The past 14 months have been anything but easy for Kade Woods. The University of Alabama pitcher has spent more than a year rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, which cost him his first years in Tuscaloosa.
But on Thursday night against the D.C. Grays, Woods took the mound at Shirley Povich Field for the first time in over 400 days as the Big Train steamrolled their opponents en route to a 12-0 win that ended in the seventh inning, per league rules.
With family members in the stands, Woods got his predetermined 15 pitches in his return to baseball. And with those 15 pitches, he struck out two.
“Surreal,” Woods said of his first set of pitches back from injury. “For a moment, I thought I was gonna pitch for Bama but had some things come up. This was the 14th month, so it was just a lot of emotions, but I just had to stay calm. I’m glad I got to have the experience here.”
His replacement, Brayden Jones (Ole Miss), who came in and gave the Green and White 4.1 strong innings with three strikeouts and no earned runs, marveled at Woods’ return to the field.
“It's special to watch a guy go through a lot of months of treatment of coming back and ready to throw,” Jones said of Woods. “He came out there and did his thing, and it was really special to watch him do that.”
Manager Sal Colangelo said after the game that the goal is to give Woods 30 pitches in his next start before looking to extended appearances.
It was a when-it-rains-it-pours kind of night for the Big Train (7-1). Grays pitcher Tyler Allen carved through Bethesda’s first five batters, allowing just one hit, which was erased in a double play. But something in the air changed when the sixth batter, Baylor Cobb (Louisiana Tech), stepped into the box.
A night after collecting his first hit of the season, Cobb yanked a two-out, first-pitch fastball to deep right for the Big Train's first home run at Povich Field this season. The shot gave Cobb one of his two RBIs and helped the Big Train to an early 1-0 lead.
“I went in there ready to ambush a fastball, and he delivered it to me first pitch,” Cobb said. "So I was making sure I wasn’t gonna be late and partied out front and caught it. It's been a long time since I’ve hit a home run, and I actually kind of blacked out there until I touched third and then I was like, ‘well, might as well touch home now.’ ”
Despite a slow start, Cobb’s bench boss knew everything would click as long as he kept swinging the bat.
“A blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while, but he's a coachable kid,” Colangelo said of Cobb. “He's had really good at-bats, it's just that he didn't play a lot this spring. It was just a matter of time. I couldn't be any happier for him and looking forward to see his growth.”
The Big Train seem to have put a slow offensive start behind them. After collecting 10 hits in their three games before Wednesday night's game in Silver Spring, Bethesda’s offense has a combined 29 in its last two. Against the Grays (2-7), seven of nine batters recorded at least one hit, Peyton Schulze (Long Beach State) led the way with four hits and two RBIs. Schulze is now batting .429 with eight RBIs in seven games.
Garrett Felix (Nicholls State), Cobb and Jason Schiavone (James Madison) each collected two hits on the night.
The Big Train punched in four runs in the third, two in the fourth, three in the sixth and the final two in the seventh to invoke the called game based on an uneven score.
“We were really streaky early on — we'd get two hits there, wait a couple minutes, get two more hits but nothing really happened," Cobb said. "Tonight, we just kind of built our momentum and kept going. And they kind of deflated on the mound and just kept giving it to us.”
Aside from a bases-loaded jam in the top of the fifth, D.C. failed to generate anything on the basepaths; five hits begot zero runs in a forgettable evening for the visiting team.
With the Gaithersburg Giants falling to 6-2 after a loss to the Cropdusters, Bethesda now sits alone atop the Cal Ripken Collegiate Summer Baseball League. The winning culture surrounding the most decorated team in league history stems from the family atmosphere cultivated by the players and coaching staff.
“We enjoy being out here with each other,” Colangelo said. “We're gonna play for each other, we're a family. They represent their universities, they represent their families and they represent the Big Train.”
Thursday brings a trip to Olney where the Big Train will meet the Cropdusters at 7 p.m.
Game Night Notes: The Orioles Bird highlighted Thursday night’s entertainment, participating in the first pitch ceremony, musical chairs, a dance off with Big Train mascots Homer and Bunt, and the mascot race. Homer invited the Bird to join his summer reading club… All young fans received a “Slide Into a Good Book!” bookmark thanks to Print One of Bethesda (www.print1.com). Print One and the Big Train join in encouraging all students to sign up for the Monotgomery County Public Libraries' 2022 Summer Reading Challenge… To sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge, please click here. Two dozen young Big Train fans did pledge to sign up for the Summer Reading Challenge during the game and each received a book by Fred Bowen or Mark Shriver… Because of threatening weather, Bowen’s appearance was moved to our game on Sunday, June 19…W e encourage you to read Bowen's June 8 article for KidsPost, Need a break from MLB? Check out collegiate summer baseball … The Montgomery County Little League Yankees and Nationals held pre-game picnics and were introduced by position to run on the field with the Big Train players for the National Anthem… Maryland Delegate Jared Solomon hosted a pre-game picnic and tossed out a ceremonial first pitch… Our Community Heroes of the Night were from Leveling the Playing Field (www.levelingtheplayingfield.org) and Open Door Sports (www.opendoorsports.org)… Copies of the June 15-21 Potomac Almanac featuring Big Train baseball were distributed... Attendance was 394.
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