The Cal Ripken League’s perennial championship contenders clashed for the first time this season in Baltimore on Tuesday night, with Big Train defeating the Baltimore Redbirds, 7-4.
Bethesda extended its perfect start to the 2018 season to 6-0 with the victory over the Redbirds, who they have played against in the Cal Ripken League championship each of the last nine years. “They’ve got quality players and it’s a good organization,” Big Train manager Sal Colangelo said of the Redbirds. “Our guys came out, they knew we were going to be in a dogfight.”
Starting pitcher Carter Bach (Wake Forest) made his Big Train debut, lasting four innings and striking out five while allowing two runs. “Carter was great,” Colangelo said. “He worked ahead, threw 70-something pitches, and did a nice job… We’re going to try to reduce his pitch count a little bit through the four innings, but [it was] the first time starting for him in a while since school’s been out.”
The scoring began for Bethesda in the second inning, when outfielder Justin Wylie (Arizona) hit a leadoff home run. The shot to left-center kept Wylie atop the league leaderboard in home runs, with 3. “I redshirted this past year [in college], so I really focused on my weight training, and I gained about 15 pounds,” Wylie said. “Playing these early games, I think it’s translating to a little bit more power for me.”
Big Train would go on to score three more runs that inning thanks to five walks and a Baltimore error to go up 4-0.
After second baseman Fox Semones (James Madison) drove in shortstop AJ Lee (Maryland) in the third, the Redbirds cut the lead back to four before Bethesda tacked on two more in the fourth inning, making it 7-1. Big Train’s bullpen would protect that lead for the rest of the ballgame, allowing three runs in five innings.
Righthander Josh Nelson (Wayne State) pitched into the seventh, and his college teammate, Hunter Brown, sealed the win by finishing out the last two-plus innings. “[Josh Nelson] did a great job,” Colangelo said. “Sometimes when you don’t have your best stuff, you’ve got to find something that works, and he did that. And then, Hunter came in and was great.”
Offensive production was well-balanced for Big Train on the evening, with no player registering more than one RBI. Six games into the season, the team is well ahead of its competition on the field, having won each of its games by an average of more than nine runs. “I think it’s just that we’ve got some talented guys on this team, and the coaches have done a great job of recruiting us and getting us all together,” Wylie said. “We’re pretty much a complete team with great pitching and great defense, and we can swing a little bit.”
Big Train will continue its road swing on Wednesday when it travels to Virginia to face the FCA Herndon Braves (3-2) at 7:00 p.m. The Braves currently trail Bethesda by two and a half games in the Cal Ripken League south division.
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