The Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts have tapped right hander Nicholas Charleson (Queens University of Charlotte) to start against the Bethesda Big Train tonight in Game One of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series. The Big Train will throw righthander Michael Becthold (James Madison University).
Charleson, a late season addition for the T-Bolts is 1-0 with a 3.17 ERA in three games. He has given up 10 hits and four walks in 11.1 innings while striking out 12. His win came in the last game of the regular season against the FCA Braves at Blair on July 23. The Bolts won that game 7-0, and in six innings, Charleson gave up no runs on four hits, walked one, and struck out seven. He has not faced the Big Train.
He also started the game the Bolts won against the DC Grays at Blair on July 19, 9-7, and allowed four earned runs on five hits in three innings. His 3.17 ERA ranks second on the team behind Zeke Gongola (Montgomery College, Germantown) who has a 3.15 ERA. Charleson’s impressive outing against the Grays cemented his position as a playoff starter and Bolts Head Coach Doug Remer held Charleson out of the Semi-Final series against the Grays perhaps with a start against Bethesda in mind.
His opposite number, Michael Bechtold, has a 3-0 record in six games, and in 18.1 innings, has struck out 17 and walked only six. He appeared against the T-Bolts on June 20 at Povich, getting the win in an 8-1 Train victory. Bechtold went five innings and allowed one run on three hits; he walked one and struck out four.
A week later, he went four innings against the Bolts at Blair and gave up two earned runs on six hits, walking none and striking out four. The Train waltzed in that one, 15-5. Bechtold did not figure in the decision. His other appearance was a brief one inning stint at Blair on Sunday, July 21, when he pitched a scoreless first, retiring three and striking out one. That game was called on account of lightning and was finished on Wednesday, July 24, with the result being a 10-7 Bolts defeat. Bechtold did not pitch in the resumed game.
The two teams enter tonight’s series with vastly different experiences in their Semi-Final rounds. The Big Train pulverized the Alexandria Aces, winning two straight, 11-4. and 24-4.. Since the 24-4 win was not entered in Pointstreak, it’s impossible to get stats for the series for the BT, which may be a blessing, given they probably would be frightening.
The Bolts, on the other hand, had to endure two one-run squeakers against the DC Grays, 2-1, and 10-9. The won the 2-1 game on an infield error in the ninth inning at Blair, and had to endure a five-run eighth inning from the DC Grays that turned a 10-4 cruise into a nail-biting 10-9 torture session. It took a gutsy 3-2 pitch from lefty Bryan Gilliam (UMBC) to Grays DH Joshua Congdon (Wofford College), who was 4-4, to get a ground out with the bases loaded and save the game—and perhaps the season—for the T-Bolts. Tyler Dyball (U of Hawaii) pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to seal the victory.
For the Bolts’ offense, INF/OF Brady Pearre (High Point) is hitting .571 ,4/7, with one home run in the playoffs to lead the T-Bolts. Centerfielder Cole Freise (Milersville) and INF Ian McMillan (Houston) are each batting .500 at 2/4; Lucas Donlon (Va Tech) is at .429 with two home runs; OF Corey Rosier is hitting .286 as a leadoff man and has scored three runs.
On the mound, the staff ERA is 3.00 and has given up just six earned runs in 18 innings. Luke Rettig (Lehigh), Brendan Collins (Radford), Bryan Gilliam (UMBC), and Tyler Dyball have not given up any earned runs. Alex Mykut (Millersville) and Zeke Gongola (Montgomery College, Germantown) have been charged with just one each. Yash Rane (Lehigh) who went 4.1 innings against the Grays in the second game, and got the well-deserved win, was charged with five.
So, the two teams will face off tonight with Bethesda as heavy favorites (according to their own website) with Game Two scheduled at Blair on Tuesday at 7 pm. Game Three, if necessary, will go back to Povich on Wednesday. The Bolts are 1-7 against the Big Train this season, including an 0-4 record at Blair.
But that was then and this is now. The Bolts are battle-tested and will need every ounce of what they squeezed out of themselves in the Grays series to take on the Train and earn success.