Rockville, MD – The Bethesda Big Train won their first game of the League Championship Series Semifinals against the Cropdusters, 4-3, thanks to heroics from Jeffery Heard (Sacramento State) and Casey Bishop (Towson). In a three-game series, Bethesda coaches think the first game is crucial.
“Anytime you win the first you know, now you know your backs are not against the wall, and you know on the other side, you're doing everything you can to get back...and get another day,” said Big Train manager Sal Colangelo.
The game started as a pitcher’s duel. Bethesda starter Brandon Cassedy (Christopher Newport) and Cropdusters starter Doug Marose were both at the top of their games and did not allow a run through five innings. In fact, the game was cruising as both pitchers made quick work of the opposition.
The Cropdusters broke through in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Jack Cannizzaro smoked a line drive off Cassedy. While Cassedy stayed in the game, Cannizzaro reached on the infield single. And then, immediately after, right fielder John Seibert launched a 398 foot home run to left center to make the score 2-0.
The home run was the only blemish on Cassedy's line. He allowed just those two runs in seven strong innings. He struck out five batters, and his seven innings pitched is the longest outing for a Bethesda starter this season. It's what Bethesda has come to expect of Cassedy throughout this tremendous season.
Yet, the Big Train bats could not muster much off Marose and the Cropdusters tacked on. Seibert added his third RBI of the day in the top of the eighth to make the score 3-0. After Green and White reliever Austin Morris (Alabama) walked Brayden Martin and Matt Miura, Seibert ripped a single to left center field, scoring Martin. On the play, Jason Schiavone (James Madison) threw out Miura trying to advance to third base, ending the inning. It was a heads up play by Schiavone and seemed to shift momentum.
In the bottom of the eighth, Schiavone got Bethesda on the board with a solo shot. His bomb traveled 376 feet and made the score 3-1. But, Schiavone’s home run was all Bethesda could scratch across in the inning and they entered the 9th down two.
Marose was cruising and making an attempt at a complete game. All hope seemed lost for the Big Train with two outs and nobody on on the bottom of the 9th. But Jacob Orr (Maryland) reached on an error by third baseman Anthony Swenda, which set the stage for Heard. He played hero for the Big Train, scorching a two-run home run to deep right to tie the game at three. After hitting the home run, Heard prodigiously tossed his bat into the air, and his teammates celebrated with him as he crossed home plate.
In extra innings, Max Martzolf (Florida Atlantic) gave a remarkable effort out of the bullpen to keep the game tied at three. In three scoreless innings, Martzolf struck out four batters. In the top of the 12th, Dean Toigo (Oregon) and Bishop made sliding plays to rob the Cropdusters of hits and aid Martzolf.
The Big Train finally walked off the game in the bottom of the 12th inning. With the bases loaded thanks to a Teddy Ruffner (Youngstown State) leadoff double and two intentional walks , Bishop dribbled a ball down the third base line, allowing Ruffner to scamper home with the winning run. Bishop said he was trying to hit a fly ball in his at-bat, but his slowly hit ground ball did the job for Bethesda.
“I knew we had bases loaded and less than two out, so all I'm looking to do is get something up and hit a fly ball, but I ended up doing the complete opposite,” Bishop said. “Luckily [the ball] was pretty slow hit, so [Ruffner] was able to come home.”
The Big Train travels to Olney tomorrow for game two of the League Championship Series semifinals. First pitch is set for 4:30, and with a win, the Big Train will move on to the League Championship Series. If the Cropdusters win, game three will be back at Povich Field on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
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