Split: Big Train Narrowly Miss Sweep of Double-header

by Staff

Entering Friday night, the D.C. Grays and Bethesda Big Train had met three times on the season. The Big Train had scored two wins against the Grays' one. Leaving the double-header, though, both teams have added a tally in the win column, with Bethesda taking the first game, but D.C. rallying to win the nightcahp. The Big Train are now 3-2 against the Grays on the season.

For the Grays, the MVP of the double-header had to be Austin Deming (BYU). In the Grays' win in game two, Deming practically did it all as he cracked two home runs, totaled all four RBIs for the Grays prior to extra innings, and tossed two scoreless innings of relief. Anyways, let's see how both games went down.

GAME ONE FINAL:Big Train 9, Grays 2

In this game, the Big Train pitching was top-notch and the batters were swinging for the fences--and everywhere short of the fences, too.

Here's a look at some key performers: Jacob Southern (Jacksonville) had a two-run homer in his first plate appearance, setting the table for an offensive explosion. He also tallied two walks, and his season stats at the end of the game landed him among league leaders with four homers (T-1st) and 19 RBIs (1st). Kobe Kato (Arizona) added a pair of hits in three at-bats as well as a walk and steal (11). Kato's batting average at the end of the night closed at .545, keeping his chances at a historic season intact.

Jacob McCarvel (California Baptist) threw five innings and allowed no runs, keeping his ERA for the season at an impressive 0.00. That, of course, has him with the league lead. Gio Diaz (St. Mary's CA) stole three bases in the game too. His stolen base total now sits at 18, good for first on in the league.

In what was an all-around effort by the Big Train, the team handled the Grays 9-2 in the first game. The Grays were scoreless through five, at which point Bethesda had already scored all nine of their runs.

It wasn't the closest game; however, the second game was the polar opposite of that. Let's look at how it went down.

GAME TWO FINAL:Grays 5, Big Train 4 (8 innings)

The Big Train versus Grays game two was an exciting game that got a little emotional for the players. The dugout roared with energy when several key plays flipped and flopped the balance of the game.

Bethesda raced off to a fast start with a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Given that both parties knew how the last game had just transpired, things seemed iffy out of the gate for the Grays, as Bethesda had all the early momentum. Darius Foster (San Francisco) crossed on an error, and Diaz later scored on a Matt Thomas (William & Mary) sac fly.

Then, in the second inning, Austin Deming changed the tide of the game. He hit a home run that cut the Big Train's lead in half and dented their momentum. Next time up, he stepped to the plate with two runners on in the third inning and two outs. At the time, the Big Train were up 2-1. Deming, of course, hit his second home run of the night, giving the Grays their first lead of the night at 4-2.

Bethesda's odds dampened. However, channeling the spirit that all teams who can truly call themselves winners always seem to, the Big Train couldn't be counted out of this one. They made several valiant efforts to overcome the deficit that ultimately came up just a little short.

In the fourth inning, Martin Vincelli-Simard (Sacramento State) crushed a home run, bringing the game back to within one run. Following three walks for FosterDiaz, and KatoSouthern approached the plate, down one, with the bases loaded. This seemed like the Big Train's chance to take the lead. Southern solidly connected on the perfect pitch to crank out of the park, but it fell just short and was caught on the warning track of deep right center field, ending the inning.

The sixth inning was a wild one, as Big Train swung momentum back in their favor. In the top of the sixth, Kato singled in Christian Jayne (East Carolina) to knot things up 4-4. But the bottom of the inning was substantially more important. The Grays had two men on with no outs when manager Sal Colangelo decided on a pitching change. The change proved timely as reliever Elliot Zoellner (Maryland) entered the game and held the Grays hitless and scoreless the rest of that key inning.

"I was thinking to myself: get a ground ball, get two--ended up throwing a passed ball unfortunately," Zoellner said of working out of the second-and-third jam. "But I had great feelings behind me, executing pitches, trusted in my stuff, trusted in my teammates, and got great results. That's all it was."

Zoellner also pitched the seventh inning and again allowed no runs or hits, keeping momentum on Bethesda's side. The seventh and eighth inning, before the Bethesda gave up the fatal run, were especially tragic for the Big Train. In both scenarios, with the bases loaded in the seventh and a man on first and third in the eighth, nearly freak double plays ended the Big Train's hopes.

In the seventh, Jayne hit a hard groundball right back at the pitcher that he easily flipped to home and then first for the double play. The pitcher easily could have missed it given that it was hit pretty hard, but he didn't, and it killed the inning.

In the eighth, the play was even less fortunate for Bethesda. With runners on the corners, Southern hit a line drive above the first baseman's head, but the Grays defender leaped and caught it while, at the same time, landing on first base to retire Kato as well in an unlikely unassisted double play to end the frame. The Grays then walked it off with a bases loaded single to left in the bottom of the inning. 

Losing the second game was tragic for the Big Train, who have yet to sweep a double-header this season. 

On what it means to the team to play in doubleheaders, Zoellner said, "It's just like systems. We do everything: we stick to our routine, our preparation. Really not much has changed - we're just locked in on winning, and you know, we split today, but we always want to win and that's what we're focusing on."

The Big Train are back in action in yet another double-header Saturday in Gaithersburg to face off with the Giants. Game one will start at 4:30 p.m.