Kobe Kato (Arizona) went 3-for-4 in Saturday's win over D.C., raising his league-best average to .466.
The Bethesda Big Train (24-6) won their seventh straight game Saturday night as they defeated the D.C. Grays by a final score of 9-6 at Shirley Povich Field. Like many of their matchups with the Grays (16-17) in 2019, victory did not come easy for Big Train.
D.C. got off to a hot start as in the top of the first Austin Deming (BYU) hit an RBI double and later scored on a Jordan Wiley (Louisiana Lafayette) single to give the Grays a 2-0 lead. Though the Grays got off to a quick start, there was no fear from the Big Train as they responded with a big first inning of their own.
After both Gio Diaz (St. Mary's CA) and Christian Jayne (East Carolina) hit singles to start the bottom of the first, Bethesda began to drive in runs. Kobe Kato (Arizona) hit a single to score Diaz, and Jayne scored on an error to quickly tie the game at two. With the game tied and no one out, Matt Thomas (William & Mary) gave Bethesda the lead with an RBI single. The Big Train would add insurance later in the inning as Jacob Southern (Jacksonville) scored on a fielder's choice, Cade Hunter (Virginia Tech) hit a sacrifice fly, Keith Torres (Sacramento State) scored on an error and Diaz hit an RBI single to give the Big Train a 7-2 lead.
"The biggest thing is you can't stop playing," Thomas said of bouncing back from an early deficit. "We know that we have a good offense and the biggest part is just to stay at it."
After a high scoring first, both offenses went quiet for a while. Starting pitcher Hunter Cooley (Florida Atlantic) settled in after a rough first to toss three innings of two-run ball for Bethesda, and D.C.'s Cam Fowler (Nebraska Omaha) entered the game in relief and kept the Big Train in check. In the top of the fifth, D.C. would crawl a little closer as Deming hit an RBI Double to score Jay Hester (Indian Hills) to cut the lead to 7-3.
The Big Train would get back on the board in the bottom of the seventh as Thomas hit an RBI single to score Kato and give Bethesda an 8-3 lead. With two RBIs Saturday, Thomas passes his teammate Southern for the Cal Ripken league leader in RBIs.
"I can't do it without the guys in front of me," Thomas said. "It feels like every time I hit I have guys on second and third because the top of the order is so good. Jacob and I are in a little battle (for the RBI lead), so will see who wins."
In the bottom of the eighth, Bethesda added more insurance as Hunter drilled his first home run of the season to give the Big Train a 9-3 lead. Hunter's home run was the first at the college level as he will be entering his freshman season at Virginia Tech after the summer.
After the game, Hunter stayed humble, saying the home run "Felt good." With Hunter's home run also came an epic bat-flip.
"I don't even remember flipping it honestly," Hunter said. "I think it just felt good."
The game seemed to be in control for Bethesda as they took a six-run lead to the ninth, but like they have all year, the Grays kept fighting back. Deming continued to dominate as he blasted a long three-run home run to cut the Big Train lead in half. Then after a single by Wiley and a walk by Robby Wacker (Richmond), Big Train skipper Sal Colangelo called on Chase Lee (Alabama) to close the door with the tying run at the plate. Lee did just that as he got Josh Cowden (BYU) to ground into a fielder's choice and struck out Colin Cain (Slippery Rock) to close out a 9-6 Bethesda win.
"When Chase comes in the game, that's it, game over," Thomas said of Lee who recorded his fifth save of the season. With the win, Bethesda now leads the second-place T-Bolts by eight games which sets up a chance to clinch the regular-season division title Sunday evening.
The Big Train will play a double-header consisting of two seven innings against the red-hot FCA Braves (13-17) in Lorton as they look to wrap up first place Sunday in Virginia.