Big Train and Redbirds named 2018 Ripken League co-champions

Bethesda Big Train vs. Baltimore RedbirdsBETHESDA — After the Bethesda Big Train’s victory of Game One of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series on Saturday, and the Baltimore Redbirds won Game Two on Sunday, Game Three between the two teams was to be played at Shirley Povich Field Monday night to determine the winners of the League Championship Series.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans, as rain forced Game Three to be canceled, and the Redbirds and Big Train were named 2018 LCS co-champions.

It’s the first time since the league’s inaugural season in 2005 where two teams have been named co-champions, the same two teams who have met in the Championship Series 10 years in a row.

“They played for the championship,” said Bethesda manager Sal Colangelo on his opponents. “They deserve it as much as we deserve it. They’re a quality organization. They play hard.”

The Big Train won the last two titles in 2016 and 2017, but Colangelo doesn’t think of it as “two-and-a-half” consecutive titles.

“What matters is these kids got better on both teams,” he said. “What matters is that they met friends and friendships that are going to last forever, and that’s really the most important thing.”

Bethesda’s Alec Burleson and Baltimore’s Carl Gindl settled the LCS Most Valuable Player award with a little game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, which Burleson won and was awarded the 2018 MVP trophy.

“Just put a little fun into it,” Burleson chuckled. “Had one good game to help the team win in Game One. I wish we could’ve played Game Three. It would’ve been a dogfight. Would’ve been fun, but it is what it is. Just take it how it is.”

In Game One, Burleson went 4-for-5 at the plate. One of those four hits was the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to lift the Big Train to a 9-8 victory.

Burleson finished this season with a .400 batting average in the LCS. In the regular season, he batted .383 and hit 44 RBIs, 10 home runs, and 12 doubles.

“It was fun doing it,” Burleson said. “I did it for my teammates. They helped me relax and just go up to the plate. Knowing that they could do it when I was off, that just helped me a lot throughout the season.”

“His ability on the field speaks for itself,” Colangelo said, “and most importantly comes from a great university, he comes from a great family, and he’s a great kid. You put all those things together, equals success.”

Meanwhile, Gindl came through for the Redbirds with a bases-clearing triple in the second inning of Game Two, which turned out to be the difference in the LCS considering Game Three had to be canceled.

“This team has been just a blast to be around,” Gindl said. “The guys have been great. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life.”

First-year manager Tom Eller led the Redbirds to yet another LCS, but also wishes the winner-take-all game had been played.

“I would’ve rather played a good game and lost, than be a co-champ,” he said. “But it gives credit where credit’s due. The players played a great season, a great series. Bethesda had a great year as well, obviously. It’s bittersweet.”



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