Behind a dominant start from Chris Clarke (Southern Cal), Big Train (18-2) defeated the visiting Alexandria Aces (9-9), 4-1, on Friday night at Povich Field.
A solo home run on the first pitch of the second inning was the only scoring the visitors could muster, as Clarke lasted an impressive seven innings and threw just 76 pitches. He struck out eight and allowed five hits en route to the victory. “[Chris] had great command, and the slider was working well, the changeup and fastball, and he kept them all foul,” Big Train manager Sal Colangelo said. “Any time you keep hitters off balance, it’s tough [for the hitters]. He did a wonderful job.”
Given Bethesda’s extensive depth at pitcher this season, it has not been common to see a starter last more than four or five innings on the mound. But with a stretch of six games coming up in the next four days, it certainly couldn’t hurt to save a few arms. “I meant to go five [innings], but I kept my pitch count down,” Clarke said. “[Sal] said ‘How much further can you go?’ and I said ‘The whole game,’ and he said ‘Alright, you’ve got two more [innings],’ and I was able to execute that.”
Bethesda opened the scoring in the first when first baseman John Glenn (California Baptist) doubled home second baseman Fox Semones (James Madison).
Big Train then took advantage of some Aces mistakes to retake the lead in the third. After hitting a single, centerfielder Tyler Villaroman (San Francisco) advanced to second on a walk to third baseman Carson Taylor (Virginia Tech). A wild pitch to leftfielder Justin Wylie (Arizona) sent him to third, and an error on the same play allowed him to cross the plate.
The theme continued one inning later. Rightfielder Jacob Westerman (San Francisco) scored first on a groundout by shortstop A.J. Lee (Maryland). Then, designated hitter Udie Summerall (Florida Atlantic) extended the lead thanks to a fielding error during the following at bat which allowed him to run home.
The score remained 4-1 into the eighth. With one out in the top of the inning and the bases loaded, righthanded reliever Ryan Metz (Virginia Tech) entered the game and shut down the Aces’ rally attempt with back to back strikeouts. He then sent Alexandria packing with a spotless top of the ninth, completing his second save of the season.
The only issue Colangelo could find with Big Train’s performance was a lack of success with runners in scoring position. The team’s four runs were scored on 11 hits, and all but one of the team’s 11 hitters on the night were left on base at least once. “With runners in scoring position, we’ve just got to have a better approach, and really focus and concentrate, and get that big hit and really open it up,” Colangelo said. “But overall, the hitters did a good job, we got a lot of guys in, it was a good team win.”
Big Train now holds an 18-game winning streak at Shirley Povich Field, a run that began in July 2017. They will next travel to Baltimore on Saturday to take on the Baltimore Redbirds in a matchup of the Cal Ripken League’s two best records.