Todd Mozoki (James Madison) walked off the mound after the end of the seventh inning. His head was down, and he was clearly disappointed after giving up two runs in the inning, which had started with the Big Train ahead 5-2 and ended with the lead cut to 5-4.
But Mozoki didn’t let one bad inning ruin his outing. He didn’t quit. He battled. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning complete with two strikeouts. And in the ninth, with a two-run lead, he confidently ran back out the mound where he would eventually earn a three-inning save. He persisted when the Big Train needed him to persist to lock down the win.
“My motto is to keep on chopping,” Mozoki said. “Pitching is all mental. If you keep worrying about those runs, it's only going to hurt you, so you can only focus on the next pitch and keep getting better.”
Mozoki and a steady offense propelled the Bethesda Big Train (24–8) to a 6–4 win over the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts (9–19) Sunday night on the road at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.
Once again, the Big Train were off and running right away. Emilien Pitre (Kentucky) ripped a single off the leg of Thunderbolts starter Bryce Smith to open the scoring and plate Garrett Felix (Nichols State), who had singled, reached second on a bunt, and stole third, to give the team a 1–0 lead in the top of the first.
However, the Thunderbolts responded in the bottom of the second thanks to a Jack Cotrone RBI double to knot the game at one apiece off Big Train starter Brandon Clarke (Alabama).
Bethesda quickly retaliated in the top of the third as TJ Rogers (Austin Peay State) hit a sacrifice fly to center to score DM Jefferson (Notre Dame), putting Bethesda back ahead, 2-1.
Later in the inning, with John Kramer (Ole Miss) on first with two outs and Sean Lane (Maryland) at the plate, there was lightning in the air from a nearby summer storm cell. This meant the teams were required to leave the field for a 25-minute lightning delay. The delay meant Clarke, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, had to come out over an abundance of caution. In his two innings, Clarke gave up three hits, one run, walked one, and struck out three. It was another strong performance from Clarke as he works back to full strength.
Following the lightning delay, the Big Train would add to their advantage in the top of the fifth. Kramer continued his impressive offensive weekend with a RBI single to right, scoring Pitre to make it a 3-1 lead.
Again, the Thunderbolts responded, this time off Big Train reliever Luke Baker (Dayton). Nathan Waugh singled in Justin Carboni, cutting the lead to 3-2.
In the top of the seventh, the Big Train scored two key insurance runs. Lane roped a single down the left field line to score Pitre. During the next at-bat, Rogers stole home after Lane drew a throw while stealing second base. The two runs proved crucial when Mozoki struggled in the bottom half of the inning.
With both of his parents in the stands, Lane had one of his strongest offensive games this season, going 2-for-3 with a single and a double that was tattooed to left-center in the ninth inning. He was also robbed of another extra-base hit in the second when Thunderbolts right fielder Ian Jenkins made an incredible diving catch. Lane said he enjoyed playing in front of his parents Sunday night.
“It was cool,” he said. “I haven’t seen them in a few weeks, so it was cool to have a great night in front of them.”
After Mozoki ran into trouble in the seventh, the Big Train responded in the eighth, padding their lead to 6-4. With two outs, Jefferson ripped a triple into the left field corner and Pitre knocked Jefferson in with an opposite-field base knock of his own to give Mozoki some extra cushion heading.
Mozoki would finish the game with a 1-2-3 inning ninth inning, giving Bethesda their 24th win of the season.
Baker got the win. Coming out of the bullpen in the third inning after the lightning delay that forced Clarke's removal, he pitched four innings of one-run ball, giving up three hits and striking out three. In the fourth, Baker was able to get out of a first and third, no outs jam with no runs to limit the damage.
“I felt like I wasn’t executing perfectly in and out but I felt like I had some good life on my fastball,” Baker said. “A couple of swinging bunts and some pop-ups and that really was my pitch tonight. Changeup was working alright, curveball here and there, but it was really the fastball.”
Next, the Big Train will head back home to Shirley Povich Field to face the D.C. Grays Monday at 7 p.m. They look to continue to gear up for the playoffs and seek their fourth win in a row.
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