Pitching wins championships.
That is a common cliche in baseball, however if it holds true this year the Big Train finds itself in a comfortable position.
Thanks to a combined shutout victory over the Alexandria Aces on Sunday evening, Bethesda has now won nine of its last ten games and finds itself with a 3.5 game lead in the south division heading into July 4th's off day. The pitching staff has not allowed an earned run since the fourth inning against the Vienna River Dogs on June 30th -- a streak of 30 straight innings.
"We're starting to play a lot better, we're doing the little things, not giving runs away," manager Sal Colangelo said. "It's been a team effot this past week. You see it with the pitching staff and you see it with the position players. It's definitely great to go into, almost, a midseason break."
Drew Strotman (St. Mary's) started Sunday's ballgame for the Big Train and found himself in multiple jams throughout his six shutout innings. Two runners reached base in the first inning, but Strotman forced a groundout to close the inning. In the second inning, Strotman allowed a lead off hit followed by three straight balls to the second batter. He then battled back from a 3-0 count to strike out the Aces hitter and retired the next two.
In the third inning, Strotman made a gold-glove caliber play. Alexandria's Cade Sorrells lined a pitch back up the middle, but Strotman was able to make a no-look behind-the-back catch. That was the first of three incredible defensive efforts for the Big Train.
The second came in the following inning. Strotman found himself in a hole, with runners on first and third base and no outs in the inning. A ground ball was hit to third baseman Allen Smoot (San Francisco). He immediately threw the ball to second to start a double play when second baseman Clayton Daniel (Jacksonville State) noticed the lead runner break for home. Daniel fired the ball to catcher Mike Emodi (Creighton) for the unconventional 5-4-2 double play.
"Clayton's always thinking," Colangelo said. "Everyone's alert and it shows everyone's in the game. If you're not in the game that's not going to happen."
One inning later, a fly ball was hit to left field. Sean Labsan (FAU) hesitated at first, but then charged the ball and made a diving catch for the out.
"Sean's played a great left field," Colangelo said. "[He] had a nice belly-flop in left field. He's doing a job for us and I can thank him enough."
Labsan also helped the Big Train's lone run cross the plate. After Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State) led off the fifth inning with a double, Labsan sacrifice bunted him over to third. Aces pitcher Chesdin Harrington, who allowed five hits in eight innings, was able to strike out Kueber for the second out of the inning. Emodi then knocked a two-out single by Harrington to drive in Esposito.
Stephen Schoch (Appalachian State) relieved Strotman in the seventh inning. He retired all nine batters he faced, picking up the save.
Justin Morris (Maryland) reached base in three of his four plate appearances. The only other Big Train player with two hits was Esposito, who finished 2-for-4.
The Big Train will return to action on July 5th when the team hosts the Herndon Braves.
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