In the bottom of the fourth of the Bethesda Big Train’s 3-1 win against the Gaithersburg Giants at Criswell Automotive Field Thursday, Brayden Jones (Ole Miss) started to run off the field before the final out.
The move epitomized Jones’ faith in his defense. And as he neared the dugout, second baseman Warren Holzemer (Virginia Tech) fired a throw to Sean Lane (Maryland) at first base for the inning’s final out.
“I love doing that,” Jones said. “You just gotta believe that your teammates will make the play, and they did that tonight.”
Through five innings, Jones pounded the strike zone, recorded nine punchouts and gave up one run on one hit with three walks. His ERA for the season is 0.59, third best among pitchers in the Ripken League with at least 10 innings.
The only earned run of the night off Jones, who is flying to Omaha, Nebraska, tomorrow to be with his Ole Miss teammates in the College World Series final, came in the bottom of the fifth after he issued a pair of walks and a run scored on a sacrifice fly by Giants catcher Easton LaPlaca.
“Fifth inning when he went out there, he struggled just a little bit, but he pitched through,” Lopez said of Jones. “He grinded through his pitches and allowed his body to do the work; he did an amazing job.”
Jones said he tweaked his slider grip before the game, and the new technique helped the right-hander end the fifth with his final strikeout of the affair.
“I went out there and just improved on what I wanted to work on last week, and that was strikeouts,” Jones said. “And that came with really developing a new slider, which really helped tonight — got a lot of swings and misses.”
But it wasn’t just Jones who carried the Big Train (11-1) Thursday evening; Evan Marcinko (UNC Wilmington) gave the team two innings of scoreless baseball and didn’t allow a hit.
“Something these guys are doing that is really impressive on trying to get their body to do less to get more out of it,” Lopez said of the pitchers. “And then have to make those changes, work in the pen, then come out here live action, sometimes our body and our mind want to resort back to what is comfortable, so they're doing an amazing job working on things.”
And in two innings of relief, Jordan Little (East Carolina) closed the door on a boisterous Giants (7-5) team with five strikeouts and a mid-90s fastball.
“Little is growing too, believe it or not,” Lopez said. “[Having him] was a little bit unfair.”
When Little took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, he had two insurance runs with which to work. An inning earlier, Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) walked and stole second before Peyton Schulze (Long Beach State) pushed him to third with a soft grounder off the mound which Giants' pitcher Robert Lee made a great play on to get Schulze at first. Lane then walked and ball four went to the backstop, allowing Felix to score the go ahead run. Finally, with two outs, Holzemer hit a ball deep in the hole behind third base, which Matt Ryan couldn't field cleanly. It would've been a single regardless, but the misplay allowed Lane to come around for an insurance run.
A comeback for the home side looked possible in the bottom of the ninth when Jeremiah Jenkins opened with a broken-bat bloop single. But Little proceeded to strike out the next three to keep the Green and White firmly atop the league standings.
Luke Nowak (East Carolina) broke up the pitcher's duel in the fifth inning when he singled in Colton Hegwood (Louisiana Tech) — who turned a bunt into a triple after LaPlaca overthrew his first baseman — before Gaithersburg answered with the sac fly off Jones in the bottom of the frame.
The Big Train are now 2-1 against the Giants on the season and have outscored their northern opponents 18-7.
Bethesda has now won seven straight games and heads to Olney Friday night to face the Cropdusters, with the first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.
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