Early offensive surge secures third consecutive win for Big Train

by Rekha Leonard

Landon Franklin hitting a home run (Esther Frances)


ROCKVILLE, Md. — The Bethesda Big Train surged early on Saturday to beat the Cropdusters, 8-5. The Big Train scored all of its runs in the first three innings and relied on its pitching staff to secure the victory.

Sam Mitchell (Alabama) got the start and pitched four scoreless innings, allowing only one hit. While Mitchell locked down the Cropdusters’ bats, the Big Train bats got to work. 

In the first inning, the Big Train capitalized on free bases to take an early 2-0 lead. Another walk and error to start the second inning put a runner in scoring position for newcomer third baseman Justin Nadeau (Jacksonville). Nadeau recorded the first hit of the game with an RBI single, part of his two-hit debut game.

Justin Nadeau (Esther Frances)

The third inning started with more of the same as the Big Train put two runners on with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. Shortstop Landon Franklin (Kentucky) made the Cropdusters pay for those baserunners, blasting a three-run homer high and deep over the left-field fence.

“It was a changeup, and I knew I got it pretty good,” Franklin said. “I was just hoping it would carry out. That swing felt really good.”

Franklin’s bomb cleared the bases, but not for long. Catcher Cole Constable (Quinnipiac) immediately followed with a single, and another error and walk loaded the bases for the Big Train. Left fielder Jaden Bastian (Jacksonville) drove in two more runs with a single, extending the Big Train lead to 8-0.

With a substantial run cushion, the Big Train pitchers rose to the occasion to clinch the game, pushing through adversity to earn the win. The Cropdusters made a comeback attempt in the eighth inning, but reliever Max Martzolf (Florida Atlantic) showcased his resiliency, notching two strikeouts to leave the bases loaded.

Jonathan Stevens (Alabama) entered to close out the game in the ninth inning with the Big Train holding onto a three-run lead. 

“He's been a dog all year for us,” Franklin said. “He's a guy who's gonna fill up the zone. When I saw him coming out here for the ninth, I was like ‘this game’s over.’”

Jonathan Stevens (Esther Frances)

Stevens set down the side in order, striking out two. As the crowd clapped in anticipation of the final strike, Stevens was planning how he wanted to beat his final batter.

“I just wanted to beat him with the fastball,” Stevens said. “I just wanted to end the game on a fastball because that would be fun. I started him off with two slow sliders, so I wanted to beat him with something in and hard.”

Stevens’ final fastball got the Cropduster batter to strike out swinging and secured the Big Train’s 8-5 win. The Big Train is on a three-game win streak and is back home Sunday night to face the Alexandria Aces with first pitch at 7 p.m.

Notes: On Saturday night, 464 fans attended a game that lasted three hours and two minutes.… It was Coach Craig Lopez Appreciation Night, and all in attendance received a Coach Lopez hand fan presented by Text Design. Coach Lopez threw out a ceremonial first pitch.… It was also The Art of Baseball Night. In partnership with the Montgomery Art Association (MAA), local artists created their inspired impressions of the spirit, essence, and energy of Big Train baseball. MMA President Jennifer Barlow and artist Craig English threw first pitches.… Daria Cervantes from The Arc Montgomery County with designated pitcher Julian Gonzalez and Sandy Limjuco from Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland represented the community heroes and threw out first pitches.… The night was sponsored by Gregorio’s Trattoria, and Adrian Rodriguez threw a first pitch.… It was player family weekend, and the moms threw first pitches to their sons. Birthday boy Kolby Cox also threw a first pitch.

            Coach Lopez (Esther Frances)                                       Big Train moms (Mark Thalman)