Drew Hamrock (Virginia) stands in the batters box and swings for the fences against the Thunderbolts.
Wednesday night's Bethesda Big Train game against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts had as much action as any other game this season--if not more. In Bethesda's 10-7 highlight-filled victory, home runs flew all over the ballpark, exceptional catches and throws scratched runs from the scoreboard, more than one record permanently entered the books, and all the while the game felt threatened to end at a moment's notice as local storms that somehow evaded the stadium led to some less-than-stellar conditions in the later innings. The game's odd circumstances also led to a few bizarre outcomes as far as official stat-tracking is concerned.
While Bethesda lost Tuesday night to the D.C. Grays, snapping their 12-game winning streak, that streak was technically revitalized for one night only. The result? Well, Bethesda's streak had placed them in a deadlock tie with the team's previous 12-game record, which means that Wednesday's win--technically--kicked that streak up to 13 games, giving the team what will be officially recognized as their longest winning streak in franchise history.
The situation did leave some players, including Drew Hamrock (Virginia), a little bit confused after the game. "Hopefully it counts. Does it count?" Upon clarification, he added, "[The streak] means a lot. There's a lot of good teams that have come in the past here. I'm glad we're the team to do it."
Hamrock himself played an instrumental role in the streak's final game. He crushed two home runs--the game's first run in the first inning and the game's last run in the 9th to ice out the 10-7 victory--and, fittingly enough for the strange game, each home run occurred on different days. "I guess it was pretty weird having two different days and hitting two home runs in two different days. But, you know, I'm glad I could do it for the team. I'm glad we had much better at-bats than we did yesterday. Especially with our pitchers working--when you get it going with our hitters, it's good. Dryer-washer combo."
He also commented on Christian Jayne (East Carolina) having somewhat of a breakout performance. "He's got a ton of speed. Whenever he can get in there and square some balls up, we know we're going to get runners on and get people moving." Jayne made his mark all over the game. He went 3-for-4 including a triple while dazzling in the field.
In the third, a tremendous diving catch saved a would-be base-hit to right field by Ian McMillan. The 4th inning saw him knock home two of the Big Train's four runs in the inning with a single, giving Bethesda a 5-0 lead at the time--a lead that would grow to 6-0 by the end of the half inning. A brilliant strong-armed throw in the 5th caused a rare 9-2 putout at the plate with the bases loaded, halting a potential Thunderbolt rally and holding the score at 6-4. All in all, Christian Jayne's impact on the game could not be denied.
Matt Thomas (Wililam and Mary) and Gio Diaz (Sacramento State) also had strong performances--a common narrative this season. Thomas singled home Jayne in the 8th, one of his two RBIs on the game. Diaz, meanwhile, had two RBIs himself but most notably swiped home base on a double steal in the 4th, fittingly the lone steal he needed to capture the Big Train career steals record with his 39th.
With the playoffs around the corner, Bethesda opted for a "pitching by committee" approach. Hunter Cooley (Florida Atlantic) was the only to throw more than one inning--he tossed two scoreless in the 2nd and 3rd. Michael Bechtold (James Madison), Trey Shepard (UMBC), Jack Weeks (Georgetown), and Anthony Piccolino (James Madison) turned in solid outings as well, each pitching a scoreless inning.
In a game where the Big Train surrendered seven runs after initially darting out to a 6-0 lead and seemed constantly in jeopardy of letting the game get away, those innings were key.
This game's conclusion represents a significant milestone: the end of the regular season. Bethesda closes the season with a 30-7 record and the league's top seed for the playoffs. Aside from home-field advantage throughout the postseason, though, that won't matter. The Big Train will need to close out strong and win two consecutive best-of-three series to crown themselves the league's victors and champions.
For Bethesda, the first playoff game will be Friday at Shirley Povich Field. With the season hanging in the balance, the Big Train players--who have become like a family to one another throughout this great regular season run--will need to band together and play their best baseball of the year.