Preview: Pitching looking to shut down Grays

Ken Waldichuk (St Mary's (CA)

The Bethesda Big Train’s dominance on the mound has given the defending Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League champions what they wanted in the first two games of the 2017 season: two consecutive wins.


Coming off a 7-1 win over the Rockville Express, the Big Train return to Shirley Povich Field for their home opener against the D.C. Grays on Thursday looking to continue to surge their way to the top of the league standings.


Pitching commanded the strike zone on Wednesday, with a trio of pitchers combining for 18 strikeouts and forced the Express to hit .176.


“Hopefully we can keep it going. Everything is running pretty smoothly right now,” pitching coach Tyler McKee said. “(We are) just going to keep the guys ready to go when their name gets called.”


Superior performances on the mound have allowed the Big Train to rise up offensively, outfielder Kirk Sidwell (Stetson) said. While the pitching staff has quieted opponents’ damage, the Big Train’s bats have been rumbling.


The Big Train offense has compiled 10 hits in each of the first two games that have resulted in an average of 6.5 runs per game to start the season.


“(The pitchers) gives the hitters confidence when your guys are shoving out there,” Sidwell said. “It gives you a little more relaxing (approach), having good at-bats as opposed to pressing to get more runs.”


Having lost their first two games of the season to the Alexandria Aces and the Baltimore Redbirds, the D.C. Grays are hungry for their first win of the season. Despite the losses, the Grays have players that can swing the bats with forceful power.


Eastern Kentucky’s Will Johnson leads the Grays in hitting on the early season, collecting three hits to go with a .500 batting average in two games. Johnson had to sit out during the 2017 season after transferring from Georgia State.


After hitting .265 with 16 RBI and two home runs in 2015, Johnson scored 17 runs while hitting .229 during his sophomore season.


The summer baseball season has also given Old Dominion’s Darius Gillus a chance to give himself a fresh start at the collegiate level. After hitting .211 in 18 games for the Monarchs, the 5 foot 11 inch utility player has started the season with a batting average of .333.


“We’re going to treat (Thursday’s game) like any other game,” Sidwell said. “As long as we do that and be consistent, I think we’ll get a lot of W’s.”


While the Grays are looking to start their winning ways, the Big Train’s undefeated start has been a positive note for the team heading into Thursday.


“Winning is all you can ask for, really,” catcher Logan Driscoll (George Mason) said. “We’re all clicking, so that’s always nice.”


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