Bethesda, MD -- Cropdusters Baseball (9-4) slipped past the Bethesda Big Train (10-4) 7-5 on Sunday night. Bethesda blew a one-run lead in the top of the ninth inning to lose for the second straight game. Even with back-to-back losses, the team feels optimistic.
“I think we've had runners in scoring position with kind of just that big hit away from kind of coming through,” said designated hitter Jeffery Heard (Sacramento State). “I think we'll be alright moving on.”
Despite the loss, Jesse Gutierrez (San Jose St) did his best Mark Buehrle impression in his fantastic start for the Big Train. Gutierrez’s quick pace and ability to generate groundball outs echoed the pitching style of the retired White Sox ace, famous for cruising through games well below the league average. Through five scoreless innings and roughly 60 minutes, Guitierrez struck out six and only allowed one baserunner, which came on an infield single by Matt Miura in the top of the fifth. So far this season, Gutierrez has pitched eight scoreless innings and allowed only 2 hits, 1 walk, while striking out 9.
On the offensive side, Jeffery Heard (Sacramento State) gave the Big Train an early lead in the bottom of the first with a two-run dinger. Heard's blast was 99 miles per hour off the bat and traveled 360 feet. He now leads the league in home runs with three and is on pace to hit seven this season. Heard also leads the league in RBIs with 22. Despite his noteworthy statistics, Heard remains humble.
“I hear a little bit about [leading the league in home runs and RBIs], but it's not really like my goal or anything that like lead the league and all that stuff,” Heard said.
Bethesda extended their lead in the middle innings. In the bottom of the third, Zeb Ruddell (LSU) came in to score on a shallow sacrifice fly from Connor Rasmussen (East Carolina). One inning later, Jason Schiavone (James Madison) circled the bases thanks to an error, passed ball, and wild pitch to make the game 4-0. The Big Train seemed in control.
However, once Gutierrez left the game, the Cropdusters stormed back against the Bethesda bullpen. In the sixth, second baseman Matt Ervolina scorched a single to right field to drive in the first two runs of the game for the Cropdusters and make it 4-2, but baserunning mistakes ended the threat. In the seventh, the Cropdusters continued to chip away, tying the game at four thanks to an Anthony Swenda RBI double and a Taye Robinson RBI single.
The Big Train and Cropdusters then traded blows in the back-half of the game. Bethesda retook the lead on a sacrifice fly from Jacob Orr (Maryland) in the bottom of the eighth, but the Cropdusters immediately retaliated in the ninth. Jimmy Kirk hit a home run to right-center field to tie the game leading off the inning, and RJ Rickabaugh and Cam Nelson both hit RBI singles to give the Cropdusters a 7-5 lead.
The Green and White could not score in the bottom of the ninth, partially due to a phenomenal play by Cropdusters left fielder Miura. Schiavone launched a fly ball to the left field corner to lead off the inning, but Miura laid out to rob Schiavone of extra bases and suck the air of excitement out of Povich Field. The Big Train got one runner on base, but never seriously threatened. It was the Cropdusters' second win over the Big Train this season.
The Big Train continues their homestand and hopes to get back in the win column tomorrow with the second annual Clarence “Pint” Isreal Juneteenth Classic. Bethesda plays the Gaithersburg Giants (4-7) at Shirley Povich Field at 7 p.m.
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