A big inning for Rockville doomed Big Train Sunday night as they fell to the Express, 4-2, at Shirley Povich Field.
Both starters looked good early on in the Fourth of July and Military Appreciation Game, as Drew Strotman (St. Mary’s, Calif.) and Tony Hernandez matched zeros for the first four innings. Big Train finally broke through with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, but Bethesda’s pitching faltered in the top of the sixth, as they couldn’t answer with a shutdown inning, instead allowing four Express runs.
Through four innings, Bethesda managed just one hit off Hernandez, an infield dribbler by Ryne Willard (North Carolina State) in the first. In the fifth, however, with the game still scoreless, Big Train had an opportunity to break through, as back-to-back one out singles and a walk loaded the bases with one away. Cody Brown (Mississippi State) stepped in and sent the first pitch of the at bat the opposite way into the left-center gap for a two-run double. With men on second and third and one out, Bethesda had a golden opportunity to strike for more, but Willard struck out and Zach Kirtley (St. Mary’s, Calif.) grounded out, so they had to settle for just the two runs.
Carrying a 2-0 lead into the sixth, Strotman, who had been solid through five, began to struggle. After retiring the leadoff man on a long fly to center, he surrendered a double and three straight singles, which cut the Big Train lead to 2-1 with the bases loaded. Blake Smith (Mississippi State) came on to try and work out of the mess with the lead still intact, but instead walked home a run and gave up a two-run single, pushing Rockville in front 4-2. Smith was pulled without getting an out, but the three runs he surrendered were all charged to Strotman. Luis Collazo (Virginia Tech) entered the game and was able to stop the bleeding, but the damage was done, as Big Train now trailed 4-2.
Bethesda, down two runs late, had several opportunities to score, but couldn’t cash in on any of them. An error and a stolen base put Harrison Crawford (Creighton) on second with one away in the sixth, but he was stranded there as the next two batters failed to advance him any further. In the eighth, back-to-back two-out singles by Chris Lewis (Sacramento State) and Crawford put men on first and third, but again, Big Train failed to cash in, and both runners were stranded.
Down to their final three outs in the ninth, Nick Feight (UNC Wilmington) led off the inning with a solid single to left. With a man on and nobody out, Big Train sent pinch-hitter Brandon Hunley (Sacramento State), who came in with 13 RBI on the year, to the plate. Hunley hit a grounder to short for a tailor-made double play, and Big Train came down to their last out. Another pinch-hitter, Tim Yandel (Tulane), already a late-innings hero twice this year, came to the plate, but he struck out to end the game and drop Bethesda to 19-6 on the year.
The loss was Big Train’s second in a row, the first time they have lost consecutive games this season, and their third loss in four games.
Notes: Collazo, Miller Trevvett (Radford), and Tyler Tobin (George Mason) combined for 2 2/3 scoreless innings in relief…Big Train’s pitching staff combined to strike out ten batters…Strotman was tagged with the loss and dropped to 2-2 on the year…Bethesda hit into three double plays on the night…Feight picked up two hits…Big Train hits the road to play the Gaithersburg Giants at Criswell Automotive Field at 7 p.m…they return home Wednesday against the Baltimore Dodgers at 7:30 p.m.
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