Bethesda, MD -- On a humid and sunny Friday evening at Shirley Povich Field, the Bethesda Big Train opened their 2023 campaign with a 7–4 win in an exhibition game against the Southern Maryland Senators. Evan Marcinko earned the win for the Big Train, while Jacob Whiteman was the losing pitcher for the Senators.
Even though the game was just an exhibition, the team feels like winning the first game of the season is an important step in winning a championship and avenging last year’s defeat in the Cal Ripken Sr. League Championship game.
“It's a good way to start off the season, and it's a good way to keep the season going,” said first baseman and Big Train returnee Jason Schiavone (James Madison). “There's just the expectation to win, and I think we all have that same mindset and the goal in the box and on defense that we can carry on throughout the rest of the year.”
In a back-and-forth contest, the Big Train were able to come out on top thanks to their disciplined play and contributions from the entire team. In addition to recording nine hits, Big Train hitters walked twelve times, and each player in the starting lineup reached base safely at least once.
Despite the positive work at the plate, the win was not a cakewalk for the Green & White. The Senators took the first lead of the game in the second inning thanks to a solo home run from right fielder Matt Ilgenfritz off Big Train reliever Jack Robinson (Roanoke).
Southern Maryland held the Big Train scoreless until the fourth inning, when Chris Hacopian (Maryland) scored on a Teddy Ruffner (UNC Wilmington) RBI single. The Big Train continued to threaten in the fourth, loading the bases with only one out, but Senators pitcher Justin Naylor was able to escape the jam while only allowing one run. Leaving runners on base was a theme for the Big Train in this game; the team left eleven runners on.
The Big Train took a 2–1 lead in the sixth inning thanks to a sacrifice fly from Schiavone that scored Ruffner, but this lead was short-lived. In the seventh inning, the Senators stormed back. After tying the game when a run scored on a throwing error from Hacopian as he tried to turn a double play at second, the Senators took a 4–2 lead thanks to a pinch hit two-run home run from Mikey Guy.
Still, the Big Train responded quickly. After adding a run in the bottom of the seventh to make the game 4–3, the Big Train took the lead for good in the eighth inning. Starting, with a two-out double from Schiavone, the Big Train rallied off of Senator’s reliever Jacob Whiteman to score four runs. Notably, the Big Train scored their go-ahead run uniquely. With left-fielder John Long (UNC) at the plate and the bases loaded, the Senator’s catcher committed catcher’s interference, allowing Long to take first base and the Big Train to take the lead. This bizarre game-winning plate appearance capped off an impressive day for Long who reached safely in all five of his plate appearances and stole three bases.
Big Train pitchers also had a commendable performance in the season opening victory. A cavalcade of pitchers including Ryan Kennedy (Virginia Tech), Robinson, Joe Bladel (Maryland), Aden Ritenour (Shepherd), Evan Marcinko (UNC Wilmington) and Max Martzolf (Florida Atlantic) combined to only allow five hits and two earned runs.
“I'll tell you what, they did a great job,” Big Train pitching coach Craig Lopez said of his staff. “Their adrenaline's pumping, their hearts are going and they are wanting to go after it and give it everything they got.”
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