Doubleheaders in baseball are like flipping a coin. You can get heads on one flip and tails on the other. However, for the Bethesda Big Train (21-8), they flipped on the same side twice against the Metro SOCO Braves on Friday at Shirley Povich Field, losing consecutive games for the first time all season after falling in the nightcap, 6-2. It is quite humbling, especially after doing the reverse and sweeping the Gaithersburg Giants in a doubleheader on Wednesday.
“It is different for these guys to be able to come and play each and every day,” pitching coach Craig Lopez said. “Somewhere within each of us as individuals gotta find that little extra something and compete.”
Andrew Johnson (Maryland) got his first start of the season but struggled from the outset. After walking the first batter and giving up a hit, Braves first baseman Mike Kohn stepped up with two runners on and one out and capitalized with a two-run double giving the Braves the early 2-0 lead.
Johnson struck his next two batters ending the half inning. While he struck out four in three innings of work, he also walked four, ensuring there was always traffic on the bases. That makes pitching, already a difficult proposition, even more complicated.
“It's been a minute since he's been on the mound so he felt off a little bit,” Lopez said. “We were squeezed a little bit but also we still have a job to do as pitchers and that is to compete.”
Braves pitcher Danny Salisbury on the other hand kept the Big Train bats quiet with three straight 1-2-3 innings. He was lights out for five innings only allowing two hits and walking one. He also struck out five.
Kaleb Woltz (USF) came in for Johnson and allowed one hit and struck out two to end the top of the fourth and keep the score 2-0.
The Big Train offense showed a little bit of life in the bottom of the fourth. Emilien Pitre (Kentucky) hit a double to center field for the team’s first hit of the game. That brought Peyton Schulze (California), who went 6-for-7 in the doubleheader against the Giants, to the plate. With a chance to get the Big Train on the board, Schulze could only manage a weak ground ball on the infield. The potential rally had been squelched.
SOCO took advantage of the Big Train offense’s inability to get on the board in the top of the fifth. Kohn crushed a two-run home run to deep right, which doubled the lead to 4-0. A sacrifice fly by Joe Suarez extended the lead. It was only 5-0, but with Salisbury cruising, it felt like much more.
A golden opportunity to get on the board came when Colton Hegwood (Louisiana Tech) doubled to right field with two outs and Sean Lane (Maryland) on base in the bottom of the fifth. Braves right fielder Austin Ruzika-Porter overthrew the throw to second. Lane tried to take advantage and tried to score but was tagged ending the inning and another potential Big Train rally.
The Big Train offense finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth. A walk to Baylor Cobb (Louisiana Tech) and an infield single by Luke Nowak (ECU) brought pinch-hitter Trey Winget (St. Mary’s) to the plate. He broke the shutout with an RBI double down the right-field line to make it 6-1. Schulze made it 6-2 with an RBI groundout. But at that point, the Braves would gladly trade an out for a run, and the Big Train never threatened again.
The lack of offense was evident in both games. Seven combined hits and three runs is uncharacteristic for a loaded roster.
“We were hitting the ball well, it just wasn’t falling for us,” Hegwood said. “We have to stick to the plan and wait for good things to happen and keep rolling balls up and it'll land.”
Friday’s losses were an eye opener for Bethesda.
“We got punched in the mouth today and they came out on top,” Lopez said.
The Big Train will play more than one game in a day for the third time this week at home against the Cropdusters on Saturday. First, they will finish a game suspended back on Jun. 24 and then play the full, regularly scheduled 9-inning affair. As the playoffs approach, it’s important for Green & White to get back on track. They’ll look to do so Saturday night.
Game Night Notes: The Big Train celebrated its first Star Wars Night. Fans of all ages came decked out in their Star Wars gear and enjoyed podracing in the outfield, lightsaber battles, and a costume contest! You don't have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to have a blast, just come to Povich...The Community Hero of the Night was A Wider Circle, in recognition of their mission to end poverty. Joe Malandruccolo, A Wider Circle's director of donations inventory threw out a first pitch... Emmett Noti of the Kehilat Pardes group, who enjoyed a picnic dinner in the Davis Family Picnic Pavilion before the game, also threw out a dynamite first pitch, dealing a strike from the pitcher's mound... It was Rockville Baseball Association night, where we celebrated RBBA and everything they do to grow youth baseball. RBBA President Harrison Meyers showed off his arm with a first pitch... Friend of the Big Train, Glenda Fu of Dreams for Kids DC, sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem before game 2 of the doubleheader... Attendance was 607.
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