The Bethesda Big Train played their final road game of the regular season Tuesday at Criswell Automotive Park against the Gaithersburg Giants. Considering the Giants had lost two in a row while the Big Train were on a three-game winning streak, the game was surprisingly tight. Bethesda came out with an 8-4 win after surrendering an early lead, thanks to late game heroics from John Kramer (Ole Miss), who hit a huge three-run homer in the seventh to give the Big Train a lead they would not relinquish.
Before the critical at bat, manager Sal Colangelo told him to make an adjustment at the plate, which paid off right away.
“[The umpire was] calling [strikes] a couple inches out. I said ‘can he pitch you inside with a fastball?’ He said ‘no’ so I said ‘scoot up on the plate’ and he did, got a good swing, good wood and [the ball] went out of the ballpark.”
Kramer’s homer ensured the Big Train didn’t completely waste another excellent performance by Nick Del Prado (FAU). In his fourth start of the season, Del Prado struck out six and now leads the team with 37 strikeouts. Despite throwing three scoreless innings, Del Prado was pulled early as the Big Train looked to set up their rotation for the playoffs, which begin next week.
Offensively, the Big Train got off to a quick 2-0 start in the top of the first. With two on and one out, Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) extended his hitting streak to three with an RBI double, his third of the season, scoring DM Jefferson (Notre Dame) to make it 1-0. Kramer would plate Emilien Pitre (Kentucky) with an RBI groundout to second to double the lead.
After an empty second, Bethesda got insurance in the third. Up with the bases loaded, Sean Lane (Maryland) hit a fly ball to center fielder Joseph Quelch, which was deep enough to allow Pitre to tag up and score to make it 3-0. However, Warren Holzemer (Virginia Tech) could only line out sharply to the left fielder, John Amaral, squandering a chance for the Big Train to tack on. It would prove costly.
With a three-run lead, and Del Prado having cruised through three, the Big Train were looking comfortable. But Connor Ball (Alabama) subbed in for Del Prado to start the fourth and struggled. After walking his first batter and allowing a double to Dylan Wilkinson, Dustin Mercer tied the game with a three-run bomb to left-center, silencing the Big Train dugout and traveling fans.
Ball stayed in and continued to struggle, loading the bases with no outs. Brendan Kleiman hit an infield single that brought Jeremiah Jenkins home to give the Giants a 4-3 lead. Ball has struggled his last two outings, but despite the wildness against the Giants, his manager isn’t concerned.
“He was a little sore. He didn't say anything but he's gonna be fine,” Colangelo said. “I told him, that was his one bad outing of the summer. It sometimes happens in summer ball.”
Luckily for Ball and the Big Train, Evan Marcinko (UNC Wilmington) cleaned up the damage, striking out two and retiring the side in the fourth without allowing another run. Marcinko added a third strikeout in the fifth for a 1-2-3 inning. It was another strong performance from the Seahawk.
Erik Ritchie (ECU) replaced Marcinko in the sixth and sparkled, throwing four perfect innings with five strikeouts. When Kramer homered to put the Big Train ahead for good, it earned Ritchie a well-deserved win.
Not only did Kramer’s home run give the Big Train a 6-4 lead, but it sucked the life out of the Giants dugout, which had proven excitable as they came back from their early deficit. Kramer’s approach at the plate for his big blast was based on what he had seen in his earlier at bats.
“They threw me a lot of sliders tonight,” Kramer said. “I knew [pitcher Andrew Neff] was gonna throw another slider so I just sat back and waited for it.”
Two more runs scored when Colton Hegwood (Louisiana Tech) walked with the bases loaded and Felix hit a sacrifice fly, which secured the Big Train's latest come-from-behind win, a testament to the team's resilience that their manager appreciates.
“It just shows the character and the fight in the guys that when you're down, you don't give up,” Colangelo said.
The Big Train have three more games, including a doubleheader on Thursday, before the playoffs. This group knows what it takes to win another championship. They are a resilient group that has fought their way through games and squeaked out important wins.
Another come from behind win on Tuesday bolstered the team’s mentality of one game and one pitch at a time.
After a day off Wednesday, Bethesda will play a doubleheader against the Alexandria Aces at Shirley Povich Field beginning at 4:30 p.m.
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