Big Train top FCA Braves to extend division lead

Alec Burleson pitched five shutout innings before knocking in three runs of his own, propelling Big Train to its 12th win.

Behind five shutout innings on the mound and a three-run shot from the plate by Alec Burleson (East Carolina), Big Train (12-2) defeated the visiting FCA Braves (9-5), 6-2.

After the first half of what was scheduled to be a doubleheader at Povich Field was cancelled, the two teams took to the field for a single contest on Saturday night. The first half of the game moved at a rapid pace and was mostly dominated by the teams’ starting pitching. Alec Burleson allowed three hits and struck out four, while the Braves’ starter, Brett Kreyer, allowed just two hits over the first five frames. “I thought I was a little shaky in the first couple innings, but I settled in and did what the team needed me to do,” Burleson said.

Catcher Jacob Southern (Jacksonville) put Bethesda ahead in the sixth with a monstrous solo home run that soared well over the left field fence.

In the seventh, with Burleson continuing to bat as a designated hitter after being relieved of his pitching duties, Big Train loaded the bases with one out, only to leave all three runners stranded.

The Braves’ offense came alive in the top of the eighth, with three straight singles loading the bases with no outs. Big Train assistant coach Galvin Morris, acting as manager in Sal Colangelo’s absence, called upon righthander Jacob McCarvel (California Baptist) to put out the fire. “[The coaches] just told me to fill up the strike zone [and] get out of there as quick as possible with the least amount of damage,” McCarvel said. However, against Braves centerfielder Vinnie Costello, McCarvel fell behind quickly into a 3-0 count. At that point, everything changed. McCarvel blew three straight called strikes past Costello, then did the same to second baseman David Mangum. A Braves flyout to Big Train centerfielder Tyler Villaroman (San Francisco) completed the dramatic half-inning and stranded all three Braves runners. “To be honest, I got a little nervous when it was 3-0 [against Costello],” McCarvel said. “But then when I went [with three straight fastballs], I was like ‘it’s fine. We’ll get through it.’”

In the bottom of the inning, Bethesda took the opportunity to break open the game. After walks for second baseman Fox Semones (James Madison) and shortstop AJ Lee (Maryland), Alec Burleson capped his two-way performance with a three-run shot, breaking the game open. “When Coach Galvin [Morris] told me [before the game] I was going to DH and pitch at the same time, I just wanted to contribute on both sides,” Burleson said. “Any way I can help the team to win, if I’m just pitching or if I’m just hitting... it feels good to do it on both sides.”

Third baseman Carson Taylor (Virginia Tech) completed Big Train’s scoring with a two-run home run later that inning.

The Braves nabbed two runs off of McCarvel in the ninth, but it wasn’t enough to keep Bethesda from extending its division lead over the Braves to three games.

After a tough loss on Thursday night to the Alexandria Aces, Coach Morris was glad to see the team respond with a victory. “Good teams bounce back from a loss,” Morris said. “We didn’t play all that well in the last game, and [the players] came out and they responded to that. That’s a sign of a good ballclub.”

Bethesda is now a perfect 6-0 in games at Shirley Povich Field this season and possesses a 14-game home winning streak dating back to last year.

They will take to the road on Sunday when they visit the Gaithersburg Giants before returning to Bethesda on Monday to face the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts.

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