After dropping their last two home games, the Bethesda Big Train decided to change their game day routine before Monday’s game against the Loudoun Riverdogs.
Players took batting practice an hour earlier than the normal schedule along with incorporating fielding drills, hoping that taking ground balls and making defensive plays would pay off in the game.
The adjustment paid off for the Big Train as Bethesda piled 16 hits on the Riverdogs’ pitchers, resulting in 11 runs for a nine-run win at Shirley Povich Field.
“We just had to find tune on the little things,” assistant coach Galvin Morris said. “It’s a grind all summer, so we got back to the fundamental things. It got us a win tonight.”
Bethesda allowed one run in the top of the first inning, but quickly caught up with back-to-back home runs a half inning later from Logan Driscoll (George Mason) and Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State). Starting pitcher Ken Waldichuk (Saint Mary’s) held Loudoun to two runs while striking out two Riverdog batters through five innings on the mound, retiring eight consecutive Loudoun batters starting in the top of the first inning through the beginning of the top of the third.
Austin Keen (Kentucky) and Stephen Schoch (UMBC) came into relief starting in the top of the sixth inning, with neither pitcher giving up a run on three hits while combining for four strikeouts. Schoch has thrown 14 innings in eight games played without giving up a run.
The Big Train ended the game on an 8-0 scoring run, crossing home plate at least once in the final three innings.
“[The home runs] were huge for us,” infielder Garrett Kueber (Austin Peay State) said. “We had a rough couple of nights, so it was good to get those couple of runs early with home runs. It was really a big lift to the team.”
Heading into Monday with a .190 batting average, Luke Heyer (Kentucky) gave the Big Train an added boost as the designated hitter. The Lithia, Florida native had a season-high three hits in five at-bats, hitting a 2-RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Justin Morris (Maryland) came up with four hits and drew a walk in the bottom of the third. Kueber led the Big Train in RBI with four, capping off his .400 hitting day with a 3-RBI double in the eighth that finalized the Bethesda scoring rally with six runs in that half-inning.
“Anytime you drop two in a row, the next game feels like a must-win,” Justin Morris said. “This was a good victory to get back on track and hopefully we can get on a little streak again.”
With the top of the Big Train’s batting order regularly carrying the offensive load, it was the bottom half of the order that made the biggest impact. The last four hitters in the order— Luke Heyer, Matt Green (Saint Mary’s), Justin Morris and Garrett Kueber—tallied10 of the Big Train’s 16 hits.
Three of the four batters were hitting under .270, now having collected 20 percent of the team’s total hits this season.
“You try to make every hitter a tough out,” Justin Morris said. “Anytime you can have your last four hitters compete up there, it makes it tough on another team. Tonight we did a good job of that.”
The Big Train will use the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League off-day on Tuesday before getting back in action with seven games in six consecutive days. The Big Train travel to Oakton High School in Vienna, Virginia to take on the Herndon Braves on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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