Christian Jayne (East Carolina), Matt Thomas (William & Mary) and Kobe Kato (Arizona) celebrate Thomas's three-run homer in the eighth inning of Wednesday's championship game.
Thunder may have been in the forecast, but not in game three of the championship finals for Silver Spring. Though the Thunderbolts came out strong, the Big Train rolled through, rallying for six runs in the bottom of the eighth to win 6-4 and take the Cal Ripken League title. Bethesda now holds eight Cal Ripken League titles, four of them straight since the 2016 season. Big Train became the second in the league to hold the honor of four straight title wins, along with the now disbanded Baltimore Redbirds.
The Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts came out with an early lead in the top of the first, scoring three runs on a combined two hits and one error. The T-Bolts would hold their 3-0 lead through four full scoreless innings. Neither team would see any offensive scoring action until the top of the sixth. Silver Spring found their way to the board once again, bringing in their final run of the evening. A hard hit single, a stolen base, and another single made it 4-0 T-Bolts.
With the score still at 4-0 through seven innings, the morale in Povich seemed low. Fans were itching for excitement, and that’s just what the Big Train provided. Christian Jayne (East Carolina) made his way to first on a walk by Silver Spring pitcher Bradyn Kail. He advanced to scoring position on a single by Kobe Kato (Arizona). Kato tallied two of the six total hits Bethesda had on the evening.
With Jayne in scoring position on second and Kato at first, Matt Thomas (William & Mary) stepped up to bat. Shirley Povich erupted in cheers as Thomas cracked a three-run homer over the center field wall--his first home run at the collegiate level. Now, the Big Train were ready to roll as they cut the lead to 4-3.
“Once he hit that homerun, all the momentum from their side came to us. Baseball is a game of momentum, once that homerun went over we all knew we had a chance to win it,” Gio Diaz (St. Mary’s CA) said of Thomas's homer.
A pitching change from the T-bolts couldn’t stop the Big Train. With two outs in the inning Keith Torres III (Sacramento State) found his way to first on a walk, advancing to second on a wild pitch. On yet another walk by the Silver Spring bullpen, Darius Foster (San Francisco) made his way to first. In a patient plate appearance, Cade Hunter (Virginia Tech) made his way to first to load the bases for the Big Train. Diaz smacked a single to center, allowing both Torres and Foster to come home, as fans filled the night with cheers as Bethesda now took the lead. The Big Train rolled ahead, 5-4.
Jayne drove in the final run of the championship game, doubling to bring Hunter around the bases. Bethesda left the bottom of the eighth 6-4, never looking back. Closing out the top of the ninth and solidifying the title for Bethesda, Chase Lee (Alabama) took the mound. It was three up, and three down as Lee struck out two of the T-bolts to finish out the game.
Thomas was named the League Championship Series Most Outstanding Player, hitting .556 with two doubles, four RBIs, four walks and the aforementioned home run in the the three game series.
“It was definitely special. Before the game, Southern told me to do something cool. Southern, that one was for you brother, I miss you,” Thomas said of the championship title win and former Big Train catcher, Jacob Southern (Jacksonville), a team leader who had to leave the team early this summer.
The entire Big Train team rushed the field for a dog pile by the mound, claiming their rightful title as the victors. The championship series was a game of thrones, the rightful heir taking their spot.