Monday, July 29, 2013

Giants Make Playoffs in Inaugural Season

by John Vittas

The Gaithersburg Giants qualified for the Ripken League postseason, winning their final four games and posting a final record of 26-18.

"18 losses sounds like a lot," head coach Jeff Rabberman said. "But my goal for the season was to make the playoffs and that's something that we did in our first year in the league. There's a lot to be proud of."

Manager Jeff Rabberman

Josh Ingham finished the season as the leading hitter for the Giants, with his .339 average ranking third best in the league.

Ingham raised his batting average over one hundred points in July

Texas left fielder Collin Shaw played in 43 of the team's 44 games and finished top 20 in the league in hitting. He also finished seventh or higher in hits, runs, stolen bases, at bats and walks. 

Shaw reached base at a .388 clip

The Giants were led by their pitching staff, which ranked best in the league in ERA. The staff included two of the top 8 pitchers in the league. Catholic University starter Robin Mowatt (1.00) ranked fourth in pitching, and did not allow more than one earned run in any of his eleven outings, which included six starts.

RHP Robin Mowatt

"I've been commanding all my pitches really well, throwing a little bit harder," Mowatt said after his final start. "It was a great summer following a pretty good spring so I'm happy."

Central Connecticut State southpaw Jesse Frawley finished eighth, posting an earned run average of 2.14.

LHP Jesse Frawley

"I got a lot of hitters out in front this season," Frawley said. "I got a lot of ground balls with my sinker and was able to showcase my slider and it all worked well together."

The bullpen was led by Nick Riley, who allowed only five earned runs in 28 and two-thirds innings (1.57), earning a WHIP of 0.82. Ingham also pitched out of the pen and did not allow a run in nearly 15 innings of work.

Riley did not allow an earned run over his first 15 innings of the season

But the one statistic the Giants dominated all season long was stolen bases. Coppin State CF Chris Kashangaki led the league with 27 swipes, while Shaw finished his runner-up with 19. Jay Knight stole 14 and Kevin Baron took 11, as 4 of the top 10 base stealers in the league played for Gaithersburg.

Kashangaki finished top-10 in the NCAA in stolen bases this spring

Gaithersburg excelled in one-run games, going 9-2 in such contests. They also picked up ground in doubleheaders, going 12-3 in seven inning games.

"We have a short attention span," Rabberman joked about the seven-inning success. "The key is starting fast. When we're ahead we're pretty tough to beat."

The 1-run wins included four walk-off victories

Their inaugural season was also characterized by streaky play. They had a pair of 4-game win streaks and two 3-game losing streaks. However, the defining stretch of the season came from June 27-July 1, when the Giants won seven consecutive games, putting them in postseason position for good.

"We've come a long way as an organization," GM Alfie Riley said. "Finishing the regular season with 26 wins is a tremendous accomplishment and I couldn't be more proud of Jeff Rabberman, the coaching staff, and the players for their hard work, dedication and respect for the game. They have represented Gaithersburg well."

General Manager Alfie Riley spearheaded the efforts to get the Giants into the Ripken League

Gaithersburg will begin the playoffs at home against the Baltimore Redbirds, with first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. at Criswell Automotive Field. 

The teams will be re-seeded after the opening round and the final four teams will play a double elimination tournament for the title.

Photos by Jim Colgain

To listen to all Giants audio, including broadcasts, interviews and highlights, click here

To see all of Jim Colgain's photos, click here

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Stephens Ks a Dozen, Goes the Distance in Braves' 4-2 Win

by John Vittas

Herndon Braves' starter Nick Stephens pitched a complete game and struck out 12 Gaithersburg Giants en route to a 4-2 win Thursday night at Herndon High School.

"The GaithersburgGiants are great," Stephens said. "The changeup was the pitch that I worked with. I have to give credit to my catcher [Jordan Taylor]."

He did not walk a single batter Thursday, and only allowed two hits over the final five innings. It's Stephen's second consecutive start with double-digit strikeouts.

"Every time Nick steps on the mound we have a bulldog out there and we know we have a great chance to win," designated hitter Rob McCabe said. "He had a great mix today and kept hitters off balanced."

Stephens threw 124 pitches Thursday, after throwing 133 against the Giants on July 6. In that outing, Stephens gave up three runs in the seventh inning, blowing the Braves' lead and being charged with the loss.

"Last time I was a little more emotional than I should have been," Stephens said. "Today I was just really happy that I was able to work it out and do what I needed to do."

