SILVER SPRING, MD-- When Saint Mary’s College baseball coach Eric Valenzuela called Bethesda Big Train manager Sal Colangelo about Kevin Milam (St. Mary’s) coming to Bethesda for the 2017 summer season ,the fourth-year head coach had one condition: let the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year hit offensively while throwing on the mound.
Colangelo inserted the Brentwood, California native in the five spot of the batting order as the designated hitter before Thursday’s game against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts, hoping his insertion would spark another victory.
In Milam’s first at-bat for the Big Train, the .313 hitter for the Gaels came up with a two-run double in the top of the first inning, a lead that would be retained for the remaining eight innings.
“He’ll be in the lineup most of the games,” Colangelo said. “We have a lot of depth, a lot of good players. We’re going to try to get a rotation in and out of play, keep him pressed, keep him healthy and be ready for the (Cal Ripken League) tournament.”
After arriving to Bethesda on Thursday and watching the Big Train take down the D.C. Grays from the dugout, Milam was told that he was going to be placed in the batting order while coming in to pitch relief.
The two-way role was all too familiar to him.
Milam led St. Mary’s to 37 wins with 12 home runs and 55 RBI while also pitching an earned run average of 2.27 with 31 strikeouts as a relief pitcher. Being in the designated hitter role allows him to focus primarily on his pitching and hitting without having to worry about a third aspect of baseball.
“I’ve never been a DH before and I did that a lot this year (at St. Mary’s) because I pitched too,” Milam said. “It’s easy to transition right into pitching when you’re getting ready and you’re just focusing on pitching and hitting instead of fielding too.”
The 6 foot 1 inch two-way player took the mound in the top of the eighth inning with the Big Train hanging on to a 5-2 lead. Milam found himself getting behind on batters early on, but the defense was able to back him up.
A putout to right field and a diving catch at third base by Logan Driscoll (George Mason) gave the Big Train two quick outs.
“I was just thinking, ‘make sure you attack the ball, attack the ball. Stay on your toes,’” Driscoll, who went 3-for-5 at the plate, said. “It’s reassuring to (Milam). We’re out here, we always have each other’s back. That’s always big.”
Grayland Fowler of the Thunderbolts singled and a hit by pitch put the tying run at the plate, but Milam was able to pick Fowler off at second with a throw to Garrett Kueber (Austin Peay State) to get the Big Train out of the jam. With three outs away from the Big Train’s fourth consecutive win, Milam finished the Thunderbolts off.
Milam forced a flyout in right field and struck out the next two batters to earn his first save of the season.
“He’s got a great arm,” Colangelo said. “He throws a heavy ball, he’s got good stuff and he’s got great, great bat speed. He’s just a great hitter. He’s a very, very special person. He’ll be one [that] one day will be in the big leagues.”
The 4-0 Big Train return to Shirley Povich Field on Saturday to take on the Gaithersburg Giants at 7 p.m. Gaithersburg leads the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League North Division standings with a 3-1 record and defeated the Big Train 13-9 in their first exhibition game on June 3.
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