With a 4-0 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth, the Bethesda Big Train quickly broke the game open on the scoreboard with highly efficient at-bats from the bottom half of their lineup against the Gaithersburg Giants.
Rocco Peppi (Long Beach State) and Grant Knipp (Alabama) made it aboard to put runners on first and second to jump start the Big Train’s inning. Kyle Velazquez (St. Mary’s CA), the seventh batter in the lineup, followed suit and cranked a double down the third base line to give the Big Train their fifth run of the night.
The eighth batter in the order, Nolan Schanuel (Florida Atlantic), then made no mistake in his next at-bat, as the infielder sent a loud line drive to center field to deliver two more runs for Bethesda to extend its lead to 7-0 to put the contest out of reach.
The Big Train didn’t need much after posting a three-run fifth inning, as they thrived off their timely hitting and strong pitching all evening en route to a 7-4 win over the Giants Thursday evening at Shirley Povich Field. Bethesda’s convincing home win marked its 13th victory in 15 games, propelling it to an even larger margin over the Alexandria Aces (8-6) record-wise to remain atop the league’s standings through the latter portion of the June schedule.
Just six days after losing 8-6 at the hands of the Giants, the Big Train kicked off the fourth meeting of the season with Gaithersburg with an early chance to bring home the first few runs, but to no avail.
Austin Gauthier (Maryland) collected a walk and then Peppi grounded a hard ball up the middle of the field to put runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. But the Big Train couldn't convert on the early opportunity, keeping the game scoreless.
It didn’t take long for the Big Train to get going offensively against Giants’ starting pitcher Cam Nolet, though. Darius Foster (San Francisco) led off the bottom of the third inning with a single, then he proceeded to make his way around the diamond off a fielder’s choice and a sliding steal into third base. Gauthier followed up at the plate and did just enough to bring Foster home, as the Terp rattled off a fly ball to dead center field to force a sacrifice fly to gift Bethesda a one-run advantage through three full innings.
Knipp swiftly extended the Big Train’s lead even further in the ensuing inning, clobbering a hanging pitch over the plate from Nolet and sending a screamer over the right-center field wall. The catcher's first home run of the season with a solo shot to put the score to 2-0 in favor of Bethesda. Schanuel wasted no time putting even more pressure on Gaithersburg just two at-bats later, smashing another solo bomb over the right field wall to bring the Big Train’s run advantage to three. Bethesda tacked on one more run in the same inning to balloon its lead to 4-0.
The Big Train were able to nurse a four-run advantage due to excellent pitching from their starting pitcher, Brock Guffey (Alabama). He got the job done with precision pitches that forced a plethora of harmless fly outs to quiet the Giants’ bats. The southpaw tossed four scoreless innings and surrendered just one hit after facing 14 batters before being replaced by Kyle Robinson (Texas Tech) in the top of the fifth inning.
The Big Train’s bats then continued to explode in the bottom of the fifth inning as they tallied three more runs to expand their lead to a seven-run advantage on the scoreboard to officially put the game out of reach.
Robinson conceded a run to Gaithersburg in the top of the sixth inning to bring the score back to 7-1, but it was seemingly too little, too late for the Giants’ comeback hopes. Gaithersburg managed just three hits in six full innings against Bethesda’s pitching staff to fall behind by a significant margin.
After a scoreless seventh inning from both sides, Cooper Rons (UC Santa Barbara) stepped onto the mound as the fourth Big Train pitcher of the night in the top of the eighth inning. Rons gave up three runs off three hits, but he recorded the final three outs from the hill in the top of the ninth to award Bethesda the three-run home victory.
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