A clutch RBI single by Zach Kirtley (St. Mary’s, Calif.) drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth as Big Train walked off against Alexandria, 6-5, on Sunday night.
It was the third walk-off win for the Big Train this season, the first two coming off the bat of Tim Yandel (Tulane) on back to back nights two weeks ago. Like Yandel’s walk-offs, Kirtley’s was a fly ball to the gap in right center. It sealed a come-from-behind victory for Big Train as they won their third straight game.
Big Train got off to a fast start, opening up a two run lead in the bottom of the first on back to back RBI singles by Chris Lewis (Sacramento State) and Harrison Crawford (Creighton). But Alexandria answered quickly, scoring one in the second and two in the fourth off of starter Drew Strotman (St. Mary’s, Calif.). Sporting an 0.64 ERA coming into the game, Strotman allowed multiple runs in an outing for the first time this season, despite giving up only two hits and striking out seven.
Meanwhile, the Aces pitching staff was able to keep Bethesda’s bats quiet for most of the game, and after scoring another run in the sixth, Alexandria led 4-2 going into the bottom of the seventh.
Needing a rally, Matt Toscano (St. Mary’s, Calif.) led off the Big Train seventh with an infield hit, moved to second on a ground out, and then went to third on a single by Logan Farrar (Virginia Commonwealth). The next batter, Brandon Hunley (Sacramento State), hit a ball to deep left that bounced off the wall, scoring Toscano easily. Farrar rounded third and tried to score the tying run despite the ball being in the infield, and was thrown out easily on a risky play. Zach Kirtley lined a single to right to score Hunley and tie the game at 4, as Farrar’s baserunning mistake cost Big Train the go-ahead run in the seventh.
Looking for a shutdown inning after tying the game, Bethesda sent reliever Blake Smith (Mississippi State) out in the eighth for a second inning of work. He walked the leadoff man and retired the next batter before he was pulled in favor of Josh Thorne (Stetson). Thorne gave up a single and then an RBI groundout that put the Aces ahead once again in the late innings.
Still down 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Big Train found themselves in a familiar do-or-die situation. Facing Aces closer Joe Smidt, pinch hitter Cody Brown (Mississippi State) and Logan Farrar hit back to back one out singles, bringing up Brandon Hunley with a man in scoring position. Hunley grounded a single through the left side, scoring Brown to tie the game. After taking a strike, Zach Kirtley hit a deep fly to right center that fell in, scoring Farrar and sending Big Train home with a 6-5 victory.
“It was a great feeling,” Kirtley said about driving in the winning run. “It was a team effort tonight and we stuck with it and battled to the end.”
With the win, Big Train improved to a league best 17-3, and now has a six and a half game lead over the second place Vienna River Dogs in the South Division.
Notes: Michael Rescigno (Maryland) worked a scoreless top of the ninth to pick up his first win of the season…Farrar and Hunley both had three hit games, and Kirtley had two hits…Lewis (16), Kirtley (15), Hunley (12), and Yandel (12) all rank in the top five in the league in RBI…Kirtley’s .347 batting average is good for third in the league…Big Train hits the road Monday to take on the division rival Vienna River Dogs at 7 p.m. at James Madison High School…they return home Wednesday against the D.C. Grays at 7:30 p.m for Halloween Night.
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