– Alex Haines continued his pitching dominance, and the Vermont Mountaineers tacked on two early runs before storms in the area forced an early stop to the contest, as the North Adams SteepleCats fell, 2-0, in a six-inning showdown in New England Collegiate Baseball (NECBL) Western Division action on Tuesday night at Montpelier Recreation Field.
The SteepleCats (18-14) had runners in scoring position in the fourth and sixth innings – including a runner at third with one out – but Haines used a season-best 10 strikeouts to lead the Mountaineers (14-16) to victory.
Haines, who lowered his league-leading ERA to 0.51 by virtue of the decision, was brilliant in winning his fifth game of the season (5-1), as the Mountaineer offense struck for two timely run-scoring base hits to help the home side edge by Charlie Law (Rutgers), who fell to 1-3 on the year.
Both sides finished with five hits apiece, while the Mountaineers committed the only error of the game and stranded only two base runners. North Adams, meanwhile, stranded four en route to dropping both sides’ six match of the year, as Vermont evened the eight-game season series at 3-3.
The Mountaineers struck first in the bottom of the second, as Austin Green led things off with a single through the left side of the infield. After a wild pitch moved him to second and a groundout advanced him to third, Green came in to score on an RBI single off a hard-hit laser through the right side by Ryan Karl, giving the home side an early 1-0 edge.
Vermont struck again in the bottom of the third to double its cushion, as Chris Cook led off the frame with a double down the right field line. Two batters later, Rob Kelly converted with two outs on an RBI single to left, driving in his league-leading 35th run in the process to put the Mountaineers a 2-0 lead.
The SteepleCats put two runners on in the top of the fourth against Haines, but the Stinson southpaw recorded three-straight strikeouts to get out of the jam. After Shane Klemcke (UT-Pan American), who finished the game with three of North Adams’ five hits, blasted his third single of the game and got all the way to third on an error in right, North Adams had another opportunity to strike with a man at third and one out in the sixth, but Haines again went to work with back-to-back K’s to get out of the jam and preserve his shutout.
With a runner at first in the bottom of the sixth, the game entered a lightning delay as stormy weather returned to the area. That delay proved to be the deciding factor, as lightning continued to light up the sky before the game was eventually called at 9:10 p.m.
The SteepleCats and Mountaineers complete the second leg of a home-and-home series when Vermont makes the return trip tomorrow, July 18, as North Adams returns to Joe Wolfe Field for a home a tilt set for 6:30 p.m.