The Bethesda Big Train had just a glimpse of hope down 8-5 against the D.C. Grays in in the bottom of the final inning with the bases loaded.
Enter Kemp Alderman (University of Mississippi).
The Ole Miss product stepped into the batter’s box and patiently used a 2-0 count to his advantage. The now league leader in home runs annihilated an opposite field rocket of a grand slam that exited into the trees to the Big Train bench’s delight, which capped off Bethesda’s miraculous six-run seventh inning to officially capture the Game Two win.
Alderman’s teammates mobbed him at the plate to celebrate his movie-esque ending of an at-bat, as his eighth home run of the season resulted in a split of the doubleheader Wednesday against the Grays, falling 4-7 in game one before rallying to win 9-8 in the nightcap. Bethesda moves to 27-8 this season and 7-1 in matchups with D.C. in 2021.
The Big Train’s offense, which scored a whopping 14 runs in its previous game against the Thunderbolts, pressured the Grays’ starting pitcher Jake Davidson right out of the gates in the first game of the doubleheader. The opening three batters of the game each drew a walk to load the bases, then the red-hot Grant Knipp (Campbell) chopped a grounder to shortstop to bring home the first run of the game in the top of the first inning.
Bethesda’s 1-0 lead quickly vanished into thin air, though, as D.C. – who served as the home team in game one – tallied a run off two hits to tie the game in the bottom of the opening inning.
The game swiftly swayed back into the Big Train’s favor in just the top of the second inning. After loading the bases with no outs for the second straight inning, Danny Neri (Notre Dame) cracked a hard grounder through the right side of the infield for a two-run single to put Bethesda back in the driver’s seat.
D.C. answered with a run of their own to cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the second, which prompted the Grays to build on their momentum from the plate. They rattled off another two runs in the next inning to flip the score to 4-3 in their favor to bring forth the second lead change of the game.
Pitcher Ryan Lynch (UNotre Dame) stunted the Grays’ offense with a hitless inning in bottom of the fourth, which marked the first time all game that D.C. wasn’t able to come away with a run in an individual inning.
The Big Train’s bats were silenced for the third straight inning in the top of the fifth then the Grays’ offense went right back to work to extend their lead late in the game. D.C. capitalized with runners on second and third with just one out and brought home three runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a commanding 7-3 lead.
Even though Zach Locke (Long Beach State) beautifully worked his way out of a bases loaded jam with two consecutive strikeouts to get out of the bottom of the sixth, the Big Train’s comeback was soon put to rest.
Hitless since the top of the fourth entering the top of the seventh inning, Bethesda finally collected a hit and scored its first run since the top of the second inning with the help of Matt Thomas (College of William & Mary) making it home off a passed ball. Despite the last-ditch effort, the Big Train eventually fell 7-4 to the Grays in the opening game of the doubleheader.
After totaling just two hits in the final three innings against the last-place Grays in the first game of the evening, the Big Train were once again put to the test because of D.C.’s early success from the plate. The Grays managed to put runners on the corners in the top of the first and brought home three runs in the inning off four hits to claim a quick advantage on the scoreboard.
Bethesda offered a response at the plate in the bottom of the first inning to get back into the game. Jack Cone (William & Mary) singled with one out, then Grant Knipp (Campbell) connected on a high-rising single to right field soon after to bring home Cone, who originally stood on first base. Cone’s run brought the score back to a 3-1 margin in D.C.’s favor.
However, despite the Big Train’s attempt to crawl back on the scoreboard, the Grays rebutted the home team’s efforts in the next inning. Collecting its fifth and sixth hits in the process, D.C. piled on one more run in the top of the second to take a 4-1 lead.
The Grays' offensive fireworks continued as the game progressed as Cam Bufford ripped off a solo shot to deep right field and over the wall to extend the Grays’ run advantage to four in the top of the third. D.C.’s relentless offense reached eight total hits up to that point compared to Bethesda’s two through three full innings.
The Grays tacked on yet another run in the top of the fourth to push the score to 6-1. It was the fourth straight inning that included a run from D.C.’s bats.
It took until the bottom of the fourth inning for Bethesda to have what was at that point its most notable offensive play of the day. Nolan Schanuel (Florida Atlantic) confidently stepped up to the plate with two outs and smashed a no-doubt solo shot off a 2-0 count deep into the trees in right field to provide the Big Train some light at the end of the tunnel. The homer was Schanuel’s third home run of the season and it brought the Big Train back within four.
But, D.C.'s Robby Wacker mimicked Schanuel’s home run and followed up at the plate in the top of the fifth inning with a crushing solo shot to left field to restore the Grays' five-run lead at 7-2.
The rapid influx of home runs spilled directly into the bottom of the fifth, when Brady Gumpf (Notre Dame) came up to bat for the Big Train. The Notre Dame product belted a ball on the second pitch over the left field fence for the third solo home run in as many half innings.
Ryan Metz (Virginia Tech) held D.C. to just one run in the top of the seventh to make the score 8-3 and the Big Train’s offense found a critical spark in the final inning. After two D.C. errors gave Bethesda life, Matt Thomas (William & Mary) knocked an RBI single to bring the score to 8-4, then Knipp walked with the bases loaded to bring in another run and shrink the deficit to three runs.
After a pitching change, Alderman stepped into the box with the bases loaded and one out. He took two balls out of the zone and then smashed a walk-off grand slam to complete the comeback and clinch the second game of the doubleheader, 9-8, sending the Big Train fans home happy.
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