– Trailing by an early 2-0 margin entering the third inning, the North Adams SteepleCats scored six runs over two innings and enjoyed strong pitching over the remaining five frames to pick up an important 7-3 victory on Wednesday night at Montpelier Recreation Field over the Vermont Mountaineers, helping the SteepleCats clinch a playoff spot in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) postseason.
After falling in three-straight games against their NECBL West rivals, the SteepleCats (20-17) snapped a two-game skid and punched their ticket to the playoffs by means of their victory over the Mountaineers (17-18), as both sides finished their eight-game regular-season series with four wins apiece against each other.
After missing the last two and a half weeks, Chris Bielak (Marist) threw a gutsy five-inning performance, finishing with three runs allowed on six hits, walking only one during his first outing since July 6 to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Casey Delgado, who ranked third in the league with a 1.80 ERA entering Wednesday and who had owned North Adams over his previous three starts against the SteepleCats, was rocked for six runs – five earned – over just 3.1 innings while yielding eight hits and one walk while striking out five.
Adam Sargent (Miami), meanwhile, was brilliant in relief for the SteepleCats, as both sides’ bullpens combined to offer four innings of scoreless baseball – save for an unearned run in the top of the eighth – but it was Sargent who worked three scoreless innings with three strikeouts and one walk. Matt Longfield (Villanova) also contributed a scoreless ninth inning to shut the door.
Matt McCallister, Steve Ostapeck and Kyle Grana all contributed bullpen sessions for the home side, as North Adams could only muster two hits and an unearned run the rest of the way.
Esteban Tresgallo (Miami) recorded a game-high two RBI, as his two-score single in the top of the third put North Adams ahead at the time as he finished 1-for-4 on the day. Both Jeff Roy (URI) and Shane Klemcke (UT-Pan American) drove in runs for the SteepleCats as well, as Vermont helped the visitors out with a pair of runs scoring on a wild pitch or passed ball and another on an error.
Vermont, meanwhile, saw solo shots off the bats of Logan Pierce and Ryan Karl left the yard to give Vermont an early lead while Pierce finished a triple shy of the cycle with a side-high two RBI.
The Mountaineers wasted little time in hopping on the scoreboard against Bielak, as Pierce bashed his fourth homer of the year – a one-out solo shot in the bottom of the first – to put the home side ahead by a run, 1-0.
Karl followed suit in the bottom of the second, as the Mountaineer catcher battled back after falling behind in the count and smashed a 400-foot solo homer to left center to give the Mountaineers a 2-0 edge at the end of two.
North Adams, however, finally got to Degaldo for three runs on three hits with two outs in the top of the third, as Conor Biggio (Notre Dame) began the rally by drawing a two-out walk. After a single by Roy and an RBI base hit by Klemcke brought it to 2-1, Tresgallo hammered the first pitch he saw down the left field line to plate a pair, putting the SteepleCats in front, 3-2, after the top of the third.
One inning later, the SteepleCats struck for three more, as Roy’s RBI single with an out and two on base complimented four hits and two more runs scoring on wild pitches, as the visitors went ahead, 6-2. Also adding hits in the inning were Brett Clements (Nova Southeastern) to lead off, Adrian English (Barry) and Biggio.
North Adams had another run-scoring opportunity with runners on the corners with one out in the fifth, but a 3-3-2 double play ended that threat. An inning later, North Adams wasted another opportunity with runners at first and second but ran themselves out of the inning with a pickoff at second before the final two batters were retired.
Vermont sliced the deficit in half in the bottom of the fifth, as Pierce doubled home Brian O’Grady with two outs, but Bielak retired Rob Kelly on a groundout to get out of the jam.
In the bottom of the sixth, Sargent entered the game and immediately took a hard-hit line drive off his right knee, but amazingly the ball deflected directly toward first base, where Charlie Law (Rutgers) recorded the fist putout before Sargent remained in the game and pitched a 1-2-3 inning and two more scoreless afterward.
North Adams added an insurance run in the top of the seventh, as Sheehan Planas-Arteaga (Barry) drew his league-leading 31st walk of the season and moved to second on a sacrifice. After a groundout, Planas-Arteaga would score on a costly error that pushed the visitors’ advantage to 7-3.
The SteepleCats conclude their season-long five-game road trip tomorrow with a makeup contest at Mystic. First pitch from Fitch High School is set for 12:30 p.m.