With Bethesda Big Train holding a 3-0 lead over the D.C. Grays in the bottom of the fifth inning, starting pitcher Noah Carabajal (Long Beach State) capped off one of the best performances from a Big Train starting pitcher this season.
Carabajal, who had let up just two hits through four innings, dealt even more magic on the mound in the fifth. He retired all three of the Grays’ batters in the inning off just eight pitches to retire the side that had been shut out up to that point.
The fifth inning was just a sample of Carabajal’s dominant start, and the Big Train eventually closed out the Grays on the road, 6-4, in what was a swift showing from Bethesda to capture its eighth win in nine games to kick off the 2021 campaign. The win was manager Sal Colangelo’s 501st summer collegiate baseball league victory, after he collected win No. 500 against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts on June 16.
To start off the contest, the Big Train found themselves in a defensive battle with the Grays. Carabajal and Grays’ starter Jake Davidson both exhibited strong control on the mound, which led to a lot of quick outs over the course of the first two innings.
Carabajal retired the first six batters of the game and recorded two strikeouts through the opening two innings. Davidson performed similarly for the Grays, allowing just two walks but no earned runs to keep the game scoreless.
Bethesda quickly flipped the switch at the plate, though, and got its offense rolling in the top of the third inning. Grant Knipp (Alabama) kicked off the inning with a deep fly ball to right-center field, which was dropped by the Grays’ center fielder to gift Knipp three bases. After Nolan Schanuel (Florida Atlantic) and Austin Gauthier (Maryland) both walked to load the bases, Darius Foster (San Francisco) drove in two runs with a line drive single into right field to give Bethesda its first lead of the day. Rocco Peppi (Long Beach State) rounded out the inning with a sacrifice fly to center field to award Bethesda an early 3-0 lead on the road.
Carabajal consistently kept the Grays’ batters quiet to maintain the Big Train’s three-run margin on the scoreboard, as D.C. notched just two hits and struck out five times at the plate.
Bethesda almost took advantage of Carabajal’s dominance on the mound in the top of the fifth inning. Matt Thomas (William & Mary) walked with two outs in the inning, and then Peppi advanced to second base off a scorching double down the third base line, which pushed Thomas to third base. However, they were stranded in scoring position and the Big Train was forced to be satisfied at the moment with their 3-0 lead.
As Carabajal remained relentless with brilliant pitching through five full shutout innings, Bethesda kept things going at the plate in the top of the sixth inning. Kyle Velazquez (St. Mary’s CA) started the half inning with a single, then Knipp followed suit with a walk. Schanuel then grounded out into a fielder’s choice, driving in Velazquez from third base to extend the Big Train’s lead to 4-0.
Thomas remained determined to extend Bethesda’s lead even further, as he took advantage of a hanging pitch over the middle of the plate in the top of the seventh inning. He cranked a no-doubt homer into left-center field and the Grays’ outfielders could only look up and watch the ball sail over the wall and out of the park. The solo shot put the Big Train’s up 5-0 through seven full innings.
After Ryan Lynch (Notre Dame) threw a scoreless frame in his Big Train debut, Zach Locke (Long Beach State) tossed two complete innings and surrendered just a single one run in the bottom of the eighth, sending the Big Train to the ninth with a 5-1 advantage.
Peppi added some run insurance for Bethesda with a solo home run in the top of the ninth, but the Grays plated three in the bottom half to draw closer. However, the Big Train was able to close it out and officially secure the 6-4 road win.
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