After the Bethesda Big Train chipped into the South County Braves’ 11-run lead with six runs over the course of the fifth and sixth innings to spark their comeback hopes, the Braves abruptly shut the door.
South County responded to Bethesda’s mid-game surge at the plate in the bottom of the sixth, as the Braves tallied two runs off three hits in the inning to stretch their formidable lead to 14-6, which proved to be too large of a margin for the Big Train to fight back from.
The Big Train’s inability to stop South County's constant offensive push all evening led to a deficit on the scoreboard in the Braves’ favor, as Bethesda eventually fell 14-7 on the road Wednesday night in just its fifth defeat of the year. The loss marks the Big Train’s first defeat at the hands of South County this season. Bethesda won the previous five meetings between the two teams. Even with the loss to the Braves, the Big Train maintains a strong 19-5 record to remain atop the league’s standings.
Despite getting two runners on base because of consecutive walks to Austin Gauthier (Maryland) and Matt Thomas (William & Mary) in the top of the first inning, the Big Train’s offense faltered during the dangerous opportunity to score as they couldn’t bring home the first run of the evening.
The missed chance allowed the Braves’ offense to operate freely and effectively in the bottom of the opening inning. Bethesda starter Josh Grosz (East Carolina), who had yet to concede an earned run in 6.0 innings of work coming into Wednesday’s game, surrendered four runs in the first inning. The quick deficit forced the Big Train to rely heavily on their performance at the plate the rest of the way.
Bethesda’s offense, which has been less potent as of late with 17 combined runs over the past four games, wasn’t able to answer the bell in the early goings.
Even though Bethesda’s reliable slugger Thomas recorded the team’s first hit of the day with a single in the top of the fourth, the Big Train’s scoring drought leaked over into the bottom of the fourth inning, when the Braves improved their advantage on the scoreboard. South County piled on its lead with a five hit, seven-run fourth inning to take a commanding 11-0 lead against the league-leading Big Train.
Then, Bethesda's offense finally broke through in the top of the fifth. Kemp Alderman (Ole Miss) walked to kick off the top of the inning, then Jack Cone (William & Mary) singled into right field to bring runners to first and second with no outs. After Danny Neri (Notre Dame) put runners on the corners with one out, Brady Gumpf (Notre Dame) sliced a bloop single into right field to drive home Alderman for the Big Train’s first run of the day.
Keith Torres (Sacramento State) then drove in another run and Ryley Johnson (East Carolina) connected on an RBI double off the left center field wall to breathe life into the Big Train’s comeback, cutting the Braves’ lead to 11-3. Austin Gauthier (Maryland) rounded out Bethesda’s four-run fifth inning with an RBI double to bring the Big Train back within seven runs of the Braves.
After South County responded with one run in the bottom of fifth to extend its advantage to 12-4, Alderman came through at the plate in the top of the sixth to cut even further into the deficit. With a runner on first, the Ole Miss product rocketed a two-run homer to right center field for his fifth home run of the season, which placed him in a tie with fellow teammate Thomas atop the league in the home run category. The deep shot from Alderman was his fourth of the year at South County, and it gave Bethesda six runs on the evening.
The Braves followed suit and answered with two runs of their own in the bottom half to push the score to 14-6, which all but put the contest out of reach. Bethesda didn’t quit, though, and added one run to its total in the top of the seventh inning after Rocco Peppi (Long Beach State) cracked a double to drive Gauthier home.
Neither team successfully brought home any runners in the final two and a half innings of play as the Big Train officially fell 14-7 on the road. Matt Bedford (Notre Dame) fired a scoreless eighth inning of relief for the Big Train.
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