Pitching allows Big Train to bounce back from exhibition loss

Cameron Vassar pitches in the opening inning in Sunday's exhibition.

The Bethesda Big Train inserted two pitchers on the mound that did not throw for several weeks in Saturday’s exhibition, resulting in a 13-9 loss to the Gaithersburg Giants.


Sunday’s pitching trio did not let the Big Train head into the regular season with stunted momentum.


Cameron Vassar (James Madison), Nash Eppard (Bryant) and Stephen Schoch (UMBC) combined for 11 strikeouts and gave up only two hits, shutting out the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Little Train in the Big Train’s five-run exhibition victory at Shirley Povich Field.


“Hitting spots and getting off-speed pitches over for strikes, that’s the biggest thing (we did),” Eppard said. “You can’t sit on fastballs. You’ve got to adjust off-speed (pitches) and get in some batters’ heads and then you can get ahead (of the count) and ultimately get them out.”


While Eppard did not appear in any games for Bryant this past season, his first game of collegiate baseball action was an adjustment that was easily relished. As the Essex, Connecticut native stepped out of the bullpen and onto the mound in the top of the fourth, he commanded the strike zone and protected the Big Train’s four-run lead that was earned in the previous half-inning.


After giving up a one-out double to BCC’s Alex Burke, Eppard did not allow another hit to the Little Train and struck out five batters through two innings pitched.


“The first couple of batters of any game, you kind of have to adjust to the environment, the mound and everything,” Eppard said. “Once you get past that, you’re just comfortable up there, free sailing and doing what you practiced doing.”  

 With the Big Train having missing players due to the NCAA Tournament taking place, Ethan Semones (C.D. Hylton High School) and Justin Riemer (St. John’s College Prep) made contributions that inspired the team. Riemer drew a walk in the bottom of the sixth and after advancing on a single by Jacob Koos (Stetson), he scored on a wild pitch to give the Big Train a five-run lead.


Semones, who hit a triple in Saturday’s game, belted a single in the bottom of the fourth inning to finish with a .500 batting average on the day.


“It was pretty impressive,” Koos, who went 3-for-4, said. “I know when I was in high school, I don’t know if I competed at the level they were competing (this weekend).”


A two-RBI single from Logan Driscoll (George Mason) was followed by back-to-back singles from Matt Green (St. Mary’s) and Gaby Cruz (Bryant) that brought in four runs in the bottom of the third. Vassar earned the win, pitching the first three innings and allowing only one hit with two strikeouts.


Manager Sal Colangelo said that because the Big Train players come from college programs that set the standard on winning, he didn’t have to motivate them bounce back from Saturday’s loss.


“These guys are self motivated,” Colangelo said. “They all play at quality programs, so I really didn’t have to say too much.”


The Big Train open up the regular season of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League on the road against the Herndon Braves at Oakton High School on Tuesday at 7 p.m.


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