In a clash of undefeated teams Sunday afternoon, the Bethesda Big Train fell to the Gaithersburg Giants, 6-3, at Shirley Povich Field.
Celebrating the First Annual Clarence “Pint” Isreal Juneteenth Classic in honor of Montgomery County’s greatest Negro League player, Bethesda never led after the opening frame in its first loss of the season.
“We don't come in expecting to go undefeated in this league,” associate head coach Galvin Morris said. “We want to be playing our best baseball towards the end of the season. Good teams respond after losses, so we'll see what kind of team we are come Tuesday.”
A night after walking off against the Alexandria Aces, the Big Train (4-1) ran out of late-game heroics, putting just one runner on base — a walk in the ninth — in their final 10 at-bats.
Aside from the first inning, where sophomore first baseman Sean Lane (Maryland) plated junior left fielder Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) with a long sacrifice fly, the Giants (4-0) managed to stay ahead for the rest of the affair.
Trailing 3-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, Bethesda scored twice only to give up two runs the next half-inning. Four runs in the middle innings — including a solo home run by Dylan Wilkinson, who had a two-RBI day — effectively ended any hope of a comeback for the Big Train.
Other than sophomore shortstop Emilien Pitre (Kentucky), who is 7-for-14 with two RBIs, and sophomore third baseman Peyton Schulze (Long Beach State), 5-for-16, the offense has suffered from early-season doldrums at the plate. The Giants out-hit the Big Train 10-4 Sunday afternoon.
“It's about making adjustments,” Morris said of improving offensively. “It's gonna come; we're gonna get hot. Like I said, it’s still early.”
The team’s pitching, which has been stellar, also struggled against Gaithersburg, allowing the most runs of the season.
Big Train sophomore pitcher Brandon Clarke (Alabama) walked the first two batters in his second start of the year, but a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play pacified what started as a chaotic frame.
Clarke threw 31 pitches in two innings and is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome; he pitched in the preseason, on June 8 and Sunday.
“It felt great,” Clarke said of his outing. “It's nice getting back out here after taking a year off from surgery, finally getting my first three outings under my belt.”
The Virginia native worked his off-speed stuff against the Giants, coasting through two scoreless innings with two strikeouts after the pair of walks. For Clarke, summer ball is an opportunity to work his way back into form.
“I spun a couple of curveballs, which was big for me because I haven't been throwing curveballs a lot lately,” Clarke said. “I probably spun about four there that was pretty good, and I threw a couple good changeups, so I was happy today.”
But after Clarke sparkled through the first and second, the trio of junior Luke Baker, sophomore Evan Marcinko (UNC Wilmington) and sophomore Nicholas Del Prado (Florida Atlantic) struggled and gave up six.
There’s still a lot of baseball left to play, and Morris knows that what matters in early June is the willingness to keep fighting.
“Guys never quit,” Morris said of the players. “They’re right there till the end, until the last out. As long as they stay with the grind until the game's over, we’ll be good.”
The Big Train return to Povich Field Tuesday to take on the Metro SOCO Braves at 7 p.m.
Game Notes: Sunday was the First Annual Clarence "Pint" Isreal Juneteenth Classic to honor Montgomery County's Black sandlots and Montgomery County's greatest Negro Leagues player, "Pint" Isreal... We set a Big Train record with 17 first pitches during the pre-game ceremony... Joe Yasharoff announced the 2022 Class of the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame, including Clarence "Pint" Isreal... Big Train Board members Bill Hickman, who nominated Mr. Isreal for the Hall of Fame, and Billy Gordon, who was mentored by him, joined Mr. Isreal's grandson Khali Isreal in honoring "Pint"... Emory Grove native and 13-year Major Leaguer Milt Thompson joined the parade of first pitches... Former Scotland Eagle Eddie Dove represented the former players of Montgomery County's Black sandlots... Our partners from Montgomery Parks and Montgomery County included County Executive Marc Elrich, Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz and Hans Riemer, Montgomery Parks Director Mike Riley, Montgomery Parks Police Chief Darryl McSwain, and Montgomery County Policy Chief Marcus Jones... Representatives of Juneteenth Classic sponsors Westfield Montgomery (Zeina Davis), Blair Family Foundation (David Blair), and National Center for Children and Families (Sheryl Brissett Chapman) also tossed out first pitches... NAACP President Linda Plummer represented our Community Heroes of the Game and Big Train Founder Bruce Adams presented President Plummer with an individual Community Hero award... Sarah Motley-Coleman of Imojae's Soul Food prepared 250 picnic lunches prior to the 2 p.m. game start... Recent Northwood High School graduate and ACT-SO competitor Connie Watts performed magnificent renditions of the Negro National Anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" followed by the National Anthem... She was accompanied by an honor guard from Montgomery County Policy and Montgomery Parks Policy... The League of Women Voters distributed its 2022 Primary Election Voters Guidea and fans were given copies of Heritage Montgomery's African American Heritage: Crossroads & Culture brochure and map... The Big Train raffle raised $150 to support the Big Train's community service initiatives... Attendance was 626.
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