WASHINGTON D.C.-- The last time manager Sal Colangelo entered the D.C. Grays home field at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, he was speaking to Sacramento State head coach Reggie Christiansen about having 2016 Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League MVP Vinny Esposito (Sacramento State) return to the Big Train.
During that conversation, Christiansen mentioned another player that Colangelo should obtain for the 2017 summer season that had lifted the Hornets to an NCAA Tournament appearance by leading the team in doubles, RBI and co-leading in home runs.
Coming off a Western Athletic Conference All-Tournament team honor, Colangelo invited James Outman (Sacramento State) to be a part of the 2017 Big Train team.
“He said, ‘I got a guy, he’s going to be a great player. You’re going to want him,’” Colangelo said of the conversation. “Anytime coach Reggie recommends somebody, you know that he’s a good player and he works hard. It was that easy.”
After hammering three home runs and driving in seven runs in the WAC Tournament, Outman went a combined 1-for-8 at the plate in Sacramento State’s two losses in the NCAA Tournament. While the Redwood City, Calif. native did more enough to guide the Hornets to postseason play, he was motivated to improve himself to help advance Sacramento State even farther.
The goal of getting back to the NCAA Tournament and doing better than this past season is a motivating factor for Outman in his approach to summer baseball, he said.
“I was talking to my coach last night and our goal is to win a (NCAA) Regional. We haven’t done that before,” Outman said. “That’s definitely been a big motivation for me and for Vinny to come back (to Bethesda) and be able to perform for the Hornets (next season).”
Using the motivation once again, Outman made a critical defensive play in the top of the first inning after the Grays took an early 3-1 lead. The 6 foot 3 inch right fielder prevented a Grays’ home run by knocking a ball back onto the field to turn the play into a double, resulting in the next batter flying out to Outman to end the first inning without further damage.
Despite being down by two runs, Outman was kept his poise and turned his focus to his offensive weapon.
“I wasn’t really saying anything,” Outman said. “The game was still early. It wasn’t that big of a lead. It was only a 2-run lead and we’ve been down by more and came back. Nobody was stressed out or anything. We still had good energy and knew we were going to come back.”
As the fourth inning begun, the Big Train quickly turned the tables with their swings. Logan Driscoll (George Mason) came up with his third home run of the season on a 2-0 count to cut Bethesda’s deficit in half.
Two pitches later, Outman missiled a middle fastball over the school across the street from right field to shift momentum with the tying run. Outman “beat the pitcher” in the top of the fifth inning, blasting a changeup for his second home run of the day to score Jacob Koos (Stetson) from third and give the Big Train the two-run lead in the top of the fifth inning.
Feeding off the CRCBL league leader in batting average and home runs performance, the Big Train capped off their extended road trip with a 5-1 record after defeating the Grays by four runs.
“We got down early, but I think this team does a really good job of keeping the same mindset regardless of the score,” Zach Jancarski (Maryland), who added a 2-run insurance single in the top of the sixth, said. “Those two guys kind of sparked us and once we were tied there like that, it was just a matter of time before we took the lead and held it down for the rest of the game.
“Credit to those guys. They got us going today and we wouldn’t of been in (the game) if not for either of them.”
With seven home runs in just 15 games, Outman is on pace to break Hunter Renfroe’s 2012 record, needing just 10 more home runs with 22 regular season games remaining. Outman is also on pace to break Adam Barry’s .414 batting average record, hitting .456 in 15 games.
As Outman continues showcasing his hot offensive spark, Colangelo said that the Sacramento State product has shown similarities to the current San Diego Padres’ outfielder.
“They’re very similar, only difference is one swings from the right and one swings from the left,” Colangelo said. “Hunter had a little bit more raw power from gap to gap, but James is getting there. James is going to be a great player, he’s going to be a top round (Major League) draft pick and he’s going to be phenomenal the rest of the season.”
The Big Train return to Shirley Povich Field for a three-game homestand, beginning on Saturday with the Baltimore Redbirds at 7 p.m.
Check out the game highlights on our YouTube Channel!
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