With the Bethesda Big Train hanging on to a one-run lead after four innings, manager Sal Colangelo decided it was time to bring his first pre planned relief pitcher based on the upcoming matchups at the plate.
After finishing the 2017 collegiate season with 19 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched, Jack Alkire (VCU) carried his momentous freshman season onto the field at Shirley Povich Field on Thursday to strike out four of the 11 D.C. Grays batters faced in three innings.
Once Alkire completed his work, Colangelo went to Stephen Schoch (UMBC), a second-year pitcher with the Big Train, to complete the final two innings. Alkire and Schoch held the Grays to one hit in the final five innings to give the Big Train their third win of the season.
“We knew what (Schoch) could do. He’s a setup closer guy,” Colangelo said. “We knew Jack would come in and give us good innings, give us a chance to win the ball game and that’s what happened.”
Alkire came in the top of the fifth inning and commanded the strike zone that protected the Big Train’s lead. With two outs in the top of the sixth, catcher Gaby Cruz (Bryant) committed a throwing error on the attempted throwout to third that allowed the tying run to score.
Once the Big Train returned the favor a half inning later, the Cheverly, Maryland native forced two putouts and struck out Nick Denicola to retire the side.
“He did a good job today throwing strikes most of the game,” infielder Garrett Kueber (Austin Peay State) said. “He just kept pumping strikes the whole game and we were able to pick him up when we had to.”
When it came time for Schoch to step into the pitchers mound in the top of the eighth inning, he thought about the times where he blew saves during his freshman year at Appalachian State. Not wanting to have the guilt feeling of losing a potential victory is a factor that motivated Schoch on the mound, he said.
Schoch was prepared to pitch late in the game, having the freshman year flashbacks running through his mind in the bullpen up to the start of facing his first batter.
“They say you learn a lot from failure,” Schoch said. “My freshman year, I had a few of those moments where I failed and just the hardship of blowing a save and knowing what it feels like to blow one. It really makes you never want to feel like that ever again. So that kind of motivates me to go out and do what I can.”
The Laurel, Maryland native mocked his pitches from the bullpen into the D.C. Grays batter’s box, striking out his first two batters. A two-out single phased little to the 6 foot 5 inch pitcher, cruising through his next batter to end the top of the eighth with no damage.
Not even an error by Tanner Allen (Mississippi State) that put the tying run on first pressured Schoch in the top of the ninth. The sophomore located a pitch well enough for Cruz to make a timely throw to catch the D.C. runner stealing second and Schoch finished the game by shutting down the final two Grays batters with strikeouts.
“When it comes down to it, (the game is) pretty much working in the bullpen,” Schoch said. “If you can throw them in the pin, you’re going to get them on the field. I try to isolate my mind from the game and take a little bit out of it, that way I’m just thinking, ‘Hey, this is just like any other bullpen.’
“Whoever is in the box, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to pitch to my strengths and do what I can to dominate.”
The 3-0 Big Train travel to Blair High School in Silver Spring on Friday to take on the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts at 7 p.m.
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