reached on a fielder’s choice and Mahoney beat out an infield single. Guilbeau followed with a triple into the gap in right-center that scored both runners to push the Rockville lead to 5-1.
“He got ahead of me 0-2 by throwing two change-ups and I figured he would come back with another change-up,” said Guilbeau, a rising junior at McNeese State. “I was looking for that pitch away and he left it up a little bit and I was able to drive it. We were really able to bounce back tonight. We got beat pretty good the other night by Baltimore, but we didn’t play our best [on Tuesday]. But that’s baseball. One day you’re off and the next day you turn things around.”
Alexandria got one earned run back against Rockville reliever Luke Olson when Brad Elwood started the eighth with a single and scored on a passed ball by Express catcher Braden Goughenour. Rockville answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning when Romeo Cortina hit a two-out, bloop single into shallow left that enabled Dean and Goughenour, both of which had walked and advanced on a wild pitch, to score the game’s final two runs.
“Ryan pitched a great game for us tonight,” Guilbeau said. “He was really in command of his pitches right from the start. Then it was up to us to score some runs for him. We had that quick start and then every time they scored we had an answer. Now we’ll see how we do at Bethesda [on Thursday]. They’re a great team and that’s a nice venue.”
Alexandria 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 — 2
Rockville 0 3 0 0 2 0 0 2 x — 7
WP — Ryan Callahan. LP — Andrew Witczak. 2B: AA — Zackery Kessinger. 3B: RE — Lewis Guilbeau. RBI: AA — Luke Gibbs 1, RE — Dakota Dean 1, Cole Waarenfeltz 1, Lewis Guilbeau 2, Romeo Cortina 2.