Coming into Thursday’s contest, the Big Train and Aces knew the how far-reaching its implications would be. More than four hours later, one thing is for sure – the game sure lived up to its hype.
In the end, the Big Train emerged victorious from the 15-inning marathon for one of the most electric wins of the season.
“Any time you can get a big win like that, it shows the resilience of these kids,” manager Sal Colangelo said. “The effort, the fight, not wanting to quit, and getting after it. It’s a team win, it’s an organization win, and it’s very special.”
The Big Train put up their first four runs on hits from Kevin Milam (St. Mary’s), Luke Heyer (Kentucky), and Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State). The Aces, though, rallied to knot the game up in the seventh. The next seven scoreless innings were a showcase for both teams’ bullpens. Nash Eppard (Bryant) put on a masterful one-man show for the Big Train, pitching all six extra innings, allowing just one run and collecting six strikeouts.
“Nash was unbelievable,” Colangelo said. “One word: unbelievable. [He was] gutsy and had great command. Everyone played well, but Nash was just unbelievable tonight.”
The Big Train blinked first in the late innings, allowing an Aces solo shot in the 15th. Then, in the bottom half of the frame, they mounted the unlikeliest of comebacks. After two quick outs, Esposito advanced to first on a dropped third strike. A Zach Jancarski (Maryland) single and Fox Semones (James Madison) walk loaded the bases for Logan Driscoll (George Mason), who walked on four pitches to force in the tying run.
“In Fox [Semones]’s at bat, I saw [the Aces pitcher] wasn’t really throwing strikes,” Driscoll said about his approach at the plate. “I was just waiting for my pitch and it never came.”
James Outman (Sacramento State), the team’s best hitter this season, came through for the Big Train, delivering a walk-off single to cap the dramatic win.
“It feels good,” Outman said about his heroics. “We got to the point where we wanted the game to end, but we didn’t want to lose. We didn’t want to take the ‘L’ for it.”
A loss on Thursday would have put the Big Train two games behind the Aces in the South division with only five games left to play; with the win, the teams are now tied for first place, setting up an exciting race to the finish for the division crown.
“It was a must-win day today, and everything from here on out is a must-win game,” Outman said.
The Big Train must quickly turn the page and focus on getting another win on Friday against the D.C. Grays. The first pitch at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is at 7 pm.
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