NORTH ADAMS, Mass.
– Vermont enjoyed eight solid innings from two pitchers before North Adams attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth, but it was too little too late by that point, as the SteepleCats fell, 6-4, to the Mountaineers on Thursday night at Joe Wolfe Field.
After not recording a hit from the third inning until the ninth, the SteepleCats (16-12) reeled off three-consecutive extra-base hits to pull to within two runs after entering the inning trailing by five. But Matt Dearden would enter the game and struck out the final batter he saw to clinch the save, helping the Mountaineers (12-4) snap a two-game skid.
For the 13th-consecutive contest, North Adams’ starting pitcher did not emerge victorious, as Tyler Gebler (Rutgers) fell to 2-3 on the season after surrendering five runs on eight hits over 6 2/3 innings, including two doubles and two solo home runs. The tall righty struck out two and walked two over his outing.
Emerging for the win for the Mountaineers was lefty Richie Ochoa, who had previously not gone longer than 3 1/3 innings in his entire collegiate career. But on Thursday, the southpaw went five strong innings yielding only a run on three hits, striking out two and walking one to improve to 2-1.
From that point on, Matt McCallister kept the SteepleCats mainly at bay, surrendering three runs in the ninth while striking out two and walking three on three hits over 3 2/3 frames. But after finding himself in trouble in the final frame, Dearden was called on to shut the door and did so to preserve the victory.
In total, the Mountaineers hammered seven extra-base hits, including a pair of doubles by John Mishu and solo bombs by Rob Kelly, Austin Green and Greg Partyka, to account for their 11 hits on offense. North Adams, meanwhile, wound up with six hits and a trio of extra-base bombs all coming in the bottom of the ninth – including the first long ball of the year by Tyler Palmer (Miami).
But it was the stretch of nearly six full innings without a hit that the SteepleCats endured that proved to be the difference, as their rally in the ninth just fell short.
North Adams found itself in position to strike in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with nobody out against Ochoa, but the southpaw limited the damage to just one run, as Jeff Roy (URI) crossed the plate in the midst of a double play to give the SteepleCats an early 1-0 lead.
Following a scoreless second, Vermont tied the match off the bat of Partyka, who homered to left to even the game at 1-1. The Mountaineers would take a two-run lead an inning later, as Kelly led off the top of the fourth with another solo homer and Green later scored on a sacrifice fly to lift the visitors to a 3-1 edge after four frames.
The Mountaineers would add on another run in the fifth on back-to-back doubles to take a 4-1 edge before tacking on two more runs later in the game. In the seventh, Logan Pierce drove in a run to add to the lead, and one inning later Green left the yard off left-hander Christian MacDonald (UNC-Wilmington) to run up the visitors’ lead to 6-1.
That would hold all the way until the ninth, when the SteepleCats inched to within two runs. Brett Clements (Nova Southeastern) – who has now reached safely in 20-straight games – started the rally with a one-out double before coming in to score on Palmer two-run jack. Shane O’Connell (URI) then tripled to right center before scoring on a groundout. North Adams pushed the tying run to the plate with two outs, but Dearden ended the rally with a strikeout.
The SteepleCats continue their four-game homestand tomorrow when they welcome Danbury for another Western Division showdown. First pitch from The Joe is set for 6:30 p.m.