The Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League (CRCBL) has ranked its six teams for the two single-game elimination contests tonight which will generate the matchups for the Semi-Final Series which begin on Friday.
Officially, the Bethesda Big Train finished first with a 30-7 record; the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts came in second at 20-18; the FCA Braves got into third place with an 18-20 record, followed by the DC Grays at 17-20. The Gaithersburg Giants were 14-23, and the Alexandria Aces finished at 13-24. The top two finishers receive a bye in the first round of playoffs which are two elimination games among the teams that finished third through sixth.
So, tonight’s 7 pm play-in matchups are: the Alexandria Aces at the FCA Braves in South County Field, Lorton, Virginia; and the DC Grays—as the home team—against the Gaithersburg Giants, although the game will be played at Criswell Automotive Field, Gaithersburg’s home field.
As if that wasn’t confusing enough, due to the weather cancellations and field availability issues, not all teams played the same number of games. The Braves finished at 18-20 while the Grays were 17-20, but the last Grays game against the Aces was called off last night, leaving the Grays one game short of the Braves 38.
However, with a hard deadline of July 31 to end the League season, no further makeup games could be added to the schedule that could push back the Semi-Final and League Final series, which are slated to conclude by that date (should three League Final games be needed).
So, the Grays, as the higher seed over the Gaithersburg Giants, will be the home team at Criswell , something that happens not that infrequently in the Ripken League. The Grays and the Giants split their season series, 4-4. There were five games played at Criswell (one with the Grays as home team) and the Giants took three of the five. The Grays won two of three games against the Giants at home.
Neither team played particularly well down the stretch with the Grays going 3-7, and the Giants winning two of eight. That matchup should be a good one that, at this point, could go either way.
The FCA Braves, on the other hand, played very well down the stretch, winning seven of their last ten, and scratching out wins in several crucial games. Their opponents, the Alexandria Aces, had the League’s worst regular season record at 13-24, but finished strong with a three-game winning streak. During the regular season, the two teams played seven times with the Braves winning six. The lone Aces win, 10-4, came at home on June 15.
At South County Field, the Braves won all four games played there outscoring Alexandria, 32-10, but 15 of those Braves runs came in one game.
Depending upon the outcome of the two play-in games, the Thunderbolts could either face the FCA Braves, the DC Grays, or the Gaithersburg Giants, at Blair Friday night with the first pitch at 7.
Predictions? I am going to go with the Braves over the Aces at South County Field, and I’ll take the Grays eking out a win over Gaithersburg at Criswell. If there is an upset, it’s the Alexandria Aces throwing off a disappointing regular season to come roaring back in the playoffs. The Aces are hot and playing in a small ballpark (335 to the power alleys) that seem tailor-made for their sluggers, Scotty Morgan (nine home runs), Max Romero (four), and Stephen Hill (four). If they deliver runs in bunches, the Aces could hold the winning hand.
But if my predictions pan out, it will be the FCA Braves facing the Thunderbolts at Blair Friday night and the DC Grays playing at Shirley Povich Field to face the Bethesda Big Train. The T-Bolts have won five of seven against the Braves—two at South County Stadium and three at Blair. But the Braves pitching staff has a full one-run Team ERA advantage over the Bolts—5.35 to 6.36, and the Braves have four pitchers with ERAs under 3.00 that have been in at least five games. On the other side of the field, the Bolts have outhit the Braves with a team batting average of .272 to the Braves .238. So if a Bolts-Braves match up takes place, it could be a classic contest pitting offense versus pitching.
In the other series, don’t write off the Grays’ chances against the Big Train. At Shirley Povich, the Grays split the four games there and one of their losses was only by a single run. The Train took the season series, 5-3, by winning three of four at the Nats Academy. So that series could be competitive if the Grays continue to play well at Povich and can steal a game in Bethesda.
Once the results of the play-in games are in, we’ll take a detailed look at how the Thunderbolts stack up against their Semi-Final opponent as well as a look at the Semi Final series involving the Big Train.
The T-Bolts Radio Network will broadcast the Friday game live with Neal Lavon and Alexander Dacy on the call; Clark Boinis will tweet and Justin Jacquis will handle in-game production and produce the broadcast.