SILVER SPRING – After the first two innings, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was going to be a Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts blowout win against the Bethesda Big Train on July 1.
With the score 7-0 by the end of the second inning, it looked like an uncharacteristically bad night for Bethesda.
But inning after inning of slowly collecting runs and a prosperous eighth inning, it became Bethesda’s game after a depleted Silver Spring-Takoma team ran out of gas. The Big Train fought back to win a huge road game, defeating their county rivals 15-11.
“I know a lot of teams lose guys, but we’ve lost a lot of guys in the past couple of days,” said Silver Spring-Takoma Head Coach Doug Remer. “We are in a tough position right now. It’s a little frustrating; we have the guys that can do it, but we don’t have many arms at this point.”
Slightly past the midpoint of the season, teams now have to make the best of their resources. Remer said he is in a bind, trying to stay competitive as the team navigates a short roster and injuries, as well as the need to rest pitchers.
Center field proved to be the Achilles’ heel of both teams starting in the first inning. Hits to center field proved difficult for both teams to defend against and commonly resulted in outfielders fumbling hopelessly for the ball.
Silver Spring-Takoma infielder Ian McMillan hit a triple to center field with two runners on base to bring home both catcher Luke Trainer and infielder Cade Swisher in the first inning. Catcher Tyler Murray hit a single right after, to bring home McMillan and end the inning up by three.
Bethesda was scrambling for the rest of the game following a devastating hit by Murray in the second inning. Two singles and a walk by Silver Spring-Takoma loaded the bases, and Murray connected with an inside-the-park grand slam that brought everyone home, widening the lead to 7-0 in the second inning with one of the rarest hits in baseball.
“Lately, we’ve been up and down, really inconsistent. But today I feel like it was a turning point for us, especially offensively, so it’s looking good down the road,” said Murray.
On the comeback path, Bethesda scored their first three runs in the third inning. With the bases loaded, a double by outfielder Tate Soderstrom brought home catcher Martin Vincelli-Simard, outfielder Christian Jayne and infielder Kobe Kato. Bethesda kept Silver Spring-Takoma scoreless in the third inning, closing the early scoring gap and ending hopes of a Silver Spring-Takoma shutout win.
“I knew my team was going to get back into it, keep it close; I just tried to keep it in. Once we got ahead, just keep the lead,” said Bethesda pitcher Tyler Naumann. Naumann pitched for five innings, and was put in the third inning to replace pitcher Nathan Schneider after he allowed the first seven runs.
Drawing ever closer to a tie game, if not to take the lead, Jayne hit a triple, and catcher Cade Hunter scored a run. Infielder Gio Diaz fired off a single, and Jayne scored the fifth run for Bethesda, narrowing Silver Spring-Takoma’s lead to a manageable two runs in the fourth inning.
Silver Spring-Takoma would not make it easy for Bethesda; it extended the lead by four runs again when infielder Daulton Martin hit a double which drove in McMillan and Murray for two more points in the fourth inning.
A single by infielder Keith Torres III brought home outfielder Drew Hamrock for Bethesda, but Silver Spring-Takoma responded with two runs, courtesy of a McMillan double to widen their lead to five runs at the end of the fifth inning.
A scoreless sixth and seventh inning put the game to a complacent lull, and no one could have expect the onslaught of runs that Bethesda would create to finally give them the lead, and a hefty one at that.
A single by Diaz brought home Vincelli-Simard for the first run of the eighth inning, but the game-changing hit was an out-of-the-park home run by Kato, which scored three runs and cut down Silver Spring-Takoma’s lead to one. Hunter smacked in a triple that scored two more runs followed by Vincelli-Simard’s single, Jayne’s double and a sacrificial out by Diaz each brought in one run, to finally put Bethesda up 15-11.
“It felt good to flip the switch for the whole game,” said Kato. “We were dragging the whole game. It all turned around in the eighth inning; it felt good.”