Big Train capitalized on five consecutive seventh-inning walks to rally and defeat the visiting Herndon Braves, 8-6, in game two of the semifinal round Tuesday night. With the win, Big Train eliminated the Braves and advanced to the championship round of the Cal Ripken League playoffs to face the Baltimore Redbirds.
Fresh off a 9-5 win Monday night, Bethesda came out swinging again Tuesday, scoring two in the first inning. Logan Farrar (Virginia Commonwealth) led off the frame with a sharp single to left, and scored on an opposite-field double down the left field line by Cody Brown (Mississippi State). After Brown moved to third on a groundout, Chris Lewis (Sacramento State) drove him home on a solid single to right center. Big Train went on to load the bases in the frame, but couldn’t capitalize further, and had to settle for a two-run lead heading to the second.
Meanwhile, after setting down six in a row to open the game, things began to fall apart around starter Tim Yandel (Tulane) in the third inning. After a leadoff single, Herndon’s Jackson Martin laid down a sacrifice bunt, but catcher Tony DiLeo (Eastern Michigan) bobbled it and threw wildly, and Herndon had runners at first and second with no out. The next batter, Nick Atkinson, also squared to bunt, and popped it up foul, but DiLeo missed an easy catch, allowing the at-bat to continue. Atkinson then got the bunt down, but Yandel’s throw to first was off the mark, allowing two runs to score and Atkinson to reach second. With the game now tied, Braves’ leadoff hitter Michael Smith lined a double into the gap, scoring Atkinson and giving the Braves the lead. Smith scored later in the inning, and Herndon took a 4-2 lead.
Down two runs in the fifth, Bethesda got something cooking after a walk to Andrew Bechtold (Maryland) and a single by Matt Toscano (St. Mary’s, Calif.) put men on first and second with one away. Brandon Hunley (Sacramento State) lined a single to left, and Bechtold rounded third attempting to score. A strong throw from Herndon’s left fielder had Bechtold out easily at home, but the catcher couldn’t hold onto the ball and the run scored.
Neither team scored in the sixth, and Herndon maintained their 4-3 lead heading into the seventh against Yandel. Two singles put men on first and third with one out, and Yandel was pulled in favor of submariner Miller Trevvett (Radford). After a walk loaded the bases, Alex Lipman hit a hard grounder down the first base line that Lewis snared, but his only play was to first, and the run scored from third. Herndon scored again when Zach Kirtley (Sacramento State) misplayed a grounder that would have been the third out. Kirtley tagged the trailing runner, who was caught between bases, for the third out, but the damage was done, as Herndon took a 6-3 lead into the seventh inning stretch.
Down by three, Big Train needed to score in the bottom of the seventh, but Braves reliever Saul Aguilera quickly set down the first two batters. A walk to Toscano and a single by Hunley gave Bethesda life with two down, and Justin Morris (Maryland) smoked a single up the middle to cut the deficit to two. Aguilera then threw a wild pitch behind Farrar, which allowed Morris and Hunley to advance to second and third, respectively. The wild pitch spelled the end of the night for Aguilera, who was replaced by Mitch Aker, the Braves' All-Star reliever who finished the regular season with a 1.02 ERA.
He came on and immediately issued a walk to Farrar to load the bases. Usually not prone to control issues, Aker continued to struggle, walking Brown, Kirtley, Lewis, and Brandon Gum (George Mason) to force in four runs and give Big Train an 8-6 lead. With each walk, the crowd at Shirley Povich Field got louder and louder, as Herndon handed Bethesda four runs without making them swing the bat. Aker was pulled without recording an out and was replaced by Jordan Chudacoff, who ran the count full to Bechtold before getting him to pop out to end the inning. In the frame, Big Train scored five runs on just two hits, while walking six times and sending eleven men to the plate.
Walker Sheller (Stetson) pitched a scoreless eighth, and Mike Rescigno (Maryland) set down the side in order in the ninth to pick up the save. As Brown’s glove closed around the ball for the final out, the crowd erupted, as Bethesda’s late rally had punched their ticket to the championship matchup against the Baltimore Redbirds for the seventh straight year.
Notes: Yandel gave up six runs (only two earned) over 6 1/3 innings, and did not factor in the decision…Trevvett picked up the win, his first of the postseason, and second of the summer…Big Train had 10 hits, and walked 11 times…every Big Train starter reached base except DiLeo, who was pulled in favor of Morris in the fifth…Brown, Farrar, and Hunley each had two hits…Brown, Kirtley, Bechtold, and Toscano each walked twice…Big Train will face the Redbirds in the first game of the championship series Friday night at Calvert Hall High School in Towson…Game 2 will be held Saturday night at Povich Field.
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