The Bethesda Big Train close out the 2016 Cal Ripken League regular season with a superb record of 28-12, good for the South Division title and the #2 seed in the playoffs. The complete list of playoff seeding is below:
#1: Baltimore Redbirds 29-11 First Place, CRCBL North
#2: Bethesda Big Train 28-12 First Place, CRCBL South
#3: Alexandria Aces 23-17 Second Place, CRCBL South
#4: Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts 20-20 Second Place, CRCBL North
#5: Gaithersburg Giants 19-21 Wild Card #1
#6: FCA Herndon Braves 18-22 Wild Card #2
Tonight, Sunday, July 24th, the Second Place teams play the Wild Cards in one-game playoffs. The #3 Aces host the #6 Braves at Frank Mann Field. The #4 Thunderbolts host the #5 Giants at Montgomery Blair High School. The winners of those two games will determine who the #1 Redbirds and #2 Big Train, recipients of first round byes, will face in the semifinals.
The Cal Ripken League playoff format differs slightly from that of a traditional tournament. Rather than playing the winner of the Aces-Braves game, the Big Train will play the higher of the two seeds that emerge victorious on Sunday, and the Redbirds, as a reward for attaining the top seed, will play the lowest remaining seed on Monday. This means that the Big Train will not play the Braves, the lowest playoff seed, in the semifinals for a second straight season. Likewise, the Redbirds will face an opponent in the semis other than the #3 Aces, the highest seed among those playing Sunday.
The Big Train will play either the #3 Aces (if Alexandria wins on Sunday), the #4 T-Bolts (if both Herndon and Silver Spring win on Sunday), or the #5 Giants (if both Herndon and Gaithersburg win on Sunday) on Monday night, 7:30PM ET, at Shirley Povich Field. It will be a packed house in Bethesda, as fans and host families are all eager to see this team, with the best offense and second-best pitching in the league, put it all together and get off on the right foot en route to a run at the 2016 League Championship Series title. Game 2 of the best-of-three semifinal series will be on the road on Tuesday night, 7PM ET, location TBD. There will be diehards who make the trip out to wherever the team may be, and the Big Train will have the chance to clinch on the road. If not, Game 3 would be back at Povich Field on Wednesday night, 7:30PM ET.
The Redbirds will play either the #4 T-Bolts (if both Alexandria and Silver Spring win on Sunday), the #5 Giants (if both Alexandria and Gaithersburg win on Sunday), or the #6 Braves (if Herndon wins on Sunday). Games 1 and 3 (if necessary) will be at Calvert Hall High School in Baltimore. Game 2 will be a road game for the Redbirds.
Thursday, July 28th, is a scheduled off-day/rain makeup day.
On Friday, July 29th, the 2016 Cal Ripken League Championship Series commences. The past seven seasons in a row have each seen the Bethesda Big Train against the Baltimore Redbirds in the series. Bethesda took home the championship the first three of the seven series, in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Baltimore won the latter four in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.
If this were the matchup for the eighth consecutive season, the Big Train will head up I-95 on Friday night for Game 1 against the Redbirds at Calvert Hall. Rest assured, plenty of Big Train fans will make the trip and it will be a two-way competition, the game on the field, of course, but also in the stands between the two sets of fans as to who draws the bigger, more passionate crowd and who truly has the home field advantage. Last year’s Game 1, also a Friday night against the Redbirds at Calvert Hall, went back-and-forth between the two teams and the game went a whooping fifteen innings before it was finally suspended. The matchup featured a remarkably strong road crowd for the Big Train, our fans, our families, and our employees and interns making the trip up, making some noise on the first base side, and standing behind our players until the end.
Game 2 would be Saturday night on Shirley Povich Field, in front of the Bethesda Faithful, the final game at Povich of the summer. Game 3, if necessary, would be Sunday night, July 31st, back at Calvert Hall. The Big Train may not have captured home field advantage in the event of an LCS against the Redbirds, but that Game 2, potentially the clincher, would be on our home diamond.
The games against the Redbirds are always close. Over the last three years, the Big Train and Redbirds have met a total of 17 times and the aggregate score is 70-69, Big Train. 17 games in three summers produced a differential of a single run. That’s how you know it’s a rivalry. Three of those games went into extra innings, and four were walk off victories for the home team. There is reason for optimism with this year’s Big Train team; they have the ability to go the distance. Stacked with high on-base hitters and a balanced mix of crafty and overpowering pitchers in the rotation, the 2016 Big Train also demonstrated tremendous fight after a slow start.
The Redbirds were 14-6 in their last 20 regular season games and 6-4 in their last ten. The Big Train, by contrast, went 15-5 over the second half of the regular season and 8-2 in the final ten games. Bethesda fought for late-inning victories and topped the Redbirds head-to-head on the season, including an exhilarating double-header sweep on July 15th at Povich Field.
It will be a memorable week for the Bethesda Big Train in the Cal Ripken League playoffs. Come to Povich, come to away games, or tune into PlayOn Sports. Don’t miss an inning!
Later Today: MVP and Cy Young Considerations.
Tomorrow Morning: Monday Morning Sabermetrics. Pushed back one day to accommodate my two articles published today.
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