Rob McCabe delivered the offensive blow for the Braves, a two-out, two-run triple in the second inning to make it 4-0.

"With two strikes, I just made sure I could hit anything in the zone and got something on the inner half and turned out and thankfully it stayed fair," said McCabe.

With the loss, the Giants fall from third place into a tie for fifth with the D.C. Grays, just half a game ahead of Youse's Orioles for the final playoff spot.

The Giants will travel to Vienna for a doubleheader with the RiverDogs Friday beginning at 5pm. The Braves will travel to Silver Spring to take on the T-Bolts.

To listen to my interview with Nick Stephens and Rob McCabe, click here

To listen to the full broadcast of tonight's game, click here

Friday, July 19, 2013

South Beats North 4-1 in Cal Ripken League All Star Game; Greg Olenski Wins Derby

by John Vittas

The South squad defeated the northern teams of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Wednesday at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda.

Ian Rice (North) and Sean Miller (South) both hit solo home runs to lead the power surge, while Ryan Mincher added an RBI single in the second inning to give the South a lead they would not relinquish.

John Austin-Shepherd pitched a scoreless ninth inning to earn MVP honors.

"It's a great achievement," Austin-Shepherd said. "It was awesome to get to watch all the talent in this game."

South Head Coach Doug Creek thanking his team for their contributions Wednesday

Rice and Josh Ingham (North) were the only players with multiple hits in the game. Robin Mowatt (North) and Brandon Hinkle (South) were the only pitchers to pitch a scoreless inning with multiple strikeouts without allowing a hit or walk.

Over twenty scouts from various Major League teams were in attendance as the league continues to provide elite Division I talent and professional prospects.

"We all come out here to have fun, but everyone wants to play pro ball," Austin-Shepherd said. "It's awesome to get to play in front of pro scouts."

Four pitchers were clocked at 90 miles an hour, with the Express' Nik Nowottnick touching 93 on the gun.

"A lot of the guys I saw tonight can definitely play at the next level," South head coach Doug Creek said. "That's what we're trying to do with the Cal Ripken League is get these guys exposure."

Creek is the head coach for the league's Southern Maryland Nationals. Both he and North skipper Jeff Rabberman used over 26 players in the game.

"I spent a lot of time making sure the boys were in positions where they were playing the best," Creek said. "Everybody got in, everybody got to hit, everyone did well."

Before the game, DC Grays' outfielder Greg Olenski won the league's Home Run Derby, crushing five dingers and edging out Vienna's Shaun Wood and the T-Bolts' Jake Taylor.

"I was just trying to find a ball middle-in," Olenski said. "I was catching myself being a little too anxious up there instead of taking my time, calming my nerves and letting those balls fly."

The Home Run Derby contestants - Champion Greg Olenski (right)

The Ripken League was founded in 2005 and has doubled in size since its inception, with Wednesday marking its ninth All Star game.

"It's huge to have support for the league. Leagues like this are so important," Creek said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to help grow the league."

With about a dozen games remaining in the Ripken League regular season, eight team are within six games of second place, with the top six teams qualifying for the playoffs.

To hear my interview with Doug Creek, click here

To hear my interview with MVP John Austin-Shepherd, click here

To listen to my interview with HR Derby Champ Greg Olenski, click here

Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 Home Run Derby History, Preview & Predictions

by John Vittas

Being in attendance tonight, I can't wait to experience my first Home Run Derby.
The field is stacked, and baseball fans should expect one of the highest scoring Derbies in history.

After all, the highest scoring derby in history was in New York back in 2008.

Remember this?

Believer it or not, Hamilton's 35 homers ranks only second most in a single Derby.

Here's the leaderboard:

1. Bobby Abreu - 41 (2005 at Comerica Park)
2. Josh Hamilton - 35 (2008 at Yankee Stadium)
3. Robinson Cano - 32 (2011 at Chase Field)
    David Ortiz - 32 (2010 at Angel Stadium)
5. Adrian Gonzalez - 31 (2011 at Chase Field)
6. Prince Fielder - 28 (2012 at Kauffman Stadium)
7. Miguel Tejada - 27 (2004 at Minute Maid Park)
8. Sammy Sosa - 26 (2000 at Turner Field)
    Albert Pujols - 26 (2003 at US Cellular Field)
    Hanley Ramirez - 26 (2010 at Angel Stadium)

The Winners:

