With the Bethesda Big Train trailing 5-1 to the Gaithersburg Giants in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Big Train had the bases loaded with one out in what was a prime opportunity to string together a comeback.
But the next two hitters went down via strikeout and groundout, putting the Big Train's rally to an end before it could even get off the ground.
The missed RBI opportunity epitomized Bethesda’s struggles offensively, as the Big Train were held to their lowest scoring output of the season and suffered a 5-1 defeat to the Giants at Shirley Povich Field. With the loss to second-place Gaithersburg that now stands at 12-7 in the standings, Bethesda drops to 17-4 on the season. The Big Train still lead the season series against the Giants, though, as the former holds a 3-2 advantage through five meetings into the month of July.
After Bethesda and Gaithersburg’s starting pitchers remained unscathed due to a quiet first inning from both offenses at the plate, the Big Train’s starter Luke Baker (Jacksonville) received some quality defensive help in the top of the second from Rocco Peppi (Long Beach State) to keep the game scoreless.
With one out and a runner on first, the Giants hitter rocketed a loud line drive towards Peppi at third, who stood tall and calmly made a confident bending catch to quickly turn a possible hit into an abrupt line out double play to get Bethesda out of the inning.
Peppi then strutted his ability to operate at the plate with a hit by pitch to lead off the bottom of the second inning, but his effort to get Bethesda’s offensive rolling was in vain as the Big Train batters were promptly held in check by Giants’ starter Johnathan Martinez and neither side managed a run through two innings of play.
Bethesda bench boss Sal Colangelo opted to utilize a system of swift rotating pitchers and Kemp Alderman (Ole Miss) stepped onto the mound in relief of Baker in the top of the third inning. The Ole Miss product, who came into this game with just three earned runs on the season against him, conceded two runs in his opening inning of work to award the Giants a 2-0 lead.
Facing a two-run deficit, Colangelo chose undefeated pitcher Noah Carabajal (Long Beach State) to pick up the slack on the hill in the top of the fourth and he delivered a hitless inning on the mound against a Gaithersburg offense that tallied four hits through the opening three innings.
Meanwhile, Bethesda’s offense was uncharacteristically quiet and kept without a hit through four innings, and Gaithersburg pounced on the opportunity at the plate to capitalize on the Big Train’s struggles in the top of the fifth. The Giants tacked on three runs in the inning to balloon their previous two-run lead into a strong 5-0 advantage.
Bethesda answered the Giants’ three-run inning with their first hit of the evening in the bottom of the fifth with a Christian Martin (Virginia Tech) blooper single into left field. Despite Ryley Johnson (East Carolina) then knocking a single into right field to put runners on the corners with two outs, Bethesda couldn’t bring home a run in the inning, still trailing 5-0.
In the bottom of the sixth, Peppi provided Bethesda a base runner with a five-pitch walk and then stole his second base of the evening to put a man on second with one out, but the Big Train couldn't bring him home.
While Bethesda's bats remained silent, pitchers Everett Catlett (Georgetown) and Matt Howat (William & Mary) got the Big Train through the seventh and eighth innings without surrendering a run on the bump.
Bethesda finally struck in the bottom of the eighth off the bat of Matt Thomas (William & Mary). Thomas took advantage of a 1-0 count and smashed a hanging pitch into deep left field that carried far over the wall for a solo shot to give him his league-leading fifth home run of the year. After the solo shot the Big Train trailed 5-1 on the scoreboard, and they continued to apply pressure later in the same inning. But after loading the bases with one out, they couldn't convert, sending the game to the ninth inning with a four-run deficit.
Ryan Metz (Virginia Tech) kept Gaithersburg’s offense without a run in the top of the ninth, but the Big Train failed to make any noise in the bottom of the ninth as their potential comeback rally came to an official close on their home turf.
The Big Train will be back in action Saturday at Povich Field, hosting the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts at 7 p.m.
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