Kobe Kato (Arizona) did smash a vital home-run deep into the stands on Monday night, but this wasn't it.
The Bethesda Big Train (18-6) seemed bound to lose Monday night's contest to the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts (12-12). In short, what began as a 7-0 deficit in the second inning and was re-extended to an 11-6 disadvantage by the end of the fifth ultimately was decided by an astonishing eighth inning, wherein the Big Train posted nine runs onto the scoreboard and ran away with a game that was never theirs to win.
Big Train manager Sal Colangelo explained what he considered to be the key moments of the game, stating, "I think Kobe [Kato's] 3-run HR and Cade Hunter's three-run triple obviously opened it up for us. But I also think defensively we got after it there at the end." Colangelo added, "I think really the biggest key: Tyler Naumann did an amazing job keeping them off-balance after starting a little shaky there. He had three pitches working tonight and set it up for Elliot [Zoellner] to close it."
Coming off of a losing performance Sunday night, a win here felt key for the Big Train. Colangelo also commented on the team's "never quit mentality," as some may put it.
"Early in the game our approach at the plate wasn't very good," Colangelo explained. "Defensively, we were making mental mistakes in the field. Then we got 'em together and said, 'let's just play some baseball. Don't try to think too much--let your instincts take over.' Catch it, throw it, execute fundamentals." Bethesda's manager also emphasized batting adjustments as the game progressed, noting that he advised players to "have a better approach where you see the baseball and execute quality at-bats. When you have quality at-bats, quality things are going to happen. Every single player was resilient and did what we needed them to do, and we came out on top."
Let's take a look at how it went down: In the first two innings, it was all Thunderbolts. They jumped off to a 7-0 start, and their crowd was popping. Momentum was against the Big Train, but there still was a sense of hope, being that it was early on in the game. That vaguely confident undertone seemed to be key early on, as a third inning Tate Soderstrom (Arizona) three-RBI double lined on a rope to right-center field began to haul the deficit back in, 7-3. When Bethesda held Silver Spring-Takoma scoreless for their half of the inning and then posted two more runs in the fourth on Christian Jayne (East Carolina) and Gio Diaz (St. Mary's CA) RBI singles, the 7-5 score seemed to symbolize the passing of the torch within the game. The Big Train felt bound to victory as they'd tack on a run or two every couple innings until they'd win.
But no--that's not what happened. From there, the game went another direction. The Thunderbolts tallied two runs in both the fourth and fifth, so despite a Keith Torres (Sacramento State) RBI single in the fifth, the Big Train trailed 11-6. Truth be told--the game still seemed far from over at that point. Sure, the team blew its first chance at a comeback--but they'd also shown no Thunderbolts lead would be safe on the night.
Still, as the innings crept by--the sixth, the seventh--and neither team was adding any runs to the scoreboard, it seemed as if the Big Train would run out of time. Five runs is a lot to ask of a team with only two innings remaining, so by the eighth, doubt admittedly had set in. Nonetheless, the Big Train needed five runs with two innings left--and they got nine runs in one, as they burst out in the eighth inning.
Bethesda's first signature moment in the inning occurred when Kobe Kato (Arizona) smashed a three-run home run - his first of the season - to bring the score back to 11-10, following a Diaz RBI single in the at-bat prior. When Kato cranked that one out of the park, murmurs among the audience suggested a common sentiment: the Big Train were back in this one.
No one quite yet knew if they'd come all the way back to win it, but they showed they had the firepower to do so. Then, after Kato's home run, the Big Train loaded the bases and Torres tied the game up with a sac fly. Cade Hunter (Virginia Tech) knocked home another two runs with a triple in the right-center to give Big Train their first lead of the night.
They appeared unstoppable in that moment as, despite rocking a 13-11 lead at the time, the Big Train still weren't finished. Martin Vincelli-Simard (Sacramento State) drove home another run on a single to make the game 14-11 before pulling double-duty as the last runner to cross the plate for the Big Train on a ground-ball. Vincelli-Simard's run marked the ninth of the inning for the Big Train and brought the score to 15-11--where it stayed.
Tyler Naumann (Jacksonville) turned in 6.1 strong innings of relief with eight strikeouts, bridging the gap to Elliot Zoellner (Maryland), who came in to pitch the last inning for the Big Train. He held the door shut on the Thunderbolts, ensuring a Bethesda victory.
The Big Train are back in action Tuesday night at Shirley Povich Field against the Alexandria Aces. That contest will be Military Night at the ballpark, which means Bethesda will honor veterans and active service members as well as allowing them free entry to the game. The Big Train are playing some great baseball right now as they seem to be in mid-season form, so you'll want to catch this one.