Big Train Move On To League Championship With 15-7 Win Over Cropdusters

by Jack McGuire



Rockville, MD – The Bethesda Big Train punched their ticket to the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series with a 15-7 win over Cropdusters Baseball an all-or-nothing game three. The Big Train may have won, but their coaching staff acknowledged their opponent's great season.


“Hats off to the Cropdusters in their second year in existence,” said Big Train Manager Sal Colangelo. “It's been a long summer but they played really hard. Unfortunately, in life there's a winner there's a loser, but a lot of credit to them and their organization”


Everything went wrong for the Big Train in the top of the first inning. The Cropdusters took an early 5-0 lead after scoring through almost every method conceivable: a walk, a balk, a Big Train error, a wild pitch and a single. Ultimately, the Cropdusters knocked out Big Train starter Patrick Galle (Ole Miss) before he could close out the frame. It looked bleak. If the Ripken League had a win expectancy number, the Big Train's number would've been low.


The Green and White were not going to go away quietly, though. In the bottom of the second, the Big Train got back on the tracks and began an avalanche with a three-run rally that began with two outs. Connor Rasmussen (Tulane) singled and came home on a passed ball to score the Big Train’s first run. Soon after, Dixon Williams (East Carolina) hit an RBI single to score Casey Bishop (Towson) and eventually scored by stealing home off Cropdusters starter Justin Woodbury. Williams instinctively knew he would be safe at home.


“I was like I'm just gonna go,” Williams said. 


In the bottom of the third, Bethesda came all the way back to tie the game. With the bases loaded and two outs, Dixon Williams hit a ground ball in between first and second. Cropdusters first baseman Jimmy Kirk made a diving play to corral the ball, but Williams hustled to reach first with a head-first dive. Jack Guerrero (James Madison) scored from third while Jason Schiavone (James Madison), who started the play on second, never stopped running and tied the game. Williams came up limp after beating out the hit but remained in the game. 


After Galle's difficult start, Skyler Hutto (Alabama) did a fantastic job for the Big Train out of the bullpen. Hutto did not allow a run in four and a third innings pitched and struck out five Cropdusters. 


“Skyler came in and kept us in the game, so they wouldn’t add, add, add where we were catching up,” Colangelo said. 


In the top of the sixth, Gavin Jones (Alabama) came in relief of Hutto. Jones struggled with his command, walking two batters and allowing the Cropdusters to take a 7-6 lead when Taye Robinson scored on a wild pitch.


But again, the Green and White stormed back, scoring five runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. After Williams got his fourth hit of the game, Dean Toigo (Oregon) hit a 356-foot moonshot to right center, putting the Big Train back on top, 7-6. Toigo’s home run was his third in the past week. Jacob Orr (Maryland) and Connor Rasmussen (Tulane) followed the blast up with run scoring singles to extend the Big Train lead to 10-6. 


The Cropdusters wouldn't go quietly. In the bottom of the seventh, Robinson hit an RBI single to make the score 10-7. An inning later, the Cropdusters threatened, putting runners on the corners with two outs, but left fielder Orr robbed Cropdusters catcher Jack Cannizzaro of a game tying homer with a leaping catch at the wall in left field to keep the Big Train in front. 


In the bottom of the eighth, the Big Train extended their lead by five runs to take a commanding 15-7 lead. The big swing was Williams' grand slam, his fifth hit of the day. Overall, Williams finished his day by reaching base six times, driving in seven runs and stealing two bases. Williams attributes his success to keeping a simple approach at the plate.


“I'm just up there, and I'm hitting one pitch and I get it,” Williams said. “I don't want to miss it because sometimes you might get that pitch again.”


With the Cropdusters in the rearview mirror, the Big Train turn their attention to the League Championship Series and the Alexandria Aces, the league's number one seed. The Aces and Big Train are battling for the league championship for the third straight season, with this being the rubber match. The Big Train swept the Aces in 2021 while the Aces returned the favor to win their first Ripken League title in 2022. 


The third chapter of a matchup being dubbed "The Trilogy" begins on Wednesday, July 26, at 6:30 p.m. at Frank Mann Field in Alexandria. The Big Train return home for game two of the series on Thursday, and if needed, the teams will play game three of in Alexandria on Friday.


While the season may have been up-and-down for Bethesda, they are where they want to be with a real chance at another title at the end. It's hard to ask for anything less.