Bethesda Big Train lost their sixth game of the season on Wednesday in a dissatisfying 4-7 beating by the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, bringing their record to 8-6. The team is now tied with the surging DC Grays for first place in the Cal Ripken League’s South division.
The tone of the matchup was set in the very first inning. In the top of the frame, three Big Train hitters stepped up to the plate, and three sat back down. Second baseman Clayton Daniel (Jacksonville State University) had the best showing of the half-inning, slamming a long fly ball that landed in the left fielder’s glove, just inches short of Blair Stadium’s fence. It was the first of several well-hit Big Train balls to fall just shy of leaving the park.
The Thunderbolts jumped ahead early in a laborious first inning for Big Train starter John Murphy (University of Maryland), who allowed four runs on five hits and kept the T-Bolts only one batter short of batting around. The T-Bolts littered the outfield with hits, the two big blows being a bases-clearing double from Nick Cieri (University of Maryland) and a two-run homer by Matt Mervis (Duke University) over the ‘357 feet’ marker in right centerfield. Big Train’s defense managed to keep the damage to just four runs, as centerfielder Cody Brown (Mississippi State University), gunned down Zachary Racusin (Marist College) at the plate on a throw relayed by shortstop Garrett Kueber (Moorpark College).
Big Train first threatened the Thunderbolt’s lead in the third. First baseman Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State) led off with a 12 pitch at-bat, culminating with an anti-climactic pop-up to the T-Bolt’s shortstop.
“Vinny Esposito took a quality at-bat,” assistant coach Eric Williams said. “Anytime you can extend an at-bat like that, it’s good.”
Justin Morris (University of Maryland) looked set to follow in Esposito’s lead, working the count 2-2, before hitting a ball well to center that should have fallen for a hit, but was instead robbed on a smooth diving play by Racusin. With two outs, Big Train loaded the bases on a Cameron Daugherty (Bowling Green State University) single over the head of the second baseman, a walk worked by Kueber, and another single by Daniel. Then, after seeing seven pitches, Allen Smoot (University of San Francisco) jacked a single to centerfield, driving in two runs.
However, those two runs were immediately answered in the bottom of the third, during which Big Train’s starting pitcher continued to struggle. Murphy walked Mervis, who was then exchanged for Ty Friedrich (University of Maryland) on a fielder’s choice. Grayland Fowler (University of South Carolina Aiken) then whacked a two-run homer onto the loading dock of the fire station next to the stadium, scoring them both and matching Smoot’s RBIs in the top of the inning.
Murphy was removed from the game in favor of Chris Monaco (Virginia Tech University) after allowing a base hit and a screaming single to center in the bottom of the fourth. Monaco and Blaine Lafin (Virginia Military Institute) combined to pitch 4 ⅔ impressive innings, holding the Thunderbolts scoreless for the remainder of the game.
“Murphy did have a tough outing,” Williams said, “but the bullpen did come in and hold on to it, so we could try and get some more runs on the board.”
Unfortunately, Big Train did not manage to score many more runs. They manufactured one on a walk by Kueber and singles from Smoot and Michael Emodi (Creighton University) in the fifth, but the bats fell silent for the next couple of innings, being put down in order in sixth and the seventh. Bethesda loaded the bases in the eighth, with two outs, but was unable to capitalize on the situation as they had earlier in the game, all three of their runs to that point having come with two
Big Train threatened again in the top of the ninth, scoring a run on a single by Daniel and a couple of T-Bolts errors, but ultimately fell short, unable to surmount the Thunderbolts early lead.
“I think we’re figuring stuff out right now,” Williams said of the loss. “I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”
Bethesda Big Train’s next game is at Povich Field, against the Herndon Braves. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 PM.
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