Heading into Friday night’s crucial game against the DC Grays, the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts knew they needed a win if they wanted to control their destiny toward clinching a first-round bye in the playoffs.
They did just that, coming up clutch late after a slow start in a 9-7 win over the Grays.
The Thunderbolts got off to an inauspicious start as DC pounced on Nicholas Charleson in the first inning. Four of the first five Grays’ batters reached base, with Justin Johnson, Noah Searcy, Jordan Wiley and Robby Wacker each driving in a run to put DC up 4-0.
Silver Spring-Takoma answered in the bottom of the second on Lyle Miller-Green’s RBI single but otherwise could not mount much of an offensive attack in the first three innings against Frank Craska.
The Grays added another run in the third to go up 5-1, ending Charleson’s night. He gave up four earned runs and five hits in three innings while striking out one.
With the offense and pitching struggling early, the Thunderbolts seemed to be headed for their third straight loss. But with one out in the fourth inning, Ryan Roell kickstarted an offensive explosion.
He crushed his second homer in as many nights to cut the Thunderbolts’ deficit to three. Tony Gallo and Cole Friese then reached base, and Miller-Green doubled in his second run of the night to further reduce the Grays’ lead. Friese and Miller-Green each scored on a wild pitch later in the inning to complete the rally and tie the game at five.
Craska would be pulled after that, giving up five runs and six hits in four innings while striking out two.
In the fifth, Gallo doubled in a run off Jacob Hardney to give the Thunderbolts their first lead of the night.
Meanwhile, Luke Rettig took over for Charleson and dominated, striking out six and allowing no runs, two hits and three walks in four innings.
Though the tide seemed to be turning in favor of the Thunderbolts, the Grays kept fighting and loaded the bases with one out in the eighth inning. Bryan Call then grounded into a fielder’s choice and brought in the tying run, narrowly beating out a potential double play.
Alex Vasquez scored on a wild pitch one batter later, and the Grays retook the lead 7-6. But the Thunderbolts would rally once again in the bottom of the eighth.
Miller-Green doubled in his third run of the night to tie the game at seven, and Dom Ford drove him in two batters later on a sharp single to left field, giving the Thunderbolts’ the lead for good. Brenden Williams would later score an insurance run on an error, and Tyler Dyball finished off DC in the ninth to secure the 9-7 win.
Friday’s victory means the Thunderbolts can clinch a first-round bye with a win or a Grays loss. Silver Spring-Takoma’s next chance to do so is Sunday against the Bethesda Big Train.
Watch a postgame interview with Dom Ford here: