Aces Hand Big Train First Defeat of Season, Win 12-5

by Jack McGuire

Bethesda, MD – In a rematch of the last two Cal Ripken Sr. League Championship series, the Alexandria Aces (2-0) defeated the Bethesda Big Train (3-1) 12-5. Thomas Lamar earned the win for the Aces, and Max Martzolf took the loss in Bethesda’s first defeat of the season
This game marked the seventh straight loss for the Big Train against the Aces, but the Big Train coaching staff is not concerned with the unfortunate trend.
“It’s different teams, different players. It’s all part of the process and the journey,” pitching coach Craig Lopez said. “Tonight, anything that happens in a game is an opportunity for us to learn and grow.”
Drew Lafferty (Kentucky) started the game for the Big Train and pitched three scoreless innings, striking out two and only allowing one hit. However, while warming up in the top of the fourth, Lafferty threw a pitch completely off course and left the game with an apparent arm injury. Ryan Kennedy (Virginia Tech) came in to replace him. 
Kennedy, pitching in an uncomfortable situation and having had an abbreviated warmup, struggled in relief. The Aces immediately loaded the bases in the top of the fourth and scored the first two runs of the game after Casey Bishop (Towson) misplayed a ground ball at short. The Aces extended their lead to 3-0 after left fielder Evan Sines drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. 
The Aces bullpen could not preserve the lead, though. The Green and White stormed back in the bottom of the fifth after the Aces pulled starter Ryan Reich, who pitched four dominant innings and struck out eight, for Sam Belliveau. Jeffery Heard (Sacramento State) started the scoring when he drove in John Long (UNC) with an RBI double. The Big Train then tied the game at three after Aces shortstop Cory Taylor made a fielding error, allowing Bishop to score, and Jack Guerrero (UNC Wilmington) earned a bases-loaded walk to plate Heard. The Big Train’s scoring continued in the sixth inning as Long scored and Heard himself came home on a balk by Aces reliever Henry Hulquist.
Partially thanks to two impressive, scoreless innings from Jack Robinson (Roanoke), the Big Train maintained their lead heading into the eighth. But, Alexandria exploded for nine runs in the top of the inning to turn the tide and take what would be an insurmountable 12-5 lead. The pivotal play came with Aces designated hitter Amari Allen at the plate and the bases loaded. Allen laced a single to left field that got past Heard, allowing all three runners to score. Taylor, Gavin Miller, and Matt Ossenfort also added run-scoring hits in the inning. It was one of those stretches where every ball the Aces put in play seemed to find a hole.
After retaking the lead, Aces reliever Thomas Lamar pitched two hitless innings to secure the team’s come-from-behind victory. 
Bethesda’s loss did not come from a lack of offensive opportunities. The team left 13 runners on base and hit .200 with runners in scoring position. Yet, even with the loss, the Big Train coaching staff is not overreacting to early season woes that pop up in one game.
“Losing always stings a little bit, but you know you are a good team, and the players we have, they’ll respond,” Lopez said. “It's just the way it went tonight. It's baseball, you know.”
The Big Train will look to rebound from their loss Thursday as they play the Gaithersburg Giants at home at 7 p.m.