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Summer Collegiate | Story | 9/27/2021

Ripken League Top Prospect List

Peter Harding     
Photo: Grayson Hitt (Alabama Athletics Photography)
Summer Collegiate Top Prospect Index

Year Established: 2005
States Represented: Maryland, Virginia, Washington D.C.
No. of Teams: 6
Regular Season Champion (best overall record): Bethesda Big Train (27-8)
Postseason Champion: Bethesda Big Train
No. 1 Prospect, 2019: Ben Jordan, RHP, Gaithersburg Giants
First 2019 Player Selected, 2021 Draft: Chase Lee, RHP, Bethesda Big Train, (Alabama; Rangers/6th Round)
Player of the Year: Matt Thomas, Bethesda Big Train (College of William & Mary)
Pitcher of the Year: Kieran Garner, Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts (UMBC)

Picking off right where they left off prior to the 2020 summer season getting canceled, the Bethesda Big Train captured their fifth-consecutive CRCBL championship. Rolling through the regular season with a 27-8 record, winning the regular season title by seven games, the Train didn’t stop as they swept the DC Grays in the LCS semifinals and would later sweep the Alexandria Aces during the League Championship Series. This year’s title would be the ninth overall Cal Ripken League title for the Big Train, the most in league history since it began in 2005, all under skipper Sal Colangelo, who remains to field one of the best summer teams in the Mid-Atlantic year in and year out. With five hitters in the top-10 in batting average and eight total that hit above .300, the Big Train certainly enjoyed a good summer at the plate, collectively hitting .305 with 35 home runs total.

Two local DMV products would take home CRCBL honors at the conclusion of the season. Big Train outfielder and Virginia native Matt Thomas would take home Offensive Player of the Year as Maryland-native and Silver Spring-Takoma ace Kieran Garner was named Pitcher of the Year. Thomas found himself near the top of every statistical category in his second stint with the Big Train as he was a foundational piece as Bethesda defended its title. Garner led the league in strikeouts with 54, earning a 3-0 record with a sub-2.00 ERA.

The powerful Big Train offense would continue to steamroll pitching as they were paced from powerful cleanup man Kemp Alderman, as the Ole Miss Rebel would hit .429 going 6-for-14 with 4 RBI and a home run during the League Championship Series, taking home the LCS Most Outstanding Player award. During game two of the LCS, Josh Grosz would turn in a spectacular outing for his squad helping them clinch the title, going 6 shutout innings punching out 9, before handing the ball over to his teammate Ryan Daugherty, who would finish off the shutout as the California native would go 3 innings, striking out four of the 10 batters he faced, blanking the Alexandria Aces 4-0.

Bethesda’s continued success goes beyond the trophy case, the two lone 2019 CRCBL alums to get drafted in this past years draft were Big Train players. Kobe Kato, who had one of the best offensive years in the CRCBL, and Chase Lee were both selected in the 2021 MLB Draft. The Texas Rangers would pick up Lee in the sixth round, with Kato going to the Astros in the 13th round. The Train already had their first 2021 member catch on with a professional organization as Austin Gauthier signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. During his 24 games in Bethesda this past summer, the recent Hofstra University graduate hit .279 with four home runs and 24 RBI before taking his talents out west.

Top 20 Prospects

1. Grayson Hitt, LHP, Bethesda (Alabama/2023 eligible)

2. Nolan Schanuel, INF/UTL, Bethesda (FAU/2023)

3. Kemp Alderman, UTL/RHP, Bethesda (Ole Miss/2023)

4. Bobby Zmarzlak, OF, Alexandria (Maryland/2022)

5. Blake Burkhalter, RHP, Alexandria (Auburn/2022)

6. Rocco Peppi, INF, Bethesda (Long Beach State/2023)

7. Jack Cone, OF/RHP, Bethesda (William and Mary/2022)

8. Scott Bandura, OF, D.C. (Princeton/2023)

9. Matt Thomas, OF, Bethesda (William and Mary/2022)

10. Matthew Bedford, RHP, Bethesda (Notre Dame/2023)

11. Cooper Vest, LHP/OF, D.C. (BYU/2023)

12. Mark Kattula, INF, Alexandria (Eastern Michigan/2023)

13. Grant Knipp, C, Bethesda (Campbell/2023)

14. John Armstrong*, RHP, Alexandria (Auburn/2023)

15. Josh Willitts, RHP, Silver Spring-Takoma (Richmond/2023)

16. Kieran Garner, RHP, Silver Spring-Takoma (UMBC/2022)

17. Darius Foster, OF, Bethesda (San Francisco/2022)

18. Trevor Doyle, OF, Bethesda (Sacramento State/2022)

19. Stephen Rice, INF, Silver Spring-Takoma (Salisbury/2022)

20. Garrett Farquhar, INF, Alexandria (Auburn/2022)

*incoming freshman

Scouting reports on Top 10 for subscribers. 

1. Grayson Hitt, LHP, Bethesda Big Train (Alabama, 2023 eligible)
One of the best arms to play under skipper Coach Sal Colangelo in recent memory, Grayson Hitt put together an outstanding summer on the mound as the Big Train’s ace. Following a tough freshman campaign in Tuscaloosa with a 10.80 ERA in 18 1/3 innings of work, Hitt would make 5 starts for the Train during the regular season with 1 relief appearance, compiling a 4-0 record and 39 strikeouts in 22 innings. Highlighted by a tremendous outing on June 25, the Tennessee native struck out 10 Alexandria Aces in only 4 innings of work. That outing is a precursor to what Colangelo believes will come from the lefty. With a mid-90s fastball, getting up to 98 mph during his summer outside the nation’s capital, Hitt mowed down hitters with an elite arsenal that included a plus-plus curveball. A projectable lefty with an exciting upside, Hitt garnered comparison to former Stetson standout Logan Gilbert, who pitched for the Big Train in 2016, as a potential early-round selection in the 2023 draft.

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