Late hitting struggles gives Big Train first loss

By: Grant Cohen
Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State)



The Bethesda Big Train collected 11 team hits and hit .305 in Sunday’s game against the Alexandria Aces, but the winners of five straight games were not the ones to come out on top at Shirley Povich Field.  


Alexandria came up with 13 team hits to score seven runs, hitting .382 to give the Big Train their first loss of the season.


“It was just their night,” infielder Tanner Allen (Mississippi State) said. “They hit some hard balls right at people and those hard balls got them on base. And that’s going to happen, it’s baseball.”


A Garrett Kueber (Austin Peay State) single in the bottom of the sixth tied the game at three, but the Aces did not go away easily. Cameron Vassar (James Madison) got in an early bases loaded hole in the top of the seventh inning and fell victim to three bases loaded walks that resulted in the Aces regaining a three-run lead.


Vassar, however, got out of the inning with the limited damage by obtaining all three of the half innings’ outs through strikeouts.


“We have to make our pitches. We walked in three runs. You don’t do that you have a chance to win the ball game, but it happens,” manager Sal Colangelo said. “Cam battled back, hats off to him, struck out three guys in a row. But you’ve got to produce when it’s time to produce. We just didn’t get it done, it’s baseball. It happens all the time.”


Aces’ relief pitchers’ Dustin Lander and Kevin Kelly made the adjustments on the mound to control the strike zone. Mixing up their pitches by throwing a combination of changeups, curveballs and fastballs, the two relievers made the Big Train’s offense dissolve.


The Big Train came up with one hit in their final 10 at-bats during the last three innings, with Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State) getting the lone single in the bottom of the seventh inning. Unlike the previous five games, the Big Train struggled to get runners in scoring position around to score, leaving 11 base runners stranded on Saturday.


“We got a lot of hits, but we didn’t get a lot of hits when it counted and when we needed to score runs with runners in scoring position. Credit to them for keeping us off balance there,” Esposito said. “It’s a long season. Every now and then the bats get a little slow. We’ll pick it back up in no time.”


Colangelo said that fatigue also played a factor in the Big Train’s first defeat. The Big Train had three different players from Saturday’s game against the Gaithersburg Giants inserted into field positions and the batting order.


Since the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League season began earlier this week, the Big Train have competed in six consecutive games.


“(The season) is a grind,” Colangelo said. “Guys are getting a little physically tired. We have a lot of depth and as you can tell, we rotated people around. But that’s a great ball club. They’ll be in the playoffs with us again this year.”


The Big Train look to get back on the winning track on Monday against the Loudoun Riverdogs at Shirley Povich Field at 7 p.m. Loudoun was defeated 11-3 by the Baltimore Redbirds on Saturday and bring a 2-3 record to Bethesda.


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