2012 - Kauffman Stadium - Prince Fielder (28)
2011 - Chase Field - Robinson Cano (32)
2010 - Angel Stadium - David Ortiz (32)
2009 - Busch Stadium - Prince Fielder (23)
2008 - Yankee Stadium - Justin Morneau (22)
2007 - AT&T Park - Vladimir Guerrero (17)
2006 - PNC Park - Ryan Howard (23)
2005 - Comerica Park - Bobby Abreu (41)
2004 - Minute Maid Park - Miguel Tejada (27)
2003 - US Cellular Field - Garrett Anderson (22)
2002 - Miller Park - Jason Giambi (24)
2001 - Safeco Field - Luis Gonzalez (16)
2000 - Turner Field - Sammy Sosa (26)
1999 - Fenway Park - Ken Griffey Jr. (16)
1998 - Coors Field - Ken Griffey Jr. (19)
1997 - Jacobs Field - Tino Martinez (16)
1996 - Veterans Stadium - Barry Bonds (17)
1995 - Ballpark in Arlington - Frank Thomas (15)
1994 - Three Rivers Stadium - Ken Griffey Jr. (7)
1993 - Camden Yards - Juan Gonzalez (7)
1992 - Jack Murphy Stadium - Mark McGwire (12)
1991 - Sky Dome - Cal Ripken Jr. (12)
1990 - Wrigley Field - Ryne Sandberg (3)
1989 - Anaheim Stadium - Eric Davis (3)
1987 - Oakland Coliseum - Andre Dawson (4)
1986 - Astrodome - Wally Joyner & Darryl Strawberry (3 each)
1985 - The Metrodome - Dave Parker (6)

This Years Competitors:


Prince Fielder - 16 HRs this year
    - 5th appearance, 2-time champion, 63 career Derby HRs)
2007 - AT&T Park - eliminated in 1st round (3 HRs)
2009 - Busch Stadium - Champion  (23 HRs)
    - 11 first round, 6 in the semifinals, 6 in the finals to beat Nelson Cruz
2011 - Chase Field - eliminated in semifinals (9 HRs)
2012 - Kauffman Stadium - Champion (28 HRs)
    - 5 first round, 11 in the semifinals, 12 in the finals to beat Jose Bautista
My Prediciton: Tonight's Champion - 32 HRs 

Chris Davis - 37 HRs this year
    - 1st career appearance
My Prediction: 1st Round Exit - 5 HRs, all late in round, lack of experience is a major factor, hits the furthest home run of the night off the Pepsi-Cola sign in RF

Yoenis Cespedes - 15 HRs this year
    - 1st career appearance
My Prediction: 1st Round Exit - 3 HRs - too good of a hitter to change his swing and go upper-cut

Robinson Cano - 21 HRs this year
    - 3rd career appearance, 2011 champion, 32 career Derby HRs
2011 - Chase Field - Champion (32 HRs)
    - 8 in the first round, 12 in the semifinals, 12 in the finals to edge out Adrian Gonzalez
2012 - Kauffman Stadium (O HRs - booed off the field)
My Prediction: gets off the snide but falls short of moving on - 4 HRs


David Wright - 13 HRs this year
    - 2nd career appearance, 2006 runner-up
2006 - PNC Park - Runner-Up (22 HRs)
    - 16 in the first round, 2 in the semifinals, 4 in the finals losing to Ryan Howard by 1
My Prediction: gives the Mets' faithful something to cheer about, hitting 8 in the first round but falling in the semifinals after only hitting 3

Michael Cuddyer - 16 HRs this year
    - 1st career appearance
My Prediction - not cut out for the Derby - 1 HR, first round exit

Pedro Alvarez - 24 HRs this year
    - 1st career appearance
My Prediction: puts on a show in round one to kick off the Derby, just falls short of the finals

Bryce Harper - 13 HRs this year
    - 1st career appearance
My Prediction: Runner-Up to Fielder, kid shows why he was so heavily watched as high schooler, hitting some 500-foot bombs but falling in the finals to the veteran Prince

My Prediction:
1. Prince Fielder - 9-13-10 (32)
2. Bryce Harper - 10-12-5 (27)
3. Pedro Alvarez - 13-5 (18)
4. David Wright - 8-3 (11)
5. Chris Davis - 5 (5)
6. Robinson Cano - 4 (4)
7. Yoenis Cespedes - 3 (3)
8. Michael Cuddyer - 1 (1)

The Experience (Total Derby HRs):
Prince Fielder - 63
Robinson Cano - 32
David Wright - 22

Two Best Spots to Catch HRs:

