Three games into the season, the Bethesda Big Train in many ways alreadly look to be in midseason form. The Big Train showed no signs of slowing down in their home opener, defeating the Vienna River Dogs 8-4 on Thursday night for their third straight win.
After the River Dogs got on the board first by scratching across a run in the first inning, the Big Train used an explosive four-run second inning to emphatically take the lead. They would not relinquish that lead for the rest of the game.
The offense that has been overpowering in the early stages of the season once again took center stage, generating baserunners almost at will and chasing River Dogs starter John Cerratani (Sacred Heart) after only 3 1/3 innings. The Big Train hitters combined for 13 hits and 12 walks, good for a team on-base percentage of .520 on the night.
Clayton Daniel (Jacksonville State) in particular continued to impress with his phenomenal plate discipline. Daniel went 2 for 3 with 3 walks, driving in 2 runs on a single to left field as part of the Big Train's aforementioned four-run second inning. "I'm seeing the ball up really well," said Daniel. "I seem to be on everything, fastballs, curveballs, changeups, just picking up early out of his hand and seeing it up in the zone."
Daniel has now reached base safely an incredible 11 times in 15 plate appearances. While those numbers are sure to drop as the season progresses, it's clear that Daniel's approach will ensure he remains an on-base machine near the top of the Big Train lineup. "I'm not a real aggressive hitter. If a runner's on and he wants to steal, I'll let him steal, work the count and look for my pitch," said Daniel. "And if I get it up in the zone, I'll put a good swing on it."
The Big Train also got excellent production out of the bottom of their lineup. First baseman Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State) and shortstop Michael Smith (GMU) each recorded 2 hits and a walk in 4 at bats.
Meanwhile, starting pitcher Chris Monaco (Virginia Tech) provided the sort of strong outing that is easy to overlook, but no less critical to the team's victory because of it. While the River Dogs pitchers struggled to find the plate, Monaco attacked the strike zone with regularity, issuing a mere two walks in 5 innings pitched. This turned out to be a recipe for success, as Monaco would only surrender 1 run in a winning performance. Manager Sal Colangelo praised the junior right-hander, saying, "Chris was loose after the first inning. After that, he was lights out. Any time you command the zone and throw two or three different pitches for strikes, you're going to be successful."
Relievers Chase Gardner (San Francisco) and Alex Calvert (Erskine) pitched the final four innings to secure the victory for the Big Train. Gardner settled in after a rough first few batters, tossing a scoreless 7th inning after giving up 3 runs in the 6th. Calvert struck out 3 in his two scoreless innings of work.
It's easy to be excited about this Big Train team, which has exerted its dominance both at the plate and on the mound in the early part of the season. But Colangelo knows that focusing on the present is the most important thing.
Said Colangelo, "We came out and played hard [...], we're getting the timely hitting that we need, and just having a good time."
The Big Train will look to keep the good times rolling on Friday, June 10 in Baltimore as they take on the Redbirds. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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