Bethesda Big Train improved their season record to 13-6 in a dominant 11-4 win over the Gaithersburg Giants. The team is now three games ahead in the Cal Ripken League’s South Division, leading the Alexandria Aces and Herndon Braves, who are tied for second place.
Big Train struck early, capitalizing on Gaithersburg mistakes in the top of the first inning. Garrett Kueber (Moorpark College) walked, and then stole second. A pitch later, he scored on an error by the Giants’ first baseman on a ball off the bat of Clayton Daniel (Jacksonville State College).
In the top of the second, Big Train wasted little time before tallying another run. Catcher Justin Morris (University of Maryland) fouled off the first pitch thrown to him, but then took four straight balls for a walk. Left fielder Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State) then pummeled the first pitch he saw for a two-run shot over the fence in left field.
“I’m just trying to see the ball well,” Esposito said. “I’m staying on the fastball and if I get a good pitch I don’t miss it.”
Cam Daugherty (Bowling Green State University) and Jimmy Monaghan (Campbell University) then hit back-to-back singles to centerfield and Kueber, batting for the second time in so many innings, advanced them to second and third on a groundout to the pitcher. Daniel then hit a sacrifice fly to the right fielder, scoring Daugherty, and Allen Smoot (University of San Francisco) singled in Monaghan on a ground ball to left.
Big Train continued to pad their lead in the third. Morris walked for the second time and Esposito worked the count full before scoring him on a well-hit double to left. Monaghan then collected his second hit of the night, a double to right field the drove in Esposito.
“Jimmy’s been injured,” manager Sal Colangelo said. “It’s good to see him starting to swing the bat and being healthy. The [other players who have had less playing time], like Cam, are doing well. Lately it’s been a team win. Everyone’s doing the little things and executing.”
Colangelo also praised Big Train starting pitcher Drew Strotman (St. Mary’s College), who pitched five innings, struck out seven, and earned the win. Strotman only allowed two hits in his outing, one of which came on a controversial call on a close play at first base. He never allowed more than one batter to reach base in an inning.
“He did well,” Colangelo said. “He had good velo[city], good command at times. He did what we wanted him to do, which was keep us in the ball game.”
Once the game reached its middle innings, Big Train’s onslaught was stymied by Giants pitching. Eddie O’Neill (Towson University) set down the Big Train offense in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, striking out four during those frames.
In the sixth, the Giants threatened Big Train’s lead for the first time, scoring two unearned runs off of Blaine Lafin (Virginia Military Institute). Tate Shaw (University of Texas Austin) singled and advanced to second on a throwing error by Morris, and then scored on an error by Kueber. Lafin then walked two batters to load the bases, and then a third, allowing a run to score. Chase Gardner (University of San Francisco) was brought in for the next batter, who struck out, ending the rally.
In the seventh, a Big Train hitter finally got to O’Neill when Cody Brown (Mississippi State University) singled to right. Next up was Morris, who hit a ball to left that was misplayed by the left fielder, allowing Brown to score on the error. Then, with Esposito up to bat, Morris was caught stealing third to end the half-inning and the threat.
Big Train struck again in the ninth inning, after O’Neill’s exit, loading the bases on singles by Daniel and Smoot and a walk to Brown. Justin Morris then stepped up to the plate and slammed a bases-clearing triple to right field, upping Big Train’s lead to eight runs.
The Giants managed to get one run back in the bottom of the ninth, but the rally was thwarted by a deft diving catch by Brown for the second out and a strikeout by Stephen Schoch (Appalachian State University) to end the game, sealing Big Train’s thirteenth victory.
Big Train next plays on Tuesday against the Baltimore Redbirds at Povich Field.
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