SteepleCats locked into No. 3 seed after loss to Danbury
– Nova Southeastern junior Brett Clements blasted his third homer of the year and his first grand slam in a SteepleCat uniform, but North Adams ultimately dropped a 6-4 decision, falling to Danbury in a key New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) Western Division showdown on Tuesday night at Rogers Park.
By virtue of the loss, the SteepleCats (20-19), who fell for the third-straight game after dropping an earlier 8-1 decision to Mystic during their afternoon makeup game at Fitch High School, are now locked into the No. 3 seed and will play the Westerners (23-16) in the first round of the Western Division playoffs.
The SteepleCats wound up with a 10-7 advantage in total hits, but a season-long trend of an inability to capitalize with runners in scoring position wound wind up proving to be the difference, as the Westerners would hold North Adams off the board from the fourth inning onward.
Andrew Garner homered for the home side, as both Jake Ivory and Tyler Gurman finished with two hits apiece. Will Klausing (UT-Pan American) led the visitors with three hits while Charlie Law (Rutgers) added a pair, while Clements drove in all four SteepleCat runs.
Nick Narodowy (URI) was charged with the loss to fall to 2-3 on the year, yielding six runs – four earned – on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks over 4.2 innings. Stephen Catalina, meanwhile, pitched well enough to improve to 4-3 on the season, going six innings allowing three earned runs on seven hits with a season-high eight strikeouts and only two walks.
Danbury hopped on top with three runs in the bottom of the second inning, as Jake Ivory would drive in an unearned run on a single to left before Gurman – who singled an at-bat earlier – would score later on a groundout to put the home side ahead by two. Before the inning would end, Ivory would score another unearned run on a passed ball to put Danbury ahead, 3-0, after two.
But the SteepleCats struck for four runs in the top of the third, all off the bat of Clements’ grand slam to right field, as the visitors took a temporary 4-3 lead. Jeff Roy (URI) began the charge with a one-out triple before Julian Santos (Miami) reached on a dropped third strike. With two on, Law drew a walk to load the bases, setting up Clements, who blasted his third homer of the year and first grand slam to edge North Adams ahead by one.
But Danbury did not wait long to answer, as Garner tied the match with a mammoth solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fourth before Gurman later scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Daniel Spingola, edging the Westerns up by a 5-4 margin.
An inning later, Zach Shank’s one-out double would prove to be costly, as the shortstop ripped a two-bagger down the left field line before moving to third on a groundout and scoring on a wild pitch, increasing Danbury’s lead to 6-4 after five innings.
The SteepleCats were in position to strike in the top of the sixth, as three-straight singles loaded the bases with one out, but Catalina induced a fly out to shallow right and struck out the final batter of the inning to roll out of the jam.
That would be the closet that North Adams would get, as the Danbury bullpen would combine to shut down the SteepleCats the rest of the way. Adam Sargent (Miami) and Matt Longfield (Villanova), meanwhile, contributed scoreless innings for the SteepleCats in relief work.
The SteepleCats conclude their 2012 regular-season schedule tomorrow, Aug. 1, when they welcome the very same Danbury Westerners to Joe Wolfe Field for a 6:30 p.m. showdown.