The Big Train clinched the CRCBL South Division title Saturday night with a 7-0 shutout victory over the FCA Herndon Braves. With strong pitching and offense that capitalized on Herndon’s mistakes, Bethesda improved to 25-9 on the year, now seven games ahead of the second-place Vienna River Dogs with six games remaining on each team’s schedule.
The Big Train did not wait around to take the lead tonight. Right fielder Cody Brown (Mississippi State) led off the bottom of the first with a line drive single. Two batters later, designated hitter Zach Kirtley (St. Mary’s (CA)) smacked a double that one-hopped the wall in left-center, scoring Brown.
In the next frame, second baseman Brandon Hunley (Sacramento State) led off with a hard line drive up the middle for a clean single. Hunley stole second base, his sixth swipe of the season, and advanced to third on a wild pitch from Braves starter Samuel Bjorngjeld. Catcher Nick Feight (UNC Wilmington) grounded out for an RBI, scoring Hunley, the second Bethesda run.
Bethesda attacked in the fourth inning, batting around and scoring three runs, with the help of some Herndon mistakes. Third baseman Andrew Bechtold (Maryland) worked a one out walk. Feight reached on an error by the Braves shortstop, setting the table for an RBI double into the opposite field gap off the bat of center fielder Matt Toscano (St. Mary’s (CA)), scoring Bechtold. Two batters later, Bjorngjeld walked shortstop Ryne Willard (NC State) to load the bases with one out. Herndon then made a pitching change. Ray Brewer, the first reliever used by the Braves, walked Kirtley, the first man he faced, to score Feight. Left fielder Chris Lewis (Sacramento State) reached on the second Herndon miscue of the inning, allowing Toscano to score the fifth Big Train run.
In the bottom of the fifth, Big Train added two more to put the game out of reach. Hunley, Bechtold, and Feight led off the frame with back-to-back-to-back singles, loading the bases with nobody out for Toscano. Hunley scored on a wild pitch during Toscano’s at bat, and Bechtold and Feight moved to third and second, respectively. Toscano caught a tough break, hitting the ball hard but right at the Herndon shortstop, who alertly made a diving tag on Feight heading back to second base for the 6-unassisted double play. The next hitter, Cody Brown, reached base on Herndon’s third error in two innings, enabling Bechtold to score from third.
Big Train starter Tim Yandel (Tulane) was dominant tonight, going six shutout innings, giving up only two hits and scattering three walks, striking out four Braves in a 71-pitch, 41-strike effort, earning his third win of the season and lowering his ERA to a glistening 1.08.
The Bethesda bullpen was sterling tonight, with right-handers Tyler Loptien (San Diego State), Mike Rescigno (Maryland), and Walker Sheller (Stetson) combining for five strikeouts, one hit allowed, and no walks allowed in three scoreless innings.
Notes: By clinching the CRCBL South Division, the Big Train secured a bye in the first round of the playoffs…League wide, Tim Yandel now ranks third in ERA (1.09), second in innings pitched (41.1), and third in strikeouts (36). With strong offensive numbers as well, the Tulane senior is forcing himself into the conversation for the league MVP award…Six total double plays were turned tonight, each team hitting into three…The Big Train shut out the opposition for the fifth time this season. The Braves never made it past second base in the shutout...Eight of nine Big Train hitters reached base multiple times tonight…Bethesda heads out on the road tomorrow to face the Silver Spring Takoma Thunderbolts at 7PM, then returns home Monday night at 7:30PM against the Vienna River Dogs. Featuring the second rendition of the World of Montgomery Festival, the night will feature special appearances from international organizations in Montgomery County, sponsored by the Fund for Montgomery.
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