Two weeks ago, Bethesda Big Train Manager Derek Hacopian told outfielder Jason Graham that if he wanted to be in the lineup every day, he had to prove he belonged. Graham proved himself yesterday in Game 2 of the best-of-three Clark C. Griffith Collegiate Baseball League second-place playoffs at Annapolis High School.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder from Central Florida went 3 for 4 with a double, two home runs and four RBI, and Big Train held off Southern Maryland, 8-5, to win the series and advance to the National Amateur Baseball Federation College Division World Series, Aug. 5-10 in Dorsey, Md.
Arlington, the league champion, will compete in the All American Amateur Baseball Association (AAABA) regional tournament in Aston, Pa. The top three teams advance to the AAABA World Series in Johnstown, Pa.
"Going into the season, of course we wanted to go to Johnstown," said Hacopian, whose team improved to 25-14. "But this is our first year and it's a learning process. . . . For us to get to this tournament and beat a tough team like Southern Maryland, that says a lot. We're real happy."
Southern Maryland led 4-2 after seven innings, but Bethesda sent eight batters to the plate in the eighth and scored four runs on five hits including Chad Oliva's three-run home run to left-center.
Southern Maryland cut the lead to 6-5 in the bottom of the eighth, as Dave Mason singled and scored on a double steal with Larry York. But Bethesda reliever P.J. Martinez (Landon) retired two of the next three batters, and Big Train added two more runs in the ninth on two hits and two walks. Cheyne Griswold and Oliva walked and Graham ripped a two-run double off the fence in left-center.
"My goal every game is try to prove that I deserve to be out there," said Graham, who hit one home run during the regular season but had three in the best-of-three playoffs.
Southern Maryland had an excellent chance to tie or win in the bottom of the ninth.
The Battlecats loaded the bases with no outs, but Jim Cooney got Mason to hit into a double play and retired Jeremy Plexico on a grounder back to the mound to earn his second save of the season.