Bethesda stumbles against SOCO in 2-0 defeat

by Ian Deomeika


Despite getting 16 runners on base Monday at the South County High School Athletic Complex, the Bethesda Big Train fell, 2-0, to the Metro SOCO Braves in the second game of a shortened doubleheader.

First, the two sides completed a postponed match from June 8, which was suspended in the bottom of the eighth after a severe rainstorm rolled in. To finish the suspended game off, the Big Train knocked in five runs in the top of the ninth to win 10-3. For the full recap of that game, see Jacob Cheris' story here.

Despite the offensive burst to close out game one, there was only offensive stagnation in the nightcap. Too often Monday night, Bethesda stranded runners on the base paths. 

“We just didn’t hit with runners in scoring position,” Big Train manager Sal Colangelo said. “We got some runners on base, but that’s baseball; you’re not gonna win every game.”

The offensive issues came while Connor Ball (Alabama) and Andrew Johnson (Maryland) delivered strong performances, giving up only two runs over eight innings of work.

Ball started the night and worked six innings with a mix of high-80s heat and a tweaked throwing motion, a change he started crafting at Alabama.

To maximize velocity, Ball dropped to a side-arm release, which allows him to throw all of his pitches from his slider slot. In baseball parlance, it's known as tunneling: creating one arm slot for all pitches. It makes it harder for batters to identify which pitch is coming. Ball then used a four-seam grip from the new release point, which resulted in six swinging strikeouts.

“I tried a new arm slot today,” Ball said. “And my slider was working real nice.”

After carving through the Braves’ lineup in the early innings, Ball got into a jam in the bottom of the sixth after allowing three singles, which resulted in one earned run. But he limited the damage with an inning-ending strikeout to leave two Braves on base.

“Connor Ball did something that you don’t see every day,” Colangelo said, “changed some of his mechanics, and kudos to him.”

Johnson punched out three in relief but gave up one earned run on one hit. The way the Big Train were struggling to find the key hit, that second run felt deflating.

The Big Train (13-3) have struggled to get runners across the plate in the past few games; Bethesda fell to Alexandria on June 25 and left 14 runners on base, making it 30 stranded in the team’s previous two losses.

TJ Rogers (Austin Peay) led the team with two hits, and Garrett Felix (Nicholls State) walked three times, but RBIs from Griffin Boone and Will Pope, who had a three-hit outing, made the difference as the Braves (7-9) did enough to pick up the win.

Bethesda, still 8-2 in its last 10, is halfway through an 11-game stretch that started June 23. With six more to go, Colangelo will look to rotate the lineup to keep legs fresh.

“Stay hydrated, drink fluids, relax and get everything squared away,” Colangelo said. “We’re gonna rest some guys here and there so they stay healthy and ready to go.”

The Big Train travel to face the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts on Tuesday, with the game scheduled to start at 7 p.m.