In order to dethrone the three-time defending champion Bethesda Big Train, the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts knew they had to play a near-perfect game.
They did just that in Game 1 of the League Championship Series, as Nicholas Charleson tossed seven shutout innings and the Thunderbolts’ offense put together a complete performance in a 9-0 win.
After an uneventful first inning, the Thunderbolts broke their scoreless drought against Big Train starter Michael Bechtold in the second. Ian McMillan hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Cole Friese and picking up his fourth RBI of the postseason.
Friese scored again in the fourth, as Lucas Donlon roped a one-out double down the left field line to extend the Thunderbolts’ lead to 2-0.
Silver Spring-Takoma continued their steady offensive performance in the fifth. Tony Gallo, who had been quiet in two playoff games after a MVP-caliber regular season, broke through with a two-out RBI single, plating Daulton Martin.
Bechtold’s night would end after five innings. He gave up three runs and four hits while striking out five, but he did not get much help from the Bethesda offense.
That was not an issue for the Thunderbolts and Nicholas Charleson. He pitched seven effective innings, working around five walks and stranding six runners while inducing weak contact most of the night.
Silver Spring-Takoma’s offense stayed hot in the sixth, putting together a four-run inning to give Charleson some insurance.
Donlon got the train rolling by cranking a one-out solo home run off Tyler Naumann, his third in the last two games.
Naumann recorded a second out before the Thunderbolts tacked on three more runs. Martin drove in McMillan with a two-out single to left-center, and Brady Pearre lashed a two RBI double off the left field wall to put Silver Spring-Takoma up 7-0.
Charleson, meanwhile, continued to dominate, picking up his only 1-2-3 inning of the game in the seventh. He departed after that, allowing just two hits and striking out three while picking up his second win of the season.
Silver Spring-Takoma continued to tack on runs in the ninth, as Friese drew a bases-loaded walk and Donlon hit a sacrifice fly to give the Thunderbolts a 9-0 lead.
Bethesda’s offense continued to struggle after Charleson left, as Pearre and Bradyn Kail each tossed a scoreless inning to seal the victory.
The Thunderbolts will look to keep their momentum going Tuesday night in Game 2 against the Big Train as they seek to close out the series at home.
Open this thread to see interviews with Nicholas Charleson and Lucas Donlon: