GAITHERSBURG — The visiting FCA Herndon Braves baseball team survived the third comeback attempt of the night by the Gaithersburg Giants to get the 8-7 win in the 11th inning in the season opener for the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League on Tuesday night.
“No lead is ever safe,” Braves manager Chris Warren said. “You have to just execute because they definitely did not quit and put themselves in a position to win the game at the end.”
After five innings of a defensive deadlock, the Braves struck first in the top of the sixth, when pitcher Ethan Delahunty grounded a shot up the right infield line to bring home pinch hitter Brandon White.
The Gaithersburg bats got going in the bottom of the sixth with a quick answer after Herndon relief pitcher Sawyer Strickland walked two consecutive batters to put two runners on.
Giants’ infielder Adam Spurlin knocked a RBI double into center field to bring home Giovanni DiGiacomo and Trace Bucey to give Gaithersburg the 2-1 lead.
Joey Goodwin dropped a RBI double in right field to bring home Spurlin, extending the lead to 3-1.
The Braves scored in the seventh on a Gaithersburg error. With two runners on in the top of the eighth, Frank Nigro curved a single into left field, bringing home Brett Norwood and Delahunty to regain the lead 4-3.
Braves’ Devin Mangum banged a double off the center-field wall to get into scoring position and Austin Gauthier whizzed a RBI single by the shortstop to pad the lead 5-3.
But the Giants were not ready to call it a night.
“I loved that my team really fought,” Gaithersburg Manager Jeff Rabberman said. “We were down two runs in the bottom of the ninth and it bodes well if they are going to come out and compete this hard each night going into the future.”
Gaithersburg’s Scout Knotts advanced to first after being hit by pitch, then moved into scoring position at third when Andres Machado got a double to fall just inside the right infield line.
Barrett Smith bounced a grounder short that got him thrown out at first but not before Knotts crossed the plate to draw the Giants within one, 5-4.
Ryan Brown lobbed a pop-up deep to right field that helped Bucey score, tying the game at 5-5. Goodwin was thrown out at first to send the game to extra innings.
The Braves got cooking in the 11th inning off a couple Giants’ errors.
With Chandler Schultz on the mound in relief for the Giants, Vinnie Costello was hit by a pitch to advance to first. Tim Johnson hit a flat single into leftfield and Mangum followed up with a bunt to load the bases with no outs.
Gauthier whipped a RBI double down the right line bringing in Costello and Johnson. An errant throw from Gaithersburg helped the Braves pushed their lead to 8-5.
Down again, the Giants began to climb back.
To start the bottom of the 11th, relief pitcher Jack Ockerman walked the first two Gaithersburg batters to open the door for a comeback and was quickly replaced by Shane Connolly but the Giants already felt momentum shifting their way.
Smith came home off of Spurlin’s RBI single into right field then Joey Goodwin was thrown out at first but not before Brown crossed home to put the score at 8-7.
Nick Yovetich was struck out to halt the Giants’ last comeback effort.
“We got some stuff to clean up but I felt Nick Pantos was outstanding,” Rabberman said. “He was dominant tonight and really gave us a shot to win.”
Before being relieved after the fifth inning, Pantos posted 10 strikeouts, with a 1.50 ERA.
And sharing the mound to start, Braves’ pitcher Owen Lamon had a strong showing by keeping the Giants scoreless through five innings before he was relieved.
“We got some free baseball tonight,” Warren said. “The guys played great. We need to cut down on our strikeouts but we had some big hits, executed some bunts well, so overall I am pleased with the first game.”