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Big Train Offense Struggles in 6-1 Loss to Grays

By:Ian Decker
Kaleb Woltz delivers a pitch at Shirley Povich Field on June 30. (Photo courtesy of Anna Yuan.)

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The Bethesda Big Train were held to just one run on three hits in a 6-1 defeat against the D.C. Grays at Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in Southeast D.C. Sunday afternoon.

For the second time this season, Bethesda knocked in one or fewer runners. The only team to hold the Big Train (18-6) scoreless was the Metro SOCO Braves on June 27.

“Games like this are ones that catapult us to make us a whole lot better,” pitching coach Craig Lopez said afterwards. “It stinks when it happens, but we if we stay right here, you don't get any better. This is an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Against the struggling Grays (8-17), the Green and White had six walks but were only 3-for-28 at the plate, with only one of those hits coming before the eighth inning.

“We just need to make adjustments on the fly,” Lopez said, “and it can be within an at-bat. Offensive droughts happen, it's just odd when it happens to us all. I think today a little bit of the energy and fight just wasn't quite there like it has been.”

D.C. starter Kai Cummings worked five scoreless innings with three strikeouts. And aside from five walks and a hit — Emilien Pitre (Kentucky) reached on a bunt in the first inning — Cummings carved through one of the league’s top lineups.

“You can't be perfect," said Kaleb Woltz, who made just his second appearance on the mound for Bethesda. “We’re focused on bouncing back tomorrow. We got Brandon Clarke starting for us against the Cropdusters; he's gonna do great and set the tone for the rest of the staff tomorrow.”

When the offense struggles, Bethesda relies on its pitching to win games. But on Sunday, Big Train starter Brayden Jones (Ole Miss), who entered the game with a sparkling 0.98 ERA, struggled early and put the team in a hole.

The right hander worked a seven-pitch first, but allowed a solo homer by Grays slugger Sam Blancato. An inning later, Jones surrendered back-to-back doubles to make it 2-0, then hit a batter — one of three batters Jones hit in his outing — and gave up a walk before a Pitre error plated the second run of the frame and put the Grays ahead 3-0.

“Today he was a little bit tired,” Lopez said of Jones. “Some of the pitches weren't there and [the Grays] did a good job of adjusting and attacking the fastball when they could.”

Jones regained his composure for a scoreless third but allowed another two runs in the fourth to end his outing. Blancato belted his second solo shot of the day in the sixth off Woltz to make it 6-0. And while John Kramer (Ole Miss), who recently joined the team after winning the College World Series, knocked in Warren Holzemer (VA Tech) with a hard-hit double down the right field line in the ninth, it wasn't enough to turn the tide.

Silver linings for the Big Train included Kramer logging his first hit in green and Woltz's strong outing. To keep the Grays guessing, Holtz mixed in his fastball, slider, and changeup, with his fastball velocity reaching the high-80s and topping out at 91.

“Today was the first time I really felt comfortable with my body,” Woltz said. “I got great coaches here who helped me get through that, so it really showed today. It felt pretty good, looking forward to the next one.”

Rehabbing an injury this summer, Woltz went 2.1 innings with three strikeouts, two hits and one walk and gave up the second homer to Blancato on a changeup. But aside from one swing, Woltz pitched well. His pitching coach, Lopez, saw that.

“Kaleb [Woltz] today worked hard. He allowed his body to do the work today and allowed all that hard work to transpire out there on the bump.”

Bethesda looks to bounce back when it travels to Olney on Monday to face the Cropdusters, with opening pitch scheduled for 5 p.m.

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