With the Cal Ripken Collegiate League All-Stars holding a 5-2 lead over Team Israel in the bottom of the fourth, the All-Stars’ pitchers shined bright to get their team out of a critical jam in front of a packed stadium.
Silver Spring left-hander J.D. Ogden (Columbia; Thunderbolts) worked masterfully to get out of a bases-loaded, no out situation. He forced a soft grounder back to the mound with danger looming and threw it home for the first out of the inning, then the catcher rapidly turned the double-play to first base to put two outs on the board.
Nate Beal (UPenn; Aces) stepped onto the hill in relief of Ogden and struck out the final batter of the inning to help the All-Stars escape what was a prime chance for Israel to climb back into the game.
Israel wasn’t able to overcome its failed RBI opportunity in the fourth, as the All-Stars built off their strong defense all evening and eventually captured a 9-3 win at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium Monday evening.
Israel’s starter Alon Leichman looked determined to continue his team's dominance after they had beaten the Big Train in Bethesda less than 24 hours before. He struck out the All-Stars’ lead-off batter on three straight strikes then needed just five more pitches to retire the side in the top of the first inning.
Leichman’s solid opening inning thrusted open the door for Israel’s offense in the ensuing half inning. After Nick Rickles singled to put runners on the corners, Benny Wanger walked to load the bases with two outs. Scott Burcham took care of business from there as he cracked a single up the mound and into center field to bring home the first two runs of the game.
Despite Israel’s side gaining the early momentum, the All-Stars answered the bell at the plate with a massive second inning. Grant Knipp (Campbell; Big Train) smacked a loud double into deep left-center and Mark Kattula (Eastern Michigan; Aces) followed suit with a single to left to put runners on first and third. Trevor Doyle (Sacramento State; Big Train), who owns the seventh-best batting average in Cal Ripken League with a .333 clip, sailed a fly ball to left field that hopped over the wall for a ground rule double to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The Cal Ripken League’s representatives weren’t finished doing damage in the same inning, though. Danny Neri (Notre Dame; Big Train) tied the game at two with a sacrifice fly to drive Kattula home, then the All-Stars grabbed a 3-2 lead with the help of a Connor Offshack (Elon; Aces) RBI single to right field.
The All-Stars remained relentless offensively in the top of the third, building off their previous three-run inning to further widen the margin on the scoreboard between them and Israel. With the bases loaded and two outs, Jack Cone (William & Mary; Big Train) made the most of the golden scoring opportunity. Cone capitalized on a favorable 3-1 count and lined the fifth pitch into shallow right field for a two-run RBI single to extend the All-Stars’ advantage to three.
John Armstrong (Auburn; Aces) held Israel’s bats hitless in the bottom of the third to maintain the All-Stars’ 5-2 lead. It was the second-straight scoreless inning for an Israeli offense that managed just three hits in the first three innings compared to the All-Stars’ five total hits.
The Tokyo-bound team for the upcoming Olympic games almost found its footing in the bottom of the fourth, however, it wasn’t able to chip into the All-Stars’ three-run advantage after failing to score with the bases loaded and no outs. Israel loaded the bases once more in the bottom of the fifth, this time driving one run home on a sac fly to bring the score back to 5-3.
Kattula got the All-Stars’ offense rolling once more in the top of the sixth to thwart the attempt after rattling off a double to left-center. Cone then mimicked Kattula at the plate and knocked a double of his own to put runners on second and third with one out. The All-Stars eventually loaded the bases and an Israel throwing error off a ground ball brought home two more runs to extend the Cal Ripken League’s lead to 7-3.
Keith Torres (Sacramento State; Big Train) put the game out of reach in the same inning as he rocketed a two-run double off the left-field wall to push the All-Stars’ advantage to six runs through six innings.
The CRCBL’s strikeout leader Kieran Garner (UMBC; Thunderbolts) and Blake Burkhalter (Auburn; Aces) combined on the mound to finish off Israel in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the All-Stars the 9-3 victory.
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