Big Train top Grays to match best start in team history

by Rekha Leonard

It may not have been a blowout win or a staggering offensive performance, but Bethesda topped the D.C. Grays 2-1 on Friday night to improve to 8-0 in 2018. The win streak matches the longest season-opening streak in team history, which was set in both 2011.

The defensive nature of the game resulted in a speedy contest that wrapped up in just two hours and 11 minutes on Nationals Night at Shirley Povich Field.

The Bethesda pitching staff began a largely dominant night by allowing just one hit over the first four innings. Starter Tuck Tucker (Maryland) and reliever Alec Burleson (East Carolina) combined for four strikeouts and three perfect innings in those first four frames. Burleson continued his work through the seventh, finishing with four no-hit innings in relief.

Relievers Cameron Vassar (James Madison) and Ryan Metz (Virginia Tech) protected the lead over the final two innings. "I thought we had an outstanding pitching performance from all four guys,” Big Train manager Sal Colangelo said. We pounded the zone, we did what we needed to do.”

The game’s deciding runs came in the bottom of the fifth, when, with two outs and third baseman Conor McCormack (Lake-Sumter State) on second base, centerfielder Tyler Villaroman (San Francisco) knocked one over the fence in left-center to give Big Train a 2-0 lead. “[I] just had to put the ball in play,” Villaroman said. “I knew I got solid contact, but I just thought it was a fly ball to be honest.”

Big Train had entered the game averaging over 11 runs per game on the season, so the 2-run output was rather uncharacteristic for this usually heavy-hitting team.

However, it is more than just great hitting that has enabled the team to get off to one of its best starts in history. “[We’ve] got a lot of great young men on this team,” Colangelo said. “Everyone is playing, everyone is contributing, and everyone is doing well.”

The win maintained Bethesda’s three-game lead atop the Cal Ripken League’s South Division ahead of the second-place FCA Braves. The Grays fell to 3-7, and are last in the division.

Up next for Bethesda will be its first doubleheader of 2018, when it travels to Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring on Saturday to take on the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts. The first game will begin at 4:00 p.m. Listen live