Top Ten Thursdays: #2 – July 31, 2019 – Big Train 6, Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts 4

Big Train celebrates on the mound after winning the 2019 Cal Ripken League championship. Photo by Niamh Brennan.

Top Ten Thursdays, a weekly 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. The countdown started with a look back at the 11th through 25th greatest games in team history.

Top Ten Thursdays 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 #2, from July 31, 2019 against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts.

The 2019 Big Train finished atop the Cal Ripken League with a 31-7 record, and the only thing standing between them and a fourth straight championship was a formidable Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts team. 

In the first game of the series, the Big Train suffered a stunning 9-0 loss at home. They rallied on the road in game two, beating the T-Bolts 6-3 to even the series and set up a winner-take-all game three at Shirley Povich Field. 

In that decisive third game, the Big Train got off to a shaky start, giving up three first-inning runs. Attempting to limit the damage, Bethesda made a change on the mound, bringing in Ryan Okuda (Virginia Tech). 

Okuda stepped up to the task, allowing only one additional run across six innings. While he delivered an impressive outing to keep his team in the game, the Big Train offense struggled to get going, remaining scoreless through six frames.

 The Big Train turned to reliever Greer Holston (Ole Miss), who held the T-Bolts scoreless through the seventh and eighth innings. But still trailing 4-0, the Big Train bats were running out of time to mount their comeback. Momentum finally began to build for Bethesda when two runners got aboard in the bottom of the eighth inning, setting the stage for Matt Thomas (William & Mary). He came up huge, cracking a three-run homer – his first of the summer – over the scoreboard in left-center.

“[The pitcher] left it right over the plate and I didn’t try to do too much, I just took a good swing and it ended up going over the fence” noted Thomas.

The home run completely changed the momentum of the game, electrifying Big Train fans and giving the players the confidence they needed. 

With the bases loaded later in the frame, all eyes focused on Gio Diaz (St. Mary’s CA), who lined a single up the middle to score two runners and give Bethesda the lead for the first time.

Christian Jayne (East Carolina) doubled to drive in another, giving his team a 6-4 lead heading into the ninth inning. Big Train manager Sal Colangelo turned to closer Chase Lee (Alabama) to seal the deal. The sidewinding right-hander delivered, and the Big Train’s thrilling comeback was complete as the team won its fourth consecutive Cal Ripken League championship.

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