T-Bolts Start Hot, Hold Off Grays to Advance to LCS

For as much as Game 1 of the Cal Ripken League Semifinal between the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts and DC Grays was about pitching, Game 2 was almost the polar opposite.

The Thunderbolts rode an electric offense to an early lead and held off a furious eighth inning charge by the Grays to win 10-9 and advance to the League Championship Series.

Much like Friday, Silver Spring-Takoma jumped ahead in the first inning. Corey Rosier and Brady Pearre reached against Frank Craska, with Rosier scoring on a wild pitch to put the Thunderbolts ahead 1-0.

Lucas Donlon then crushed a solo home run — his second of the season — to extend Silver Spring-Takoma’s lead in the second inning.

The Grays got a run back in the bottom of the second against Zeke Gongola, as Justin Johnson scored on a walk.

But the Thunderbolts responded in the top of the third, as Ian McMillan drove in Rosier on a two-out single.

Gongola recovered in the third inning and got the first two outs before giving way to Yash Rane. Gongola allowed one run and three hits while striking out two in 2.2 innings.

Craska, meanwhile, continued to struggle. Donlon blasted another solo home run — his second of the evening — in the fourth inning, pushing the Thunderbolts’ lead to 4-1. Craska departed after the fourth, giving up four runs and six hits while striking out five.

Rane hit a speed bump in the bottom of the fourth, loading the bases with two outs. Joshua Congdon scored on a wild pitch, and Robby Wacker drilled a two-run single to tie the game at four.

But Pearre answered in the fifth inning, cranking the third pitch he saw from Magnus Ellerts over the left field wall for his first home run of the season.

Rane worked around two baserunners in the bottom of the fifth, and the Thunderbolts broke it open in the sixth.

With one out, Donlon beat out a throw home from Blake Martin, and Cole Friese scored on a double steal one pitch later to extend the lead to 7-4.

After a pitching change, McMillan picked up his second and third RBI of the day, drilling a two-run single up the middle. Luke Trainer then plated McMillan with his own RBI single, capping the five-run inning.

Rane continued to be a steady presence on the mound, shutting out the Grays in the sixth and seventh inning. He faced two batters in the eighth, giving up a run before being pulled. Rane allowed five runs across 4.1 innings while striking out six.

With Rane now out, the Grays began to battle back. DC loaded the bases with no outs, before Congdon scored on an error. Tre Terry, Matthew Day and Bryan Call then came home on a single, fielder’s choice and walk, respectively, cutting the deficit to one.

But Bryan Gilliam got Congdon — who had four hits on the day — to ground out with a full count and end the threat with the tying run on third base.

DC’s bullpen kept the Thunderbolts’ offense quiet in the ninth, giving way to Tyler Dyball. He struck out Terry and Day before getting Call to ground out, sealing the tense 10-9 victory.

With the win, the Thunderbolts advanced to the Cal Ripken League Championship Series for the first time since 2006. They will face the Bethesda Big Train, who swept the Alexandria Aces in their semifinal series. Game 1 is Monday.