On a night in which Hunter Renfroe’s No. 11 jersey was retired and hung on a light pole high above left field at Shirley Povich Field, the rising Mississippi State University junior put on a show.
The center fielder went 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBI, four runs scored and three walks to lead the Bethesda Big Train to a 19-4 five-inning victory over the visiting Vienna Riverdogs in the teams’ regular season finale.
The victory, which was called in the fifth due to rain, allowed the Big Train (25-16) to clinch the third seed in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League playoffs. Bethesda, the three-time reigning league champion, is scheduled to host the sixth-seeded Youse’s Orioles at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the opening round.
“I’ve never had a number retired so this is really special,” said Refroe, who was honored in a pregame ceremony with a surprise visit from his parents. He is finishing up his second summer in the wooden bat league. The highly touted prospect is expected to be selected in next year’s Major League Baseball draft and not return to Bethesda. “I never thought anything this neat could happen. The whole experience of coming up here for the summer and bonding with these guys is something I’ll never forget.”
With the playoffs set to begin this weekend, the Big Train may be peaking at the right time. Its offense dominated a trio of Riverdogs (23-18) pitchers as it produced four runs in the bottom of the first, four in the second, six in the third, a pair in the fourth and three in the fifth. Bethesda sent at least seven batters to the plate in every inning en route to recording 21 hits.
Big Train starting pitcher Robbie Kidd (Tennessee) struggled with his control and hit consecutive batters in the head during the top of the second. He lasted just 1.1 innings while allowing three earned runs, two walks and two hits. Reliever Brock Larson (San Francisco) pitched 3.2 scoreless innings and surrendered one hit.
In the bottom of the second, Renfroe blasted a hanging curve ball over the left field fence for his league record 16th home run of the summer.
“Everything is just clicking and coming together,” said Renfroe, a Mississippi native that is hitting .366 with 52 RBI in just 36 games this summer. “This league is a great opportunity with a lot of talent. The wood bats are obviously a lot different than the [aluminum] bats. It’s good for pro scouts to be able to watch you in this type of environment.”
Pitcher Hugh Adams, a senior at Florida Atlantic and the son of Big Train co-founder Bruce Adams, also suited up for his final regular season game and had his No. 40 retired on the right field wall.
The Montgomery County native grew up playing for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Baseball club and attended St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C. He was a bat boy for the Big Train during its inaugural 1999 season and became the youngest Big Train player in history as a 16-year old high school sophomore.
“It has been a lot of fun,” Adams said. “It’s been a little weird being around for [14 years], but … it’s also been cool growing up around the team. The team has really steadily developed into a place that attracts talent and is a big part of the Bethesda community.”