The Big Train finally played their twice-postponed games against the FCA Herndon Braves on the road Monday and split the evening-night doubleheader, dropping the first game 2-1 but coming out on top in the nightcap 7-2. The Big Train is now 23-9 on the season and remains 4.5 games ahead of the idle River Dogs in the South division.
The Big Train scored their lone first game run in the top of the first, as Andrew Bechtold (Maryland) hit a one-out single and scored on a scorched double by Chris Lewis (Sacramento State). The Braves responded in the bottom of the first by stringing together three singles off of Big Train starter Chris Monaco (Virginia Tech), tying the game at one.
For the next five innings, Monaco and Braves starter Jack Fant went toe-to-toe in a pitchers’ duel. However, in the bottom of the sixth, South division all-star Andy Mocahbee hit a first pitch solo home run off of Monaco, putting the Braves ahead 2-1.
In the top of the seventh, the last inning of a collegiate double header, Herndon gave the ball to the division’s best closer, all-star Mitch Aker, to slam the door on Bethesda. Harrison Crawford (Creighton) started a last-ditch rally with a one-out double, but two batters later, Brandon Hunley (Sacramento State) reached first base on an error, and on the play, Crawford tried to score the tying run from second base but slipped shortly after rounding third and was caught in a rundown that ended the game.
Chris Monaco was saddled with the tough loss despite hurling a complete game and giving up only two runs, four hits, and one walk while striking out six Braves. Monaco threw 81 pitches, 59 for strikes, and at one point had retired fourteen straight Herndon hitters. He falls to 1-1 on the year but his ERA is still sparkling at 1.68.
In the nightcap, the Big Train rebounded from a 1-0 deficit by scoring two runs in the top of the second. Harrison Crawford worked a one-out walk, and then Tim Yandel (Tulane) crushed a first pitch, two-run dinger to put the Big Train on top 2-1. Yandel finished the nightcap with three hits, two RBIs, and two runs scored.
The Big Train added to their lead in the top of the fourth, as Crawford walked to begin the inning, and Yandel and Ryne Willard (NC State) followed with back-to-back singles to load the bases with nobody out. Two batters later, Nick Feight (UNC Wilmington) hit a routine ground ball to the Herndon third baseman, who tried to get the force out at home. However, his throw was off the mark, allowing both Crawford and a hustling Yandel to score the third and fourth Bethesda runs. Willard, who took third on the play, scored the fifth run for the Big Train on a balk by the Braves starter. It would be his final inning of work.
Chris Lewis launched a bases empty blast in the top of the seventh, his fourth of the season, tying him for the league lead. The shot put Bethesda up 6-1. Back-to-back walks drawn by Zach Kirtley (St. Mary’s (CA)) and Harrison Crawford prompted the braves to make a pitching change. The new Herndon pitcher gave up two more singles in the inning to Yandel and Feight, the latter bringing across Bethesda’s seventh run.
Big Train starter Mark Nowatnick (Florida Atlantic) was outstanding in the nightcap, going six innings and surrendering just two hits and one earned run while scattering five walks and striking out six in a 90 pitch, 50 strike effort. Nowatnick earned his first victory of the season and lowered his ERA to a sensational 1.76. Right hander Blake Smith (Mississippi State) came in to pitch the bottom of the seventh, giving up two hits and one earned run, walking none and striking out none in five batters faced.
Notes: The Big Train has eight games remaining in the regular season. The magic number to clinch the South division is 6 more wins…With the loss to the Braves tonight, the only teams the Big Train can still sweep the season series against are the Dodgers and Grays…Monday’s doubleheader featured four home runs, two by each team, all over the short left field fence at Herndon High School…The Cal Ripken League All-Star Game is at 7:30 on Wednesday night at Povich Field. The preceding Home Run Derby begins at 5PM…The Big Train heads out to Joe Cannon Stadium Thursday for an opportunity to complete their regular season four-game sweep of the Dodgers…The Big Train returns to Povich Field Saturday night at 7:30 against the Herndon Braves again for Feed the Hungry Night sponsored by Giant Food. Fans can donate non-perishable food items at Bethesda Giant food locations or at the gate to receive a FREE ticket for Saturday night’s game!
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