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Cats outdone by Keene
By:Neil Benjamin Jr.
Tuesday August 2, 2011
North Adams Transcript
NORTH ADAMS -- The North Adams SteepleCats’ 6-1 loss to Keene at Joe Wolfe Field on Monday night was just more of the same from a team that couldn’t seem to find itself all through the 2011 New England Collegiate Baseball League season.
North Adams committed three errors -- two by third baseman Cameron Griffin -- and was held hitless through the first six innings as Swamp Bats starter Brad Monroe faced the minimum over the span. For the game, the ‘Cats notched just two hits, their lone run coming on a Brett Hopkins run-scoring single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
"It’s the memory I will be taking away from this," said Hopkins, a late-season addition who appeared in seven games.
Basically, the SteepleCats re-lived just about every nightmare they had during the first 41 games of the season.
"It’s bound to happen," Keene Manager Marty Testo said of North Adams (13-29) missing the playoffs for the first time in the organization’s 10 years. "I know Sean [McGrath] and I know the job he does. Sometimes in this league it just doesn’t happen but I can tell you that I have no doubt in my mind this team will be in the thick of it next year. They just will."
Testo, in his ninth season as skipper of the Swamp Bats, has brought his squad to the postseason each year and added that sometimes teams that aren’t as qualified as others still get into the
So the SteepleCats players, coaches, interns and volunteers have packed up earlier than most in the organization expected, but that still didn’t damper the spirits of skipper Clayton Kuklick, who said the team showed a great deal of poise in coping with a losing season.
"Look at where we started," he said, referring to the ‘Cats’ 1-9 record to start 2011." A lot of these kids aren’t used to playing in front of such an adoring crowd and community. The fans continued to come out and support us, and that can put a lot of pressure on these kids, but they never folded or stopped trying."
North Adams sent Cameron Copping, one of the team’s most consistent starters through the season, to the hill to try and quiet a lethal Keene (27-14) lineup, one which had 36 home runs coming into the game. After an easy first inning, Copping allowed three runs on four hits in the second, with catcher Tom Conley’s two-run double being the highlight.
Copping allowed one in the third and two more in the fourth, the latter the result of back-to-back errors to begin the frame. Keene’s Brett DeLoach grounded to Griffin, who didn’t get in front of the ball, allowing DeLