Braves Squeak Past Big Train 5-4 in Doubleheader Nightcap

by Jack McGuire



Bethesda, MD -- The Metro SOCO Braves (7-12) snuck past the Bethesda Big Train (15–6) 5-4, splitting the doubleheader between the two teams. The seven-inning contest was messy, and both teams made a combined eight errors. After the game, Bethesda coaches preached the importance of the team staying focused.


“You need to learn how to stay locked in,” pitching coach Craig Lopez said. "They're living and learning too, but if you're going to be here you may as well go out be in tune to it and and stay the course.”


The Big Train fell into an early hole due to poor defense in the first inning. The Braves scored their first run after Lucas Phelps (Florida Atlantic) made a throwing error trying to turn a double play. Starter Jesse Gutierrez (San Jose St.) would have gotten out of the inning unscathed if his defense had turned two in that moment. 


Quinn Madden scored shortly after when Bethesda catcher Clay Wargo (Louisiana Lafayette) made an error trying to throw out Madden stealing third base. JT Landwehr then extended the Braves first inning lead with a softly hit single over Phelps’ head, scoring Travis Illitch, who was hit by a pitch.


However, the Big Train immediately responded in what ended up being a very sloppy inning for both teams. Braves starter Alex Cross walked the first two hitters, the third reached on an error, and then Cross hit Carter Cunningham (East Carolina) with the bases loaded to allow one run and then threw two wild pitches with runners on third, allowing the Big Train to tie the game at three. Ultimately, Cross allowed three runs, four walks and two wild pitches in just two-thirds of an inning.


After the messy first inning, the Big Train began to play better baseball. Bethesda fielders improved behind Gutierrez, who ended his day with four strikeouts and one earned run in three innings pitched. Gutierrez’s resilience impressed the Big Train coaches. 


“[I feel] proud of him the way that he's able to come back. That's huge because he's now on another step of being even better,” Lopez said.


Braves reliever Danny Salisbury also pitched well, holding the Big Train scoreless in the second and third innings, but the Green and White scored off him in the bottom of the fourth. Jack Guerrero (UNC Wilmington) hit a "little league home run" after Braves shortstop AJ Labrusciano and first baseman Katcher Halligan both made throwing errors on the play, enabling Guerrero to round the bases.


The Braves eventually stormed back, though. After loading the bases in the top of the sixth against Green and White reliever Austin Morris (Alabama), the Braves scored two runs and retook the lead after Connor Rasmussen (Tulane) made a throwing error on a softly hit ground ball.    


After taking a 5-4 lead, the Braves did not look back. Salisbury finished off the game for the Braves, giving him an extraordinary relief effort of six and a third innings pitched with five strikeouts and no earned runs. Bethesda had an opportunity to score in the bottom of the seventh, but Rasmussen made a baserunning mistake on a Jacob Orr (Maryland) groundball, and the Braves tagged him out at third for the final out of the game.


The Big Train stays at home tomorrow for a 7 p.m. night game against the Alexandria Aces (15-2). Tomorrow will be Bethesda’s last home game before the team’s 4th of July trip to New England. The team returns home on July 6th to play the Southern Maryland Senators (7-11) at 7 p.m.