In another low-scoring affair at Shirley Povich Field Thursday night, the Bethesda Big Train defeated the Cropdusters, 3-2, in front of a sold-out crowd.
Cropdusters left fielder Ben Piripavel made history in the top of the ninth, smacking the first home run in club history — it’s the Cropdusters’ inaugural season — off Big Train junior pitcher Nicholas Del Prado (Florida Atlantic). The solo shot cut the lead to one, but Del Prado fired off a 1-2-3 stretch to pick up the save.
After watching Piripavel round the bases, Del Prado retired the next three batters in 10 pitches.
“I just settled in, tried to get ahead and stay ahead,” Del Prado said of his mindset after giving up the run. “I felt good; I just missed that spot and made sure not to miss again.”
It helped that the Big Train (2-0) had three runs on the board, scoring in the first, fifth and eighth.
“Our guys showed a lot tonight,” Big Train manager Sal Colangelo said. “The pitchers did a great job of limiting the walks and not getting behind. The most important thing that I liked was how our guys fought through tonight.”
Sophomore third basemen Peyton Schulze (Long Beach State), the walk-off hero of opening night, got the scoring started in the first; after junior left fielder Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) worked a leadoff walk and sophomore shortstop Emilien Pitre (Kentucky), who went 3-for-4, singled through the left side, Schulze sent a deep shot to right, and Felix beat the throw home on the sac fly.
Needing some insurance in the middle frames, sophomore catcher Jason Schiavone (James Madison), Felix and Pitre went single, walk, single to load the bases in the fifth before Cropdusters pitcher Nate Vermillion fanned the next two batters. But in the sixth at-bat of the inning, Vermillion hit junior center fielder Trey Winget (St. Mary's) in the leg, which forced in Schiavone.
The Cropdusters (0-2) made it 2-1 in the top of the sixth with a sacrifice fly, but the Big Train reestablished the two-score advantage in an ugly, error-filled eighth.
Bethesda was again carried by its pitching Thursday, which helped avenge a 6-0 defeat to the Cropdusters in the preseason. Through three games and 26 innings — Wednesday’s game was suspended in the eighth inning due to inclement weather — the Big Train have 43 strikeouts.
“It’s one of the better pitching staffs we’ve had,” Colangelo said. “We just have to keep getting better every day and put them out there and work with them and see where the chips fall.”
With height — only one of 20 rostered pitchers is under six feet tall — and a healthy mix of pitches, the Big Train have dominated on the mound.
But while the pitching has been electric, the team has been inconsistent at the plate. Bethesda hasn’t had trouble making contact, logging 26 hits, but scoring has proved difficult.
“Our strike approach needs to be better,” Colangelo said. “We need to go up there with the approach at the plate with runners in scoring position that isn’t tentative. We’re very tentative and not very aggressive. When we fix that, more runs will come.”
The Big Train travel to the nation’s capital Friday for a meeting with the D.C. Grays. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Game Notes: Our Community Heroes of the Night -- the faculty and staff of Wood Acres Elementary School - were joined by students and parents to pack Povich Field in an end-of-year celebration honoring retiring principal Marita Sherburne. Wood Acres's super organizers Joanne Faber and Laura Swanzey set a single game Big Train record for a single organization bringing fans to a game at Povich. Wood Acres music teacher Gianne McNeil led 40 fourth graders in singing the National Anthem... Thanks to our game night sponsors Johns Hopkins Medicine and Koa Sports... Thanks to Cancer Action Network and NIH Blood Bank for making us smarter about public health on Caring for our Community Night... The Big Train raffle raised $115 to support the Big Train's community service initiatives... Attendance was 712.
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