On player family night at Shirley Povich Field, Big Train (24-4) defeated the visiting FCA Braves (12-14), 5-1, behind a strong pitching performance that limited the Braves’ offense throughout the brisk game, which finished in under two and a half hours.
Bethesda’s scoring started in the second inning, when centerfielder Tyler Villaroman (San Francisco) hit a home run to left field, scoring both himself and catcher Jacob Southern (Jacksonville), who had been hit by a pitch earlier in the inning. It would go on to become the game’s winning hit.
Bethesda would tack on another run that inning to go up 3-0 when rightfielder Bryan Diaz (Nova Southeastern) singled to score shortstop AJ Lee (Maryland), who had singled following Villaroman’s home run.
Over the next few innings, Bethesda’s close lead was anchored by the pitching of Alec Burleson (East Carolina), who struck out seven Braves in six innings and allowed just two hits. “[Burleson] had a great pitch count, great command, and had really good stuff,” BIg Train manager Sal Colangelo said. “The changeup was working very well. It kind of set the tone for us.”
In the sixth, the Braves found their only run of the game off of an RBI groundout by second baseman Austin Gauthier. Burleson would leave the mound after that inning with no earned runs allowed for the third time in his four appearances this season. “It felt good on the mound,” Burleson said. “I was throwing a lot of strikes [and] a lot of late active pitches.”
With family members from Pennsylvania and Virginia in attendance for family night, Burleson had an extra reason to perform well on the mound. The two-run margin lasted until the eighth, when Bethesda added two insurance runs. After two leadoff walks, Tyler Villaroman singled to score pinch runner Andrew Shebloski (St. Mary’s (CA)). Jacob Southern later scored from third on a wild pitch to Bryan Diaz.
Righthander Gavin Hinchliffe then entered to pitch the ninth and sealed off the Big Train victory in front of a home crowd of 520. “Any time you can play well in front of host families and families and have everybody come in from all over the country, it’s great,” Colangelo said. “They get to see what Big Train baseball is like, they get to feel the community atmosphere that we’ve built here over the last 20 years.”
Big Train will remain at home on Saturday when it hosts the Baltimore Redbirds for Alumni Night. Bethesda is almost within reach of a Ripken League playoff berth and the South Division title, both of which could be clinched by the end of the weekend.
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