TOWSON — After suffering defeat Saturday in Game One of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League’s Championship Series, the Baltimore Redbirds bounced back in Game Two Sunday at Calvert Hall to beat the Bethesda Big Train 3-1, setting up a winner-take-all Game Three on Monday at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda.
For most of the game, Baltimore Redbirds pitcher William Fleming had kept the Bethesda Big Train’s offense at bay. With his pitch count climbing and Fox Semones stealing second after a leadoff single in the top of the seventh inning, the Big Train had another golden chance to rally from a 3-1 deficit.
Only once again, Fleming avoided the jam, this time with some help from his defense. The Big Train’s Tyler Villaroman fouled off a 2-2 pitch to the right of first base, causing Redbirds first baseman Joe Zirolli to drift further and further into foul territory. Zirolli made an over-the-shoulder catch, and Semones decided to tag up and try to advance to third. Zirolli fired a strike to third base, throwing out Semones to preserve the lead.
“We know there’s no quit in those guys, they’re going to fight until the last out,” Big Train assistant coach Galvin Morris said of Baltimore. “Tomorrow is all for the marbles.”
While the two teams combined for 39 runs in the previous two games, the Redbirds needed just one hit to get all the offense they needed. With two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, Carl Gindl’s slapped a hard-hit groundball was just out of the reach of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball skidded down the right-field line, and all three runs scored before Gindl dove headfirst into third with a triple.
It was one of Gindl’s game-high four hits, but the leftfielder made a contribution just as important with his arm. In the top of the fourth inning, the Big Train scored their first run of the game on a Jacob Westerman sacrifice fly and had runners on first and second with two outs. Bethesda shortstop AJ Lee hit a single into shallow left field, and Justin Wylie was rounding third and heading home as Gindl stepped into his throw, a laser from leftfield that beat Wylie by a step.
“The guy made a good throw,” Morris said. “It’s early in the ball game you just have to take those chances. That’s baseball.”
Defense like that as well as good pitches in high-leverage situations allowed Fleming to pitch out of jams, which meant missed opportunities for the Big Train. Bethesda recorded 11 hits and left 11 runners on base. The Big Train had one last chance at a rally in the top of the ninth after a one-out double by Lee, but the following two batters couldn’t capitalize with the tying run at the plate.
“Our approach is fine, we’re not going to change anything there,” Morris said about his team’s hitting. “These guys are seeing it well. We just have to clean up a few things as far as on the base paths, being a little over aggressive.”
Fleming scattered 10 hits across seven innings of work, and Bethesda pitcher Carlos Lomeli had a similar performance allowing seven hits over six innings with seven strikeouts. However, Fleming allowed all singles, while Lomeli allowed the triple in the second that proved to be the difference.
“The big thing is he threw strikes,” Redbirds head coach Tom Eller said of Fleming. “I think a lot of guys kind of nip the corners, but he just went right at them.”
With a win tomorrow, the Big Train would win their third straight Ripken League title and seventh overall, while the Redbirds would win their fifth Ripken League title with the same result.
“It’s going to be a roller coaster of emotions, but it’s going to be fun,” Lomeli said.