Alexandra Aces head coach Eric Williams stood outside the visitor’s dugout at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda and discussed some of his team’s early season problems.
There were the on-field miscues: Alexandria finished with as many errors (4) as hits in a 4-0 loss to the Big Train on June 6. And there was a lack of continuity.
"I like to harp on them that this is a team game and we need to play together," Williams said. "We can’t just leave guys laying around out there and not have anything for them in [the dugout]. Some guys come from schools where that’s not a big event and some guys come from schools where they’re used to being involved no matter what. It’s part of it. They’re old enough, they’re college guys, they can figure it out."
But while there was talk of trouble, the smile on Williams’ face when he started the interview and when it neared the end spoke of brighter days ahead.
"It’s early," he said.
The Aces, a Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League team in its third year of existence, started the season 1-3, but Williams said he’s pleased with the club’s talent level compared to previous years. At this point, getting players comfortable with one another and on the same page is key. Like other teams in the CRCBL, Alexandria is composed of college players from around the country. But the Aces return only two players from last season — rising seniors Max Knowles (pitcher, North Carolina Wesleyan College) and Will Davis (catcher, Pennsylvania) — so building camaraderie could take time. Still, Knowles, in his third year with the team, and Davis, a second-year Ace, have helped the first-year players with their transition.
"Coach kind of comes off as a [tough guy]," Davis said. "A lot of the guys were kind of freaked out when they first heard his rules for the team. [Knowles and I] know where he’s lenient, where he stands on things. We’re trying to relax some of the guy’s minds.
"He’s a former police officer so he lets us know that he’s got an ear and nose for things. If you come in smelling ripe from the night before, he’ll know about it. He’ll put the fear of God into everybody else."
Davis opened the season 7-for-13 with four RBIs. Nick Allen (sophomore, George Mason) started 7-for-14 with five runs scored. Rand Ravnaas (junior, Georgetown) was 5-for-13 with three RBIs.
On the mound, Knowles earned a win in the season opener against Herndon, allowing five hits and three earned runs over seven innings.
"He’s a crafty little left-hander," Williams said. "He works hard, he knows how to get people out. He doesn’t always overpower them, but he knows how to get them out — he’s a pitcher."
Knowles said pitchers compare grips, pitches and training techniques with one another in an attempt to improve.
"It’s just a learning experience," he said. "Everybody comes here, nobody knows all the answers and everybody’s here to get better, which is the whole point of summer league baseball."
D.J. Stinsman (senior, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian) started the season’s second game, a loss to Rockville, and received a no decision. He allowed six hits and two runs — one earned — over five innings while striking out 11. Bobby Kirby (junior, Georgetown) allowed one earned run over six innings in a loss to Bethesda. Brian Derner (sophomore, George Washington) is the only pitcher to make multiple appearances through four games for the Aces, allowing four hits and one earned run over five innings during two relief appearances.
Alexandria hosts the Silver Spring-Takoma T-Bolts at 7 p.m. on June 11. Home games are played at Frank Mann Field behind Cora Kelly School. Tickets $5 for adults, $3 for children.
"The fans in Alexandria really love the team," Knowles said. "They follow us really well and that just makes it exciting to come back and play for them. … Coach was saying earlier that on paper we have the best team that he’s ever had talent-wise. Obviously, we want to make the playoffs this year."