Big Train defeats Aces, 9-8, in extra-inning thriller

by Rekha Leonard

Davin Whitaker (Esther Frances)


ROCKVILLE, MD. — The Bethesda Big Train overcame an early 6-0 deficit and capped off the dramatic comeback with a walk-ff, 9-8, win in the 11th inning on Sunday against the Alexandria Aces. Two home runs and a clutch late pitching performance from Jonathan Stevens (Alabama) secured the victory.

“That’s been our identity all year,” outfielder Davin Whitaker (East Carolina) said. “We might not throw the first punch, but we're gonna get back up, and we're just going to keep plugging away each and every inning. This team has so much heart, and we don't give up at all.”

After the Aces took a 6-0 lead in the first three innings, the Big Train needed a spark. With two outs in the bottom of the third, first baseman Emilio Gonzalez (Florida Atlantic) landed the Big Train’s first punch, launching a two-run homer to right.

The Aces regained their six-run lead, scoring two in the fifth inning, but the Big Train refused to go down without a fight. In the sixth inning, right fielder Josh Skowronski (Winthrop) entered as a pinch hitter and gave the Aces déjà vu, sending another two-run shot to center.

“I just tried to stay inside the ball,” Skowronski said. “It was an inside pitch actually, and then I just got the barrel to it and hit it to center field.”

Josh Skowronski (Esther Frances)

The Big Train bats continued their resurgence in the seventh inning. Gonzalez added on to his impressive three-hit day, smacking an RBI single that led to an Aces error and two more runs for the Big Train. 

Trailing 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth, the Big Train still refused to surrender. With the bases loaded, Whitaker grounded into an RBI fielder’s choice and left runners on the corners with one out for catcher Luke Vaughn (Alabama). With a deep sacrifice fly, Vaughn plated the tying run, sending the game into extras.

Extra innings became a pitcher’s duel, and the 10th inning was a stalemate. The Aces started making moves in the 11th inning, though, loading the bases on Stevens with no outs. Stevens didn’t let up, winning the battle by freezing three straight batters with swinging strikeouts to leave the runners stranded.

“We got into a jam, bases loaded, but his demeanor didn't change one bit,” Whitaker said. “I think that's huge as a pitcher just sitting the next three guys down just doing the job the right way.”

Stevens gave the Big Train batters a prime opportunity for a walk off, and they embraced it. Whitaker got himself into scoring position with a grounder into the gap that died in shallow center, allowing him to speed to second base.

“I saw the ball land dead standstill in center field, and you get me to second base, a hit scores me, so I pushed the envelope there,” Whitaker said. “Good things happen whenever you just hustle.”

Whitaker’s hustle paid off big time as he advanced to third on an error and ultimately scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly from Skowronski. The dugout cleared, mobbing Skowronski in the outfield, a fitting celebration to mark the Big Train’s four-game win streak — the longest of the season — and first victory over the league-leading Aces this season.

The Big Train is on the road Monday to face the Gaithersburg Giants with first pitch at 7 p.m.


Notes: On Sunday night, 599 fans attended an extra-inning game that lasted three hours and 25 minutes.… It was Bobblehead Trading Night with Springnecks, and Tony Zaccaria threw a ceremonial first pitch.… It was also Owen Lieber Bobblehead Night, and Owen threw a first pitch.… Montgomery County Little League was the youth team of the night, and Evan Morris threw a first pitch.… PetConnect Rescue was the community hero of the night, and Jackson Schwartz threw a first pitch.

Owen Lieber preparing for his ceremonial first pitch (Esther Frances)