According to Stephen Schoch (Maryland-Baltimore), “there is a fine line you walk to be a baseball player. You’ve got to be a little bit crazy, you’ve got to know when to flip a swtich. We’ve got a lot of guys who can flick that switch. When they step between the lines, they know how to show up.”
Five games into the 2017 season, Schoch is onto something: the Big Train sure know how to show up. Another combination of powerful hitting and effective pitching sent the Big Train to their fifth straight victory to start the season, a 7-2 thumping of the Gaithersburg Giants.
The Big Train got off to a slow start, falling behind quickly on a Giants first-inning run. By the fourth inning, though, the offense clicked, taking the lead in the home half on a two-run, two-out single by Gaby Cruz (Bryant). The lead would prove to be decisive, and the Big Train added five insurance runs to easily secure the victory.
“Later in the game we decided to start swinging the bat, get after it, and when they made some bad pitches, we made them pay,” manager Sal Colangelo said.
The offensive showing was once again a team effort, with seven of the nine starters logging at least one hit. Gaby Cruz, Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State), Kirk Sidwell (Stetson) and Logan Driscoll (George Mason) all reached base twice. Driscoll notched two RBIs with a booming double in the seventh. He also owns the Ripken League’s fourth-highest batting average with a .450 clip. After tonight’s game, Cruz and Sidwell also padded their averages and sit at .400 and .294, respectively. Kevin Milam (St. Mary’s) and James Outman (Sacramento State) have also started their seasons off strong, sporting averages above .300.
Garrett Kueber (Austin Peay State) hit the Big Train’s first home run of the year, a fifth-inning rocket to left field that just cleared the fence.
“It was awesome,” Kueber said of the homer. “First one here [and I’ve been here] two years. I just got lucky a little bit.”
Outman and Sidwell picked up the Big Train’s sixth and seventh RBIs with eighth-inning doubles.
The Big Train pitching was once again outstanding, allowing only two runs on five hits. Starter Andrew Jones (Florida Atlantic) tossed four innings of one-run ball before being relieved by Nash Eppard (Bryant), who earned his first win of the season with three strong innings. Eppard allowed one run and struck out two. Schoch turned in another great performance, a lone hit the only blemish in his two innings of work. With another couple of strikeouts tonight, Schoch is up to 11 in just six innings of work. His total is good for fourth overall in the Ripken League, among both starters and relievers.
“What really works for me is just not thinking too much and going down to the basics,” Schoch said about his impressive start to the season. “This is the game I’ve been playing my whole life, so I might as well have fun with it and be as dominant as I can.”
Bethesda is the only undefeated team in the Ripken League. Colangelo, though, isn’t very concerned about record.
“I didn’t know [that only the Big Train is undefeated],” he remarked. “I haven’t looked at standings. “My big thing is just getting better every game. If at the end of the season we’re undefeated, then we’re undefeated.”
In an exciting intra-division battle, the Big Train will aim to remain perfect in the second game of this week-long home stand. Their opponent, the Alexandria Aces, are 4-1 and in second place in the South Division, just a game behind the Big Train. The first pitch at Shirley Povich Field is at 7 pm, and all fans age 5 and older get in for $5. The game will be live-Tweeted (@gobigtrain) and broadcast by Max Wolpoff and P.J. Glasser (mixlr.com/big-train).
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