After a slow start to the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League season, it seems the Bethesda Big Train has finally found the right track. Since starting the season 3-9, Big Train has won four straight games after losing four straight to creep closer to .500 with a 7-9 record, including 2-2 against their rivals the Express and Thunderbolts.
Meanwhile, the Rockville Express continues to prove that they are in it for the long haul as they stand in first place with a 12-5 record and a 3-1 record against their county counterparts. The team put together a 10-game winning streak, including five one-run victories, from June 11-June 22 after starting the season 2-3 but have dropped their last two games to the Southern Maryland Nationals and the Vienna River Dogs.
The Silver Spring-Tacoma Thunderbolts, on the other hand, have struggled recently and are hoping to change their bottom-feeding ways. After starting the season with a 5-3 record, the T-Bolts have dropped seven of eight games to stand-alone in last place at 6-10, 1-3 against the Big Train and Express.
Bethesda Big Train
The Big Train struggled mightily to start the season but have since turned things around. A lot of that has to do with Hunter Renfroe, MoCoVox’s CRCBL Player of the Week. The Mississippi State center fielder dominated the league last week and has the stats to prove it. He batted .381 with three homers and nine RBIs in the past five games, four of which were Big Train victories. In only 11 games this season, Renfroe is slugging .821 with five homers, a .500 on-base percentage, and 15 RBI, good for first, first, fourth, and fourth in the league, respectively.
Still, Bethesda has a ways to go before they are considered the Big Train of old. They stand ninth out of 10 teams in batting average (.260), seventh in hits (143), second in strikeouts (136) and are eighth in sacrifice hits (3) and sacrifice flies (5), all of which are signs that the team has left too many men on base. On the other hand, the Big Train has climbed to third in the league in runs scored (115) and their pitching staff has improved tremendously in the last week and currently stand in the middle of the league in most pitching statistics.
As long as the Big Train continues to show that they can live up to their expectations, expect them to be near the top of the league as the season progresses.
The Express have done nothing but continue to win games. A team that has traditionally finished around .500 in the league, the Express are 12-5 and don’t seem to be slowing down behind their high-powered offense. Led by their corner infielders, Wilmington University third baseman Josh Hampton and Palm Beach Atlantic College first baseman Johnny Cole, the Express are first in hits (190), stolen bases (43), and walks (95) and second in runs scored (122), doubles (44), triples (8), runs batted in (107), total bases (271), batting average (.309), OPS (.853), and on-base percentage (.412).
Cole is seventh in the league in batting average (.371) and second in runs batted in (21), with eight of those coming in the last week of play while Hampton is in the top five in each of the triple crown categories, sitting at third in bating average (.375), tied for third in homeruns (3), and tied for fifth in runs batted in (14).
Their offense is dominant but their pitching has been just about average despite being second in the league in team earned run average (4.70 per game) and opponents batting average (.258). They lead the league in innings pitched (155), seven innings more than the next team, walks allowed (90), and are second in batters faces (706), but have only allowed a league leading five homeruns and are fourth in strikeouts (124).
If the express can get more consistent pitching and their offense can continue to be at the top of the league, expect the Express to be in the hunt for the league title.
Silver Spring-Tacoma Thunderbolts
The T-Bolts may have the worst record in the league but lead all county teams in attendance per game, pulling in 162 people per home game at Blair High School. But their performance on the field has made a turn for the worst after a pretty good start to the season. Despite being third in the league in hits (164) and second in homers (15), the T-Bolts are batting a mediocre .276 and their pitching has allowed the most runs (130) and hits (189) while a league-leading 713 batters are hitting .303 against T-Bolts pitchers, second worst in the league.
Keystone College third baseman Chris Bzozowski has been the team’s most consistent player and perhaps the league’s most consistent as well. Hitting safely in all 15 games this summer, Bzozowski is third in the league in batting average (.412), first in hits (28), third in doubles (6), tied for fourth in homeruns (2) and has 10 hits in his last 20 at-bats. Former Good Counsel standout Jake Taylor is tied with Big Train’s Renfroe with five homeruns but is only batting .213 and is tied for fourth in the league in strikeouts (19). As the team’s clean-up batter, Taylor will need to improve if the T-Bolts are going to turn their season around.
If their pitching does not show signs of improvement, don’t expect the T-Bolts to be a legitimate contender for the CRCBL title.
By Tim Schwartz