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– North Adams rallied from a 4-1 deficit to take a one-run (5-4) lead in the top of the fourth inning, but Danbury charged ahead in the middle innings to claim the right to face Keene in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) Western Division Finals, as the SteepleCats saw their season come to a close with a 10-7 defeat on Monday night at Rogers Park.
After the game was suspended due to rain with the SteepleCats (23-22) ahead by a run, the third and final game of the NECBL Western Division Semifinals picked up a day later than its originally scheduled start time of Sunday.
But after the game resumed, it was all in favor of the Westerners (25-19) who pushed ahead with back-to-back three-run innings, and that was enough to punch their ticket to their second trip to the Western Division Finals in three seasons.
Miami University sidewinder Brandon Adkins was brilliant in relief for the Westerners, picking up the win after going 3.1 scoreless innings with five strikeouts and two walks in relief of starter Stephen Catalina, who did not return after giving up a three-run lead to the SteepleCats before the game’s suspension yesterday.
Jake Gronsky was an offensive force for the Westerners, scoring three runs and driving in four, finishing with two homers – including a three-run jack in the bottom of the second – while compiling a side-high four hits from the leadoff spot. Danbury benefitted from four SteepleCat errors and two passed balls, resulting in a total of five unearned runs in the game.
North Adams saw homers from Jeff Roy (URI) and Adrian English (Barry), as the former led off the game with a solo shot while the latter provided a three-run shot to tie the game in the fourth inning.
The SteepleCats got off to a hot start thanks to Roy, as the center fielder blasted a leadoff solo home run on the first pitch he saw to put the visitors ahead, 1-0. North Adams had a chance to add more in the first, but Catalina benefitted from a double play with two on and nobody out before getting out of the jam.
The Westerners managed to even the game in the bottom of the first, as SteepleCat starter Nick Narodowy (URI) struggled off the bat surrendering a leadoff single and back-to-back walks to load the bases. After a fielder’s choice tied the game, Narodowy escaped further damage by means of a lineout double play to keep it tied at 1-1 heading to the second.
Catalina would set down North Adams 1-2-3 in the top of the second before Gronsky’s blast put the home side ahead by three runs in the bottom half of the inning. After an error at short prolonged the inning, Narodowy yielded a walk to put two runners. With the count full, Gronsky promptly teed off for his fifth blast of the year to put Danbury on top, 4-1.
But after neither team scored in the third, the SteepleCat offense came alive in the fourth, as Catalina’s command waned in allowing a walk and a hit by pitch before Adrian English (Barry) rocked his second three-run homer of the postseason to left field to tie the game at 4-4.
North Adams would eventually take the lead later in the inning, as Roy would deposit a bloop single into shallow right, scoring collegiate teammate Shane O’Connell (URI) from second base to move the visitors ahead by a 5-4 margin.
Shane Klemcke (UT-Pan American) then stepped into the batter’s box with Roy at first and two away. After fouling off the first pitch, the umpires immediately called off play upon the sight of lightning, and after an approximately 20-minute delay it was ruled that the field could not be prepared in time to resume the game tonight, resulting in the suspension until Monday evening.
After play finally resumed, Klemke was retired on a groundout to end the 23 ½-hour suspension.
That was the last time the SteepleCats would hold the lead, as Danbury charged ahead with three runs in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively.
In the fifth, Adam Sargent (Miami) came into the game and struggled, hitting a batter and issuing a walk before Daniel Spingola put the home side ahead with a two-RBI double down the right field line. Two batters later, Mathew Boulter would score Spingola from second to push the lead to 7-5 after five innings.
One inning later, the Westerners tacked on three more runs against Sargent and new reliever Matt Longfield (Villanova), as two passed balls and another error – the fourth of the game for the SteepleCats – allowed two unearned runs to cross. Gronsky led things off with his second homer of the game – a solo shot – before Zach Shank walked, ending Sargent’s night.
Longfield started off hot with a strikeout to start, but back-to-back walks loaded the bases. Longfield was nearly out of the jam with back-to-back strikeouts, but in each at-bat the third strike was dropped, allowing two unearned runs to score each time, upping the edge to 10-5 after six innings.
North Adams got a couple back in the top of the eighth, as Bryan Soloman (Eastern Kentucky) doubled to the gap in left center to score Brett Clements (Nova Southeastern) from second, and Will Klausing (UT-Pan American) would later score from third on a passed ball to cut the deficit to 10-7.
That would be the closest that the visitors would get, however, as the SteepleCats saw their season end in the first round of the NECBL playoffs for the ninth time in 10 trips to the postseason during the franchise’s 11-year span.
Danbury will face Keene in the NECBL Western Division Finals for the rights to play either Newport or New Bedford for the 2012 NECBL crown.
North Adams finishes the season 23-22, three wins shy of their franchise best of 26 set back in the 2005 season.