The Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts scored early and often Saturday night against the DC Grays at the Nats Academy in Washington. But they had to hold on during a scary eighth inning to claim a 10-9 victory over the DC Grays. The win enabled the Bolts to sweep DC in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Semi-Final Series, 2-0, and move on to the Championship Series for the first time since 2006.
Their Championship series opponents, the Bethesda Big Train, had an easier time Saturday night scoring a CRCBL playoff record 24 runs in a 24-4 win over the Alexandria Aces at Frank Mann Field. The Train also swept, beating Alexandria in two straight.
The first game of the Championship Series is Monday, 7 pm, July 29, at Shirley Povich Field. The second game would be at Blair on Tuesday, July 30, with the same start time of 7. If a third game is needed, that would be played at Shirley on Wednesday, July 31, also at 7.
If the odds makers in Las Vegas were picking this series, they would tilt heavily towards the Big Train which defeated the T-Bolts in seven of the eight meetings between the teams this season. The T-Bolts lone win came at Povich on June 7 when they spanked the Big Train, 13-4. It was the first time the franchise had won at Povich in nearly three years.
The closest the Bolts have come to beating Bethesda since was a 10-7 loss at Blair, Wednesday, July 24. That was a continuation of a game suspended the previous Sunday. Otherwise, the Train rolled over the Bolts by scores of 10-1, 12-0, 8-1, 15-5, 15-11, and 7-1. The Train won all four games at Blair, scoring 50 runs to the Bolts’ 24.
The Bolts seem to save their worst games for the Big Train. The Bolts, who committed 60 errors during the season—for an average of 1.5 a game—committed 19 errors in eight meetings against the Big Train, or 2.62 a game. Also, the Bolts issued 261 free passes during the regular season, an average of 6.86 per game. But in games against the Big Train, the Bolts issued 69 free passes (14 alone on June 11 in a 12-0 loss at Povich) for an average of 8.62 per game.
So clearly, Silver Spring-Takoma has to tighten up its play in the field and limit its walks to have any chance at all against Bethesda. Against the Grays, the Bolts committed four errors and were around their average of six walks per game, walking 12 in all. But nine of those came in the second game against DC. In the first game, Alex Mykut (Millersville) and Luke Rettig (Lehigh) combined for only three walks in the 2-1 victory Friday night at Blair, and closer Tyler Dyball (U of Hawaii), in two innings of work in the two games did not issue any walks at all.
On the offensive side, despite the ten-run outburst on Saturday, the Bolts are hitting .212 in the playoffs. But OF Brady Pearre (High Point) is 4/7 with one home run and two RBIs; OF Cole Freise (Millersville) is 2/4, and both Virginia Tech’s Lucas Donlon (2 HR) and Corey Rosier (Chipola College) are 3/7, each hitting .429. INF Ian McMillan (Houston) is 2/4 with three RBIs which leads the team. And both Pearre and Freise made critical throws from the outfield against the Grays Saturday to cut down runners at the plate and preserve tenuous Bolt leads.
The pitching staff gave up only six earned runs in the two playoff games for an ERA of 3.00 while striking out 17. The Bolts have yet to throw right hander Nick Charleson (Queens University of Charlotte) with his 1-0 record, 3.17 ERA, and 12 strikeouts/4 walks in 11.1 innings pitched.
To date, Head Coach Doug Remer has pushed all the right buttons at the right times and has advanced his team to the Championship Round after first round Semi-Final losses to Bethesda in past seasons.
So while Vegas may favor Bethesda, the games still need to be played on the diamond, and if the Bolts can continue to improve, and save their best baseball for last, it could make for an interesting series.
All games will be broadcast on the T-Bolts Radio Network and Takoma Park City TV will broadcast the Tuesday game from Blair. You can watch live on RCN, Channel 13, HD Channel 1060; Comcast/Xfinity, Channel 13, and Channel 28 on Verizon FIOS.
Julian Baron, Neal Lavon, and Nate Kresh will be on the calls with Justin Jaquis and Clark Boinis producing and working social media.