06/18/2022 10:02 PM
A subtle smile crept over Bethesda Big Train manager Sal Colangelo’s face Saturday night. His team had just finished another game early, defeating the visiting Gaithersburg Giants 12-0 at Shirley Povich Field in eight innings.
The smile was for the victory — the team’s eighth of the season — but the head tilt and raised eyebrow was a nod to his pitching staff, which struck out eight batters and held the Giants (6-4) scoreless.
“[Nicholas] Del Prado and Erik Ritchie were both lights out,” Colangelo said. "They got us to where we needed to be; they set the tone and the tempo of the game, then put [Gaithersburg] to sleep. Both were phenomenal on the bump.”
Del Prado (Florida Atlantic) needed just 63 pitches to cruise through five innings in his first start of the year. He fanned seven batters, gave up one hit — a single in the second inning — and walked one. Del Prado went 1-2-3 in three of his five innings and didn’t face more than four batters in a single frame. His night ended with three straight strikeouts to lower his ERA to 2.00.
“I started a lot during the season this year and came back here in the [bullpen] and had to just get back into the routine I was in the spring,” Del Prado said. “But everything felt the same coming out."
Following Del Prado on the mound was Ritchie (East Carolina), and the sophomore southpaw kept the Giants hitless for three innings with a strikeout and no walks.
The transition from the aluminum bats players use during the spring to wood in summer league can require an adjustment period, but Bethesda seems to have gotten comfortable swinging the cedar.
Seven batters stepped up to the plate in the first inning, and Sean Lane (Maryland) cranked a towering shot — which the left fielder lost in the sun — to bring in Emilien Pitre (Kentucky), Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) and Peyton Schulze (Long Beach State) to give the Big Train a quick three-run lead.
“Offensively, we told the guys it's a process of coming over from aluminum to play with the wood,” Colangelo said. “It's gonna take time for the adjustment.”
The Big Train picked up an additional run in the third before putting six past the Giants in the sixth with just one hit. Gaithersburg manager Jesse Frawley turned to Sam Alswang, who walked three batters to load the bases. Clay Wargo (Coastal Carolina) then drilled a hard grounder to short, but the middle infielder fumbled the ball as the floodgates opened.
Alswang got hooked, but his replacement — Matthew Vernieri — didn’t fare much better, walking two and giving up a hit to Pitre. By the time the Giants got out of the sixth, they trailed 10-0.
“We want to step on their throat,” Colangelo said of his approach to starting the ballgame. “We don't want to let up. We don't want to get complacent.”
Both Felix and Lane had three RBI nights, Wargo plated two and Pitre had one. Pitre, who leads the league in batting average, is now hitting .556 on the season with 15 hits in 27 at-bats.
“He was a complete player when he got here,” Colangelo said of Pitre, who had three hits Saturday. “All we got to do is just help him redefine himself. He’ll be [Kentucky’s] starting shortstop next year. He’s a great player, instinctively very smart, knows how to play the game and knows what to do.”
As the College World Series winds down, reinforcements have started to trickle in for the Big Train. Luke Nowak (East Carolina) and Merritt Beeker (East Carolina) debuted Friday against the Cropdusters, and Warren Holzemer (Virginia Tech) got his first taste of summer ball against Gaithersburg.
“A lot of guys were playing out of position at one point, so now once we get everyone here, you're gonna see a lot of this.”
Next up for Bethesda is a home matchup on Sunday with the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts at 7 p.m.
Game Night Notes: It was a glorious night for a ballgame with the temperature in the low 70s and a nice breeze… Toby Mendez, who crafted our fabulous Shirley & Walter sculpture, spoke with the Big Train interns before the game and then spoke at a well attended picnic dinner with a group from the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) (for information or to join, go to www.sabr.org) and the Bethesda Historical Society. Toby told about sculpting such baseball luminaries as Nolan Ryan, Frank Robinson, and Brooks Robinson and explained how sculpting Shirley Povich brought together his passions for sports and civil rights. He described his process of crafting a two foot tall maquette and then repositioning the clay while meeting with the subject (Go here for the November 6, 2021 dedication ceremony program for photos of the development of the Shirley & Walter sculpture)… All fans received a t-shirt with an image of the Shirley & Walter sculpture… Hank Thomas, grandson and biographer of Walter Johnson, joined the picnic with Toby Mendez, tossed out a ceremonial first pitch, and signed copies of his Walter Johnson biography (available from the Big Train souvenir table at every Big Train game) … Our Community Heroes of the Night were from the Bethesda Historical Society (for information or to join, go to www.bethesdahistoricalsociety.org)… 7 Locks Brewing made its second appearance of the season and will return on July 2 and 22… Copies of the June 15-21 Potomac Almanac featuring Big Train baseball were distributed… Glenda Fu from Dreams for Kids DC sang the National Anthem… Attendance was 590.
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