Rockville, MD – The Big Train (21-12) dropped a back-and-forth battle against the league-leading Alexandria Aces (27-4), losing 5-4 in game one of a doubleheader Tuesday. Originally a scheduled off day for both teams, this seven-inning contest was a makeup of a July 7th rainout in Alexandria, making the Aces the home team for the afternoon game at Shirley Povich Field. The loss hurt Bethesda’s chances at earning a first-round playoff bye, but the Cal Ripken Senior League’s North Division remains without a winner as the Big Train and Cropdusters battle to the end.
In a game with massive playoff implications, the Big Train wasted no time putting runs on the board. Jacob Orr (Maryland) slapped a single before reaching second thanks to an Aces error. Teddy Ruffner (UNC Wilmington) followed by tripling to deep right field, scoring Orr and giving Bethesda an early 1-0 advantage in the top of the first.
Alexandria’s RJ Hamilton answered with a single of his own in the bottom half, but after Dean Toigo (Oregon) controlled a grounder and tagged first for the second out, the first baseman whipped it to Eddie Hacopian (Maryland) at third to nab Hamilton as he made an aggressive attempt at taking an extra base, ending the first inning.
The Aces’ hitters couldn’t be quelled for long though, as the league’s leading home run hitter, Matt Ossenfort, launched a ball to deep right-center field for a two-run shot, giving them a momentary 2-1 lead after two.
But a motivated Bethesda offense briskly responded in the top of the third, scoring two runs to regain the advantage. Hacopian reached first on an error, but was replaced by Jack Guerrero (UNC Wilmington) after suffering an injury. Guerrero came around to score when Toigo tripled off the center field wall. Toigo would score on an RBI groundout from Jacob Orr (Maryland).
On the mound, Darin Kuskie (South Carolina - Upstate) was the emergency starter after an injury nixed Big Train’s planned starter from the lineup. Kuskie pitched well for the first five innings, striking out five and only allowed two hits, but the freshman finally faced trouble in the sixth inning, clearly tiring after 78 pitches on a very hot afternoon. Kuskie allowed a leadoff single and an error to put Tim Nicholson on second. The next batter Gavin Miller doubled to score Nicholson, tying the game at 3-3. Bethesda opted to walk Ossenfort to load the bases, which Nick Gregory capitalized on with a walk to score Hamilton.
Skyler Hutto (Alabama) took over with runners on the corners, coming in clutch to immediately force an inning-ending double play and keep Bethesda’s deficit at 1.
The Big Train took this positive momentum into the seventh, as Jack Guerrero (UNC Wilmington) smashed a solo shot to right field, his second of the year, to bring Bethesda back even at 4-4.
Unfortunately for the Big Train, the Aces walked Bethesda off after Hamilton ripped a two-out double off the left-center field wall to score Alex Wade.
The Big Train’s second game against Alexandria is set to start at 7 p.m. The team will finish out their regular season home schedule on July 19 with a 7 p.m. game against the SS-T Thunderbolts. They will visit Alexandria on Friday, July 21, for the final regular season game. Each of the season’s last three games may be important in the Big Train’s quest for a division title.
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