In Sunday’s disappointing loss against the D.C. Grays, Luke Nowak (East Carolina) didn’t record a hit for the first time since July 1. Known for his elite contact ability, it is surprising when Nowak isn’t taking the banana turn towards second base after drilling one into the outfield. The game against the Grays on Sunday was a letdown for the whole offense, but Nowak especially.
On Monday night in Olney against the Cropdusters, Nowak surprised even more, but this time to the good side. By the time Merritt Beeker (East Carolina) recorded the final out, Nowak had recorded five hits, all singles. In his first five at bats, he was 5-for-5.
Nowak’s five singles were part of a team-wide offensive explosion that powered the Bethesda Big Train (19–6) to a 15–5 win over the Cropdusters (11–13).
"I think I’ve done that maybe one other time,” Nowak said. “It felt good. I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball. I’m just trying to get on base so the guys behind me can drive me in.”
Nowak finished the game 5-for-7 with two RBI’s and two stolen bases and set the table. Trey Winget (St. Mary’s (CA)), Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) and John Kramer (Ole Miss) also recorded multi-hit games for Bethesda.
After recording just three hits in Sunday’s game, the Big Train showed no signs of offensive weakness coming out of the gate. In the first, Emilien Pitre (Kentucky) roped a single into LF off Cropdusters starter Ryan Weaver to score Nowak, putting the Big Train up 1-0.
Later in the inning, Kramer blooped a two-out single into center field, scoring Pitre and extending the lead to 2-0. The Cropdusters would get a run back in the bottom half of the first when the Big Train turned a 4-3 double play with the bases loaded, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Bethesda would add a run in the second, and take control in the fourth. Nowak scored on a wild pitch, and Kramer hit a sacrifice fly that would score two runs after a misplay from Cropdusters catcher Ryan Shieh, putting the Big Train up 7-1.
Kramer finished the game going 3-for-3 with three RBI’s and a walk. He is starting to heat up and establish himself in the Big Train lineup after arriving late from Ole Miss following their victory in the College World Series.
“I was just seeing the ball really well,” Kramer said. “The hits finally came, so lets hope they keep coming. It’s just a good day."
The Big Train tacked onto their lead in the sixth and seventh. Singles from Nowak and Winget, along with multiple walks highlighted the scoring efforts in a four-run sixth.
A sacrifice fly from Warren Holzemer (Virginia Tech) and another single from Winget, both part of a three-run seventh, put the game truly out of reach, allowing the Big Train to record their league-best 19th win of the season.
Winget recorded his best game of the season, going 3-for-6 with three RBI's with two singles and a double.
On the mound, Brandon Clarke (Alabama) got the start and the win. He tossed a solid four innings, giving up just two runs on four hits, and struck out three. Clarke's fastball topped out at 96 MPH and he leaned on it heavily over his last several innings, an encouraging sign as he returns from Tommy John surgery.
“Getting ahead and getting in the zone as much as I can is the biggest goal,” Clarke said. “Each week, I’m getting more comfortable. I walked a few more batters than I wanted to but I was able to squeeze out of some innings with a couple of zeros."
Evan Marcinko (UNC Wilmington) and Beeker pitched the final five innings. The two combined for seven strikeouts and two walks.
Beeker was dominant in the eighth and ninth. He gave up just one hit and struck out four.
Tuesday, the Big Train hit the road to face the Alexandria Aces in a showdown between the top two teams in the league. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m. at Frank Mann Field. The Big Train will look to bounce back after their last performance in Alexandria, when the Aces beat them 9-3.
“They’re a good squad,” Clarke said. “We just got to pitch well and hit well. If we execute the way we can, we’ll 100% take that win tomorrow.”
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