By Connor Newcmb
HANOVER, Md. – Despite winning four of the last five Cal Ripken League championships, the Baltimore Redbirds have had one team continue to give them fits — the Baltimore Dodgers.
The Dodgers took two games from the Redbirds last season and have already won the first matchup with Larry Sheets’ team this season — a 1-0 victory in the opener back on June 6.
Now, the Dodgers make their first trip of the season to Calvert Hall High School to take on the 5-4 Redbirds, who are tied for first place in the North Division.
Coming off a 7-6 win over the Silver Spring-Tacoma Thunderbolts Thursday night, the Redbirds will send RHP Zach Thompson (St. Mary’s College) to the mound. It will be the third start of the season for Thompson, who has struck out 11 batters and walked only one while allowing only one earned run in 12 innings of work.
Thompson started the last matchup between these two teams, allowing just two hits and an unearned run over 4.2 innings. The righty struck out four Dodgers and walked just one. On June 6 he was opposed by Dodgers RHP Josh Hejka (Johns Hopkins), but this time it will be LHP Kasey Gast (Southeastern) on the mound.
Hejka allowed just one run and struck out 10 batters over eight innings Thursday night in the Dodgers’ 10-5 win over the Bethesda Big Train, so Gast will look to build off that dominant start. Gast was solid in his only start this season, striking out four and allowing only two earned runs in 6.1 innings pitched.
The lefty will face a Redbirds lineup that has some big names, but hasn’t necessarily produced so far this season. Third baseman A.J. Lee (Maryland), who hit .307 and was a third-team All-Big Ten selection this spring, has picked up only one hit in 20 at-bats. Leadoff hitter Austin McNicholas (Texas) has also not quite found his form yet, as he leads the team with eight strikeouts at the plate.
The Redbirds hot hitters, however, have been catcher Drew Blakely (Virginia) and outfielder Randy Bednar (Maryland). Blakely is hitting .457 with four RBI while Bednar, who was selected in the 27th round by the Atlanta Braves in this week’s MLB Draft, has reached base in eight of the 14 time he’s been to the plate.
Friday’s game between the Dodgers and Redbirds will start at 6:30 p.m. at Calvert Hall High School. The Dodgers will then play two more games on the road before returning to Joe Cannon Stadium on Monday.