– Down by a run, 5-4, in the top of the ninth inning, the North Adams SteepleCats rallied with a run to even the match at 5-all, but Grant Kay smashed his eighth homer of the year to help the Keene Swamp Bats walk off with a dramatic 6-5 victory in New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) Western Division action on Tuesday night at Alumni Field.
Now losers of two straight, the SteepleCats (19-17) fell to 2-5 on the season series against the Swamp Bats (24-11) and fell short in their attempt to win in extras against Keene for the second-straight game.
After trailing by a run from the fourth inning on, Adrian English (Barry) led off the top of the ninth with a single before being replaced by Julian Santos (Miami) as a pinch runner. Following a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice, Jeff Roy (URI) came to bat with a runner at third and two outs. He promptly grounded one toward the left side and benefitted from a costly error that allowed the ‘Cats to tie the game.
But Kay would not take long to answer in the bottom half of the inning, crushing the second pitch he saw to deep left much to the delight of the 1,050 in attendance while snapping Keene’s five-game losing streak.
Nick Narodowy (URI) took the start for the SteepleCats and recorded a no decision after finishing with four earned runs allowed over 3.2 innings, striking out three and walking two in that span.
Keene lefty Joe Pistorese, making his first start in 10 days, lasted only 2.2 innings, allowing four runs – all of them on homers – while striking out five and walking three.
Swamp Bat reliever Rob Rogers wound up with the win despite surrendering the tying run, albeit unearned, on a hit, while Tom Bammann (Dowling) took the loss after surrendering the decisive homer.
The home side saw a boost from the bottom of the lineup, as the last four in the order compiled seven of the 11 hits for the Swamp Bats, but it was Kay and Nelson Ward who provided the most offense with two homers – including a three-run blast by the latter.
North Adams produced seven hits – two of which produced four runs – as Shane Klemcke (UT-Pan American) and Shane O’Connell (URI) each pounded two-run homers to help the SteepleCats take an early 4-0 lead that proved to be short-lived.
The SteepleCats exploded for four runs in the top of the fourth bolstered by a pair of two-run homers. First, after a leadoff walk drawn by Adrian English (Barry), O’Connell blasted his second of the year to break a scoreless draw. After Jeff Roy (URI) drew another walk, Klemcke followed suit with a smash to deep left center. Both homers were the second of the season for each respective player, as the ‘Cats took a 4-0 lead after three.
But after the Swamp Bats were kept in check over the first three innings, the home side edged ahead with five runs in the bottom of the fourth bolstered by Ward’s three-run blast.
With one out, Jared Walsh singled to put a runner on and an infield single by Dylan De La Cruz put runners at first and second. After an out was recorded on a pickoff, a walk pushed it to first and second again, setting up Brett Barrett for an RBI single to put the Swamp Bats on the board.
In the next at-bat, Dylan Moore drove a ball deep enough into the hole on the left side, as Klemcke’s throw to first was not in time resulting in an infield single. But in the midst of it all, Fran Whitten was waved all the way home from second base, and the late throw was not in time, keeping the inning alive and cutting the lead in half, 4-2.
That result proved to be costly, as Christian MacDonald (UNC-Wilmington) entered in place of Narodowy as the lineup turned back over to Ward, and the second baseman promptly homered to deep right center, resulting in a three-run jack that put the home side ahead by a run, 5-4.
The SteepleCats would threaten with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the sixth, but an inning-ending double play would squander two on base, keeping the visitors behind by a run entering the final three innings.
North Adams would be kept in check by righty reliever Josh Ingham over the ensuing three innings before getting to Rogers for an unearned run that tied the game in the ninth. But Kay would capitalize shortly after to end it in the bottom of the ninth.
The SteepleCats continue their five-game road trip tomorrow, July 25, when they wrap up their regular-season series against the Vermont Mountaineers. First pitch from Montpelier Recreation Field is set for 6:30 p.m.