In the ninth inning on Sunday night at Shirley Povich Field, Jordan Little (East Carolina) hurled a fastball by Sam Blancato of the D.C. Grays. It was just another one of his fastballs for a strike, but Little looked at catcher Clay Wargo (Louisiana Lafayette) and nodded his head.
It was a signal to keep pounding the fastball. The fastball that has been almost unhittable this season. The fastball that jumps out of his hand at 95 miles per hour. The fastball that gets swings after the ball has touched the catchers mitt.
During the final at bat, a crowd of 474 began clapping with two strikes, giving Little extra adrenaline before heaving a fastball by Max Harper to give the Big Train (16–5) a 3-2 win.
As Harper finished his swing, the hard throwing righty burst out in emotion, yelling up to the sky in triumph and pumping his fist. Pitching in front of his family Sunday night, Little notched his first win of the year, finishing his three shutout innings on a high note.
“I’m just having fun,” he said. “Sometimes my emotions get the best of me in a good way. My family traveled a pretty far distance so it was pretty cool to perform like that in front of them.”
Offensively, it was another night of missed opportunities, but the Big Train took advantage of the Grays' late pitching mistakes to take a lead Little wouldn't relinquish. In the sixth down 2-1, Peyton Schulze (California) doubled and then scored thanks to two balks by Grays pitcher Caleb Causey, allowing Bethesda to tie the game at two.
In the eighth, it was control that was the problem for the squad from the capital. Three walks allowed the Big Train to reclaim the lead, 3-2. DM Jefferson (Notre Dame) drew the game winning free pass with the bases loaded, while Bryce Greenly (Delaware), who had pinch run for Sean Lane (Maryland) after Lane led off the inning with a single, crossed home plate to score the winning run.
Jefferson also got the Big Train on the scoreboard first in the third inning, chopping a single up the middle to score Luke Nowak (East Carolina), who had reached first on an infield single and made it to second on a throwing error by shortstop Brian Depman. Jefferson would finish the game 2-for-3 with two RBIs, getting on base four times. He is now hitting .423 with an OPS of 1.208 in 26 at bats for the season.
“The emphasis in batting practice is focusing on at bat per at bat,” Jefferson said. “We’ve been stressing hitting with runners in scoring position and playing team ball more. We played like there were runners in scoring positon more than just trying to get the big hit.”
The first six innings were the Alabama Crimson Tide show on the mound, as a trio of 'Bama pitchers led the way. First, it was Kade Woods, who made his third, and best appearance, in his comeback from Tommy John Surgery. Woods threw 2 innings, gave up just one hit, and struck out three. Next, it was Brandon Clarke. Clarke is also coming off Tommy John Surgery and while he struggled at first, loading the bases with nobody out in the third, a strikeout and a double play helped him get out of the inning unscathed and he threw two shutout innings.
In the fifth, the third Alabama pitcher in a row, Connor Ball, entered with the Big Train up 1-0. However, the Grays strung together four hits in the innings and scored two runs, one off a wild pitch and the other off a single by Derrick Booker, to take a 2-1 lead.
But Bethesda, once again, fought till the end, never quitting or backing down, allowing the team to notch another comeback win. On head coach Sal Colangelo Appreciation Night, the team earned his 477th career regular season win. In his 17th season as head coach for the Big Train, Colangelo said he's very thankful for the opportunity he’s had to coach the team every summer.
“It’s my second family,” Colangelo said. “Everybody has welcomed me with open arms and they’re very positive. It’s a blessing to be a part of something so great. I’m haing as much fun now as I did 23 years ago.”
Wednesday, the Big Train will be back in action in an exhibition game against the Native American National team at home at 7 p.m. followed on Thursday by a league game against Silver Spring-Takoma.
Additionally, Tuesday is the Cal Ripken Collegiate League all-star game. Nine Big Train players, including Little, will represent the team at Shirley Povich Field Tuesday night.
Game Night Notes: The thunderstorm that interrupted Saturday's Sal Colangelo Appreciation Night celebration did not stop us from honoring our Hall of Fame manager. All fans at Sunday’s game received Sal Colangelo hand fans. In the middle of the third inning, the fans gave Sal a well-deserved standing ovation for his 23rd season with the Big Train… As part of our Fourth of July Big Train Parents Weekend, it was fitting to have as our Community Heroes of the Night, the Rockville-based American Legion Post 86 Henderson-Smith-Edmonds. Commander Rob Hebron threw out a ceremonial first pitch and Teanna Abraham gave a spectacular rendition of the National Anthem... Attendance was 474.
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