Preview: Big Train look to continue hot start against Thunderbolts

Pitcher Mitchell Wilson (UMBC)

With a plethora of new members on the Bethesda Big Train roster, manager Sal Colangelo admitted that meshing those guys with the veterans was a difficult task early in the year.


The Big Train, however, have had little trouble coming together as one unit at the start of the season. Three games for the Big Train have resulted in three wins, outscoring their early opponents 18-6.


“Some new guys came in and had to gel, learn to play with each other and that’s always tough early in the new year,” Colangelo said. “But the guys played hard, are resilient, want to win, want to make adjustments. They want to be successful.”


Two key players for the Big Train made their summer season debut in Thursday’s home opener against the D.C. Grays. Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State) returns for his second summer with the Big Train after winning the 2016 Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League MVP, where he was honored with the award by commissioner Jason Woodward on Thursday.


Esposito guided Sacramento State to the NCAA Tournament, where he got his 67th hit of the season in the Hornets’ tournament game against Stanford. The Granite Bay, California native was second on Sacramento State in batting average and home runs, hitting .300 while compiling 10 home runs.


James Outman (Sacramento State) made his Big Train debut on Thursday, snagging a single and scoring a run against the Grays. The Redwood City, California native led Sacramento State in home runs with 11 and drove in 53 runs.


“(Esposito and Outman are) great hitters, great players. They come from a great program,” Colangelo said. “Coach (Reggie Christiansen) does a great job there. When you’ve got the reigning MVP, it’s like having Barry Bonds on your team coming in and putting a dagger in. They’re going to be huge impacts for us.”


Pitching has made life difficult for the opposition, averaging 14.6 strikeouts per game as a team. Thursday’s trio held the Grays to hitting .151 with only five hits, holding D.C. to only one hit in the final five innings of play.


Relievers Jack Alkire (VCU) and Stephen Schoch (UMBC) totaled eight of the Big Train’s 11 strikeouts in the 5-4 win over the Grays, not allowing an earned run in the process.


“The thing with baseball is 95 percent of the game is out of your hands,” Schoch said. “So if you can control what you can control, then you’re going to be good. Pitching is the one thing that you know what’s going to happen if you execute properly.”  


The Big Train travel to Silver Spring on Friday to take on the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts at Blair High School at 7 p.m. Coming off a 14-inning win against the Rockville Express on Thursday, the Thunderbolts lead the CRCBL North Division standings with a 2-1 record along with the Gaithersburg Giants.


Silver Spring-Takoma’s players swing powerfully, having four players that have a batting average of .300 or greater. Garrett Stonehouse from Elon University leads the Thunderbolts with a .667 mark and has hit a double in each of his two games played. Cooper Williams from New Mexico State has compiled six hits in 15 at-bats, coming off a four-hit outing against Rockville on Thursday.


Starting the season undefeated is a positive point for the Big Train, especially with some of the team not having a full roster yet.


“It’s just the beginning of the year, first of all. It’s always good to start off hot,” infielder Garrett Kueber (Austin Peay State) said. “We still have a lot of guys coming in still. Just to be able to keep it going without some of those guys is a big help to the team.


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