ROCKVILLE — The Rockville Express (11-14) almost overcame a 9-4 deficit, but the visiting team, the Loudoun Riverdogs (7-19), were able to hang in there for the 9-8 win Friday in an offensive slugfest at Montgomery College.
In the top of the first, with a runner at second, Loudoun shortstop Alejandro Aponte hit a line drive to Express second baseman Matt Kruszka, but just as he attempted to turn a double play, Kruszka committed a throwing error which resulted in outfielder Ben Blackwell scoring to put the Riverdogs on the board first.
However, in the next frame, Rockville responded with a sacrifice groundout from first baseman Evan Blum that sent outfielder Billy Godrick home to tie it up at 1-1.
The next inning, Aponte came through with his second RBI of the game; this time an RBI single to left field that drove in Loudoun outfielder Jordan Ebersole. This followed with Express pitcher Andrew Pena’s throw to first being off-target, which allowed Aponte and Blackwell to score. Loudoun led 4-1.
The Express didn’t back down though; in the bottom of the third, Godrick doubled down the left field line to score shortstop Alex Yi-Chen Jou. Then, Blum hit an RBI single that drove in Godrick. Just like that, the deficit was 4-3.
Aponte got his third RBI of the game in the top of the fourth when he hit a sacrifice fly to left field and drove in Loudoun catcher Collin Casey. Later in the same frame, first baseman Greg Popatak got walked with the bases loaded, which allowed Blackwell to score another run. Then, designated hitter Caleb Beatty hit a sacrifice groundout that brought home third baseman Matthew Thomas to extend the Riverdogs’ lead to 7-3.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Express added another run when Blum tripled to deep right field and drove in Jou.
Loudoun’s next two runs in the top of the sixth both occurred with the bases loaded. First, infielder David Angstadt got hit by a pitch, thus allowing Thomas to score. Then, Ebersole got walked, which allowed Popatak to come home and extend his team’s lead to 9-4.
“We did a good job,” Riverdogs manager Bruce Hall said. “We’ve been hitting the ball a lot better recently anyway, and we came over here and we knew we needed to win tonight.”
Loudoun is one of seven teams in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League below .500, but Hall said he felt confident that his team will reach the playoffs. “Remember I said that today,” he said.
Rockville then attempted a comeback by scoring four unanswered runs in the last three innings. The runs came on an RBI single from Kruszka, a two-RBI double from designated hitter Jhao-Yuan Jhang, and an RBI single from Blum that came in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. Despite the resilient effort, the Express fell just short.
Robbie Lively secured the save for the Riverdogs. “He’s a stud and so is Evan Voliva,” Hall said. “We’ve got two of the best guys in the league for closing. We’re just never ahead in the end, but we will be.”
Despite the loss, Jou had himself a night as he went 2-for-4 at the plate with three runs and a walk. “I just worked on the timing in the cage before the game,” Jou said. “I think that works.”
Rockville is currently third in the North division and still has a chance at the postseason.
“We have some chance to get into playoffs,” Jou said.
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