Top Ten Thursdays is a weekly bigtrain.tv show that highlights the top 10 games in Bethesda Big Train history, as voted on by team historian Bill Hickman, manager Sal Colangelo and founder Bruce Adams. As each game is unveiled, we will bring you a written flashback here on bigtrain.org.
Host Alex Drain, with the help of Colangelo and various guests, will break down each game, as those involved discuss what they remember and the significance of each contest. Each episode will serve as a flashback to classic moments in Big Train history, in lieu of actual games during the 2020 summer.
Today we look at Game #6, from July 30, 2017 against the Baltimore Redbirds.
The Big Train hosted the Baltimore Redbirds at Shirley Povich field for this winner-take-all game three of the Cal Ripken League Championship series. The rival juggernauts had battled for the league championship every year since 2009, so it was no surprise to see them face off again in 2017.
The Big Train had been a force to reckon with all season long, finishing the regular season with a record of 31-9 on the backs of strong team chemistry and a lethal offense.
“The team was fueled by offense, there were a lot of guys who could really hit the ball,” team writer Ben Portnoy recalled. “This was a team that swung the bat really well and really just outpaced their opponents.”
Tyler Smith (East Carolina) started the game on the mound for the Big Train and dominated, throwing five scoreless innings.
The game was tied 0-0 until the bottom of the fourth when Justin Morris (Maryland) hit a bases-loaded double that plated all three runners to break the deadlock. The Big Train extended their lead to 4-0 later in the frame when Morris scored from third on an errant pickoff attempt.
After a strong five innings from Smith, Ty Madrigal (St. Mary’s CA), the team’s best starter in the regular season, took the bump in relief. He pitched a scoreless sixth, and after letting up two runs in the seventh, he orchestrated a pick off play to finish the inning. This ended the Redbirds threat and kept Bethesda in the lead.
Hanging on to a 4-2 advantage, manager Sal Colangelo handed the ball off to dominant closer Stephen Schoch (UMBC) in the eighth. Colangelo described Schoch, who had yet to give up a run that summer, as one of “the greatest arms as far as just getting it done... knowing [his] plan or approach on the mound.”
Schoch tossed a scoreless eighth and headed into the ninth just three outs away from the championship. The Redbirds refused to go away quietly, putting two men on against him. But with two outs, Schoch induced a ground ball to the right side. First baseman Kevin Milam (St. Mary’s CA) fielded the ball and tossed it to Schoch covering the bag, clinching a victory – and a second straight Cal Ripken League title – for the Big Train.
The team finished the season ranked 4th in the nation, their second-best ranking to date.
Stay tuned to bigtrain.tv for more content and weekly shows. This Thursday, Drain will highlight Game #6, which took place in July 2017.
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