1. Above the RF Upper Deck under the Pepsi Cola sign
 - It will be an underrated spot for tonight because of how short that higher porch is in right. Fielder, Alvarez, Harper and Davis will pepper that thing

2. the Shea Bridge
 - Where the TV cameras and major crowds will be situated. Space to move will be at a minimum

SPOILER ALERT! The Celebrity Softball Game Results and Recap

by John Vittas

If you don't think you can make it through the Celebrity Softball game without passing out tonight when it airs after the Home Run Derby, here's what happened at yesterday's Taco Bell Legends & Celebrity Softball Game:

The NL won 8-5
Here's the exact linescore with a beautiful picture of Kevin James to quench your fantasies

Several home runs were hit (5): Rickey Henderson, Mike Piazza, James Denton, Frank Thomas and Josh Wege

Just wanted to point out that all 4 Yankees' representatives did not hit one (Bernie Williams, Craig Carton, Ashanti and AJ Calloway)

The winning pitcher was Jennie Finch:

And the loser was the slightly heavier Frank Thomas, yes that Frank Thomas:

The highlight was Kevin James' faceplant into second base:

And the MVP was Wounded Warrior Josh Wege.

And there wasn't anyone in the ballpark to argue this decision. The guy was probably the best player on the field, and considering he shined on two rubber legs says a ton about technology and what this country does for its veterans.
Wege hit a home run, almost made a sensational diving catch in foul ground after sprinting about 100 feet from his left field position, and by the way, hit a home run to right center.

To me, that's what should all take away from Sunday's fun.

The Fun of All-Star Sunday

by John Vittas

All-Star Sunday at Citi Field was the perfect appetizer for the primetime events of the Home Run Derby and the Midsummer Classic Tuesday.
We got warmed up with some actual baseball, played by the game's top prospects,

Future MLB Stars Brandon Nimmo (Mets), Byron Buxton (Twins) and George Springer (Astros)

and then charmed by a bunch of celebrities making their athletic debuts (not to mention a few Hall of Famers mixed in).

George Lopez attempting to play softball

Overall Takeaways from Sunday:

1. Jennie Finch is beautiful

2. Rickey Henderson can probably still play in the Majors

The guy hit one to the warning track on the REAL Citi Field and tracked down several fly balls in left.

3. Kevin James is as funny in real life as he is on TV

Kevin James diving head-first into second base to help the National League win 8-5

4. The Mets have a bright future.

Noah Syndergaard throwing his first pitch on the Citi Field mound

Rafael Montero doing the same

Pitching prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero both started the Futures Game and looked very impressive throwing their fastballs in the mid-90s.

OF prospect Brandon Nimmo was there too

Greatest moment of the day was watching my childhood hero, Mike Piazza hit one last home run in the orange and blue.

Oh yeah, and watching him hit it off with Jennie Finch

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Giants Win Fourth in a Row, Defeat Redbirds 7-6

by John Vittas

The Gaithersburg Giants knocked off the Baltimore Redbirds, 7-6 Thursday night at Calvert Hall College High School in Towson.

The Giants clubbed at least 11 hits for the second straight night, including eight off Redbirds' starter Brandon Casas.

"We've stayed focused on having a quality at bat and helping the team win and that mindset has really carried throughout the whole lineup," Giants' left fielder Collin Shaw said. "We show up to the yard no matter who we're playing with the same attitude and the results just take care of themselves."

Shaw went 2-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored and three stolen bases. He now has 12 steals on the summer, second in the league behind the man who plays next to him in the Giants' outfield, Chris Kashangaki.

"I found some good counts and had the green light from coach so I just took advantage of that," Shaw said in regards to the running game.

The Giants scored two in the first and three in the second off Casas, before tacking on runs in the fourth and eighth off Baltimore's bullpen. Josh Ingham and Brandon Grove each drove in a pair of runs.

Grove is now 9 for his last 13 at bats, raising his average 91 points over that span and up over .300 for the first time this season.

"That's who Brandon Grove is and that's why he's on this team," head coach Jeff Rabberman said."I think he'd been struggling because he was pressing. Tonight he was very relaxed and he's been starting to see the ball better. It's the right time for him to start getting hot."

Starting pitcher Jesse Frawley picked up the win after allowing three runs over five innings.

Kyle Colgain earned the save afte striking out Redbirds' shortstop Jimmy Redovian with the tying and winning runs on base.

"I threw him a 1-1 curveball that put me ahead so I thought I had him guessing," Colgain said. "The fastball felt real good so I just reached back and threw it as hard as I could and it was a good spot."

Colgain is usually a starter for the Giants but has now pitched two scoreless outings of relief.

"I haven't closed in a while so I didn't make any changes," Colgain said. "I just came in at a different time in the game. There's a little more pressure but it worked out."

Giants' RHP Kyle Colgain picked up his first save of the season Thursday night

The Giants have won four consecutive games, knocking off three of the league's five best teams in the process.

"It's been a good three days for the Gaithersburg Giants," Rabberman said. "Coming off two emotional wins, you kind of wondered what we had left in the tank. We found a way to win and that's what good teams do."

The Giants (19-11) will head to Vienna tomorrow to take on the River Dogs (11-15), as they go for their fifth straight victory.

To hear the full broadcast of tonight's game, click here

To hear John Vittas' post-game interviews with Kyle Colgain, Collin Shaw and head coach Jeff Rabberman, click here

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Aces Hold on for 5-4 Win in Gaithersburg

by John Vittas

The Alexandria Aces defeated the Gaithersburg Giants, 5-4 Friday night at Criswell Automotive Field in Gaithersburg.

Alexandria put 21 runners on base in the game but stranded 13.

"All summer we've always had people on base, we just sometimes fail to get them in as tonight shows," second baseman David Schanz said. "But we just keep a simple approach up at the plate and make the goal to get on base and usually it works out well for us."

Schanz went 2-for-4 with a double, RBI and run scored. Brett Carlson and Ryan Mincher reached base four times for Alexandria and Colton Konvicka reached on three occasions.

Colin Milon started the game for the Aces and struggled for the first time this season, surrendering four runs on six hits over six innings of work.

Three of the four Giants' runs came in the second inning, as Milon gave up a two-out, two-run double to Chris Kashangaki. However, the Aces' offense rebounded to take the lead back with runs in the third, fourth and fifth.

"I didn't have my best stuff out there today, but the defense did a good job behind me," Milon said. "I had a rough second inning but the guys went right back out there, tied the game and a couple innings later they got two more. It makes a pitcher feel a lot better knowing that the guys have his back."

The last opportunity for the Giants came in the sixth inning after Milon gave up back-to-back doubles to Josh Ingham and Danny Freshley. Following a mound visit, Milon battled back to get Kory Britton to pop out to right field to end the threat.

"I kind of knew that was my last guy so [coach] came out there and he and Bobby [Burns] calmed me down a little bit and got the job done," Milon said.

With the win, the Aces improve to 10-7 and pull into a tie for fourth place in the 12-team Ripken League.

"It's always good to win a close game, especially when we drop two against these guys the last two times," Schanz said.

Alexandria will head to Silver Spring Saturday to take on the T-Bolts while the Giants will host the Herndon Braves at 5 p.m.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Giants Win Their Seventh Straight, Beat Braves 7-1

by John Vittas

The Gaithersburg Giants won their seventh game in a row Monday, knocking off the Herndon Braves 7-1 at Criswell Automotive Field in Gaithersburg.

The Giants tagged Braves pitching for 11 hits, including three doubles and three infield singles. Kevin Baron went 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs.

"At any level of baseball, when you see your teammates having good at bats, it's gonna keep rolling on to the next guy," Baron said. "We're at the point where we know our role and we're not trying to do too much and putting it all together."

Chris Kashangaki added three hits, three runs and a stolen base, while Texas outfielder Collin Shaw and Dartmouth third baseman Jay Graham both had two hits and a pair of RBIs. Kashangaki also threw out Braves' third baseman Tom Woodruff from centerfield to keep the Giants ahead 2-1 in the sixth.

Brandon Estrain started for the Giants, giving up just one run on four hits over five and two-thirds innings.

"They weren't hitting the fastball and when they started fouling off pitches, I started coming inside," Estrain said. "Our defense was great today."

Monday was Estrain's first start of the year after pitching six innings of relief throughout the summer.

"I knew I had to throw a lot more pitches than I was used to. I had a good warmup and felt good," Estrain said. "Coach Rabberman said I had to give him five, so I gave him six."

The Giants' bullpen combined to finish off the game without allowing another run. Gaithersburg continues to lead the Ripken League in pitching with a 2.13 team ERA.

"We're putting pressure on the other guys and forcing their defense to make a play and be perfect and I think that's a big reason why we're on this run," Baron said.

The Giants will go for eight in a row this evening, traveling to Glen Burnie to play the Orioles at Bachman Park at 7p.m.