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Big Train ground Thunderbolts, win 13-1

By:Ian Decker
Connor Ball gave the Big Train another strong start, posting five strikeouts and no runs. (Photo courtesy of Anna Yuan)

Boxscore

When rain inundated the Bethesda Big Train dugout Wednesday evening during an exhibition match, Jason Schiavone’s (James Madison) batting gloves got soaked through and weren’t dry in time for Thursday night’s home meeting with the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts.

So when Schiavone stepped into the batter’s box in the bottom of the second inning in a 13-1 drubbing of the Thunderbolts at Shirley Povich Field, which ended in the seventh inning due to the league's mercy rule, and already up 2-0, he was conspicuously without gloves. 

But what started as gloves on the air conditioning ducts in the press box to try and dry them out could turn into an in-season change for the James Madison catcher. With bare hands, Schiavone rocked a dugout-clearing, two-run home run in his first at-bat Thursday. When asked if he would put the gloves on for the next game, Schiavone said, “Not yet, not yet.”

“It was a good feeling,” Schiavone said of rounding the bases. “I kind of hit a little slump before, definitely felt good to get a little bit of confidence back.”

Schiavone’s towering shot, his second of the season, over the batter's eye in left-center put the Big Train (17-5) up four after two innings against Thunderbolts (7-14) pitcher Evan Rishell, who just two nights prior appeared in the league All-Star Game.

“Jason [Schiavone] has worked so hard this summer,” manager Sal Colangelo said. “You gotta give credit to him because he listens. He’s very approachable, and he makes the adjustments, and you see the rewards.”

The Green and White jumped on Rishell early, knocking in two runs in the first, two in the second and five in the third, tagging the soft-throwing lefty for nine runs in three innings. 

In the opening frame, Luke Nowak (East Carolina) reached on an error by catcher Conner Kelly and scored when DM Jefferson (Notre Dame) laced a double down the right field line. Jefferson then stole third and scored when when Peyton Schulze (UC Berkeley) hit in a 4-6-3 double play.

After Schiavone drove in two in the second with his homer, Pitre got things rolling in the third. The Quebec native doubled then took third courtesy of a Schulze flyout. Rishell walked Garrett Felix (Nicholls State), Sean Lane (Maryland) and TJ Rogers (Austin Peay State) to force home Pitre. Warren Holzemer (VA Tech) singled in Felix and Lane before Nowak drove in Rogers and Holzemer. At that point, it was 9-0 and the Big Train were rolling.

Having struggled at the plate this summer, Lane went two-for-three with a double, single and walk in the game. Despite his struggles, the Maryland product is second on the team with 13 RBIs.

“Sean’s done a great job; he’s working back in here,” Colangelo said. "When he gets done here and moves on to Maryland, he’s gonna be an all-star.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Trey Winget (St. Mary's (CA)) scored from third when Silver Spring-Takoma shortstop Jack Controne misplayed a Holzemer grounder with two outs.

On the defensive side, Connor Ball (Alabama) gave Bethesda five innings of scoreless ball and allowed just one hit as he continues to tinker with his mechanics

“It's more of a sidearm,” Ball said about his ongoing arm slot change. “It's a forced thing, so it's slightly easier to throw. It feels like my natural slot.”

Ball held the Thunderbolts 1-for-21 as a team with three strikeouts, cycling through the order with a mix of high heat and off-speed pitches.

“Connor [Ball] was lights out,” Colangelo said. “Eighty-seven, eighty-eight pitch ability, had three pitches for strikes, was competitive, had a good tempo and got after it.”

Marcus Dux (Charleston) and Erik Ritchie (East Carolina) followed Ball, and the two relief arms combined for two innings with one run and two strikeouts. Dux struggled with command, walking four batters but kept the damage to a minimum, and Ritchie closed out the side to cap the evening by league rules after the Thunderbolts were retired in the top of the seventh trailing by twelve. 

The Big Train travel to face the Metro SOCO Braves on Friday, with opening pitch scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Game Night Notes: Award-winning documentary filmmaker Aviva Kempner spoke to a packed Davis Family Picnic Pavilion on Thursday night as part of the Big Train’s Jewish Baseball Heritage Night. A long-time Big Train supporter, Kempner spoke about her two baseball films — The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998) and The Spy Behind Home Plate (2019) — and Imagining the Indianher upcoming film about the fight against Native American mascoting… Thanks to the JCC Men’s Club and Temple Emanuel for hosting picnics for Aviva’s talk… Kempner spoke with the Big Train interns prior to the picnic... Cantor Lindsay Kanter of Temple Emanuel performed a spectacular National Anthem before the game… Special thanks to the sponsors of tonight’s Jewish Baseball Heritage Night — Washington Jewish WeekSPC Financial, and Gelberg Signs… The Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington was the Community Hero group of the Night… Former Washington Post sports editor George Solomon was our other special guest. Solomon, for whom the Big Train Press Box is named, was an editor, colleague, and friend of Shirley Povich for decades. He was the founding director of The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism… Attendance was 521.

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