Kemp Alderman’s (Mississippi) sheer power at the plate consistently elevates the viewing experience for any offense-thirsty Big Train fan. And with the Bethesda Big Train holding a six-run lead over the Alexandria Aces in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Ole Miss sophomore proved just that with one of his signature plays.
Alderman stepped up to the plate with a runner on first and made no mistake when the first pitch came his way. He swiftly smashed a laser that soared with ease over the left-center field wall for his league-leading seventh homer of the season to give the Big Train an 8-0 lead. Alderman now has connected on seven home runs in just 20 games and his latest long ball was the nail in the coffin against the Aces.
Backed by Alderman’s fifth inning two-run shot and their relentless offense all evening, the Big Train captured the 14-2 win over the Aces at Shirley Povich Field. With the win, Bethesda improves to 24-6 on the season and 7.5 games ahead of second-place Alexandra in the standings. A Wednesday against those same Aces would award the Big Train the 2021 Cal Ripken League regular season title.
Big Train’s starting pitcher Josh Grosz (East Carolina) showed promise from the mound for the first pitch Tuesday night’s game, throwing a 1-2-3 opening inning that included two strikeouts. His five-minute top of the first allowed Bethesda’s offense to flourish at the plate right from the get-go in the ensuing half inning.
After Austin Gauthier (Maryland) and Jack Cone (William & Mary) drew consecutive full-count walks in the bottom of the first, the always reliable Matt Thomas (William & Mary) notched a bloop single over the first baseman’s glove and into shallow right field for his 28th RBI of the season and the Big Train’s first run of the evening. Bethesda then quickly capitalized on the Aces’ defensive errors as Cone eventually made it home from third base on an errant throw from Alexandria’s catcher to push the score to 2-0.
Grosz, who had three separate shutout performances over four total appearances this season coming into the game, exhibited masterful pitching in the second and third innings to maintain the Big Train’s early two-run advantage. He struck out two more batters in a hitless top of the second, then needed just eight pitches in the third to retire three Aces batters.
Bethesda’s top of the lineup built on Grosz’s early dominance and immediately extended its lead in the bottom of the third inning. With Gauthier standing on third and Cone on second with two outs, Alderman came through with a hard hit grounder to shortstop that bounced off the top of the defender’s glove. The error brought home two more pivotal runs for the Big Train as they stretched their lead to 4-0.
Later in the same inning with a runner on second base, Trevor Doyle (Sacramento State) connected on yet another bloop single into right field to bring home another run for Bethesda. The Big Train scored once more in the inning after Danny Neri (University of Notre Dame) hit an RBI single through the left side of the infield as his team boasted a six-run advantage through three full innings.
Grosz followed his offense’s four-run inning and successfully danced his way through a bases loaded, one out jam in the top of the fourth to keep the shutout alive. Southpaw Ryan Daugherty (St. Mary’s CA) then took over in relief and tossed a scoreless fifth inning with the Big Train still holding a 6-0 lead.
Alderman then did what he does best at the plate and put the game out of reach with a booming two-run homer into left-center field, pushing Bethesda’s advantage to eight runs after just five innings.
Holding a 8-0 lead, the Big Train’s bats refused to cool down. Grant Knipp (Campbell) scorched a two-run double in the bottom of the sixth inning, then Alderman followed suit at the plate and crushed a double off the center field wall for his 41st RBI of the season to extend his team’s advantage to 11 runs. The Big Train then scored one more in the same inning to push the score to a mercy-eligible 12-0 score in their favor.
Alexandria tallied two runs in the top of the seventh in a last-ditch comeback effort, avoiding a loss by CRCBL run rule for a moment, but the Big Train found themselves too far ahead to fail.
Right-hander Cooper Rons (UC Santa Barbara) stepped onto the hill in the top of the eighth and tossed a scoreless inning, then the Big Train’s offense finished the job in the bottom of the eighth. Nolan Schanuel (Florida Atlantic) walked and pinch hitter Brady Gumpf (Notre Dame) double to left field to bring him home for a 13-2 advantage.
Gauthier promptly dealt the final blow in the same inning with a bases-loaded RBI single to clinch a 14-2 win for the Big Train.
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