Excellent pitching and timely hitting powered the Big Train to a win in their season opener, picking up a 6-1 victory over the Herndon Braves at Oakton High School in Vienna, VA.
“It was a total team effort,” manager Sal Colangelo said. “Any time you start your season on a good note is great.”
Starter Blake Sanderson (Florida Atlantic) tossed five strong innings of one-run ball, allowing only four hits while striking out six. Sanderson also featured in the starting lineup. Batting ninth, he picked up a single and reached base twice. Faced with a short roster – many players have yet to arrive due to their participation in the NCAA tournament – manager Sal Colangelo called on his starter to contribute at the plate. Despite being a prolific hitter in high school, Sanderson has not received any college at-bats.
“We had a couple of pitchers who had to hit for themselves because we’re short right now. It was probably the first time in 19 years that [I had a pitcher hitting in the nine hole]” Colangelo remarked. “Blake did a great job.”
Cameron Vassar (James Madison) also had high praise for Sanderson. “He pitched really well,” Vassar said. “He was locating, he has a really good curveball. He’s going to be very effective for us this year.”
Vassar relieved Sanderson and threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits while logging two strikeouts.
“I was a little shaky in the first inning,” Vassar remarked about his performance, “but battled through it then came back in the second inning and tried to pitch lights out.”
Stephen Schoch (Maryland-Baltimore), pitching the final two innings, notched five strikeouts. In all, the Big Train pitchers combined for more strikeouts (13) than hits allowed (9). Colangelo was pleased by the performance of his pitching staff.
“We come in and throw strikes and come after them, [and] good things happen,” he said.
The Big Train’s six-run showing was truly a team effort, with contributions coming from up and down the lineup. Seven of the nine starters logged hits, and three different players had RBIs. Logan Driscoll (George Mason) and Garrett Kueber (Austin Peay State) both had nice nights at the plate, notching two hits apiece. Gaby Cruz (Bryant) led the team’s offensive charge, collecting two singles, a double, a walk, and three RBIs.
After picking up a win to begin their title defense, the Big Train are right back in action tomorrow night, playing an inter-division game against the Rockville Express. The Express also picked up a win tonight, a 4-3 contest against the Silver Spring-Takoma T-Bolts. Last year, the Express finished fourth in the North division with a 17-23 record. The first pitch at Montgomery College is at 7 pm.
Check out what manager Sal Colangelo had to after the win!
Check out the game highlights on our YouTube Channel!