– Four different players launched home runs, and Keene quickly responded from an early two-run deficit, pounding out 16 hits en route to a 12-2 victory over visiting North Adams in a Western Division showdown on Thursday evening at Alumni Field.
One night after mustering only two hits but still managing to pick up the victory, the Swamp Bats (11-4) became the first team in the league to reach 11 victories and edged further in front of the SteepleCats (10-7) in the Western Division, as North Adams dropped two games back of first and fell for the second-straight day at Alumni Field.
Tyler Gebler (Rutgers) was held responsible for the defeat after lasting four innings and yielding five runs on 11 hits. The right-hander also finished with three strikeouts and no walks. Scott Simon, meanwhile, secured the win with 5 2/3 effective innings, yielding no earned runs (two total) while striking out five and walking three and working around four hits.
Brian Hunter (Hartford) relieved Gebler and had made his way through two scoreless innings before surrendering five runs in the seventh inning. Bubba Baroniel (Nova Southeastern) also saw time, surrendering a three-run homer before retiring the final four batters he faced, finishing with three strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings.
Both teams wasted little time before putting up runs in the early goings Thursday night, as the SteepleCats scratched in two runs in the top of the first before Keene responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning.
Jeff Roy (URI) started the game with a soft grounder back to the mound, but a fielding miscue allowed him to hustle out a three-base error to start the game. Moments later, Sheehan Planas-Arteaga (Barry) drove Roy home on a groundout to give the ‘Cats the early lead. Before the inning ended, Esteban Tresgallo (Miami) drove a base hit through the infield to score Charlie Law (Rutgers) from second, making it 2-0 North Adams after a half inning.
But Keene answered in the end of the first, as Nelson Ward doubled to lead it off and scored on an RBI groundout by Grant Kay to cut the deficit to 2-1. One inning later, Frankie Schwindel launched a solo home run that just escaped the outfield boundaries in left center field, tying the game at 2-all heading to the third.
The Swamp Bats went ahead by three runs after Ward led off the third with a double off the left field wall and eventually scored on an error. Two batters later, Jared Walsh – whose three-run home run proved to be the difference last night – went yard again, launching a two-run jack to center, upping the edge to 5-2 for the home side.
Keene added one more on a solo homer, as Ward teed off in the top of the fourth to stretch the lead to 6-2. After two scoreless innings, Cameron O’Brien plated another pair with a two-out, two-RBI double, and JP Sportman knocked in another to stretch the lead to 9-2 in the bottom of the seventh.
But after a potential inning-ending pop fly in the infield fell untouched, Kay made the SteepleCats pay with a three-run homer, furthering the Swamp Bat’s already-comfortable lead to 10 runs, as the home side pushed ahead, 12-2, after seven innings.
The SteepleCats conclude their three-game road trip tomorrow evening with a trip to Holyoke in another Western Division showdown. First pitch at MacKenzie Stadium is set for 6:30 p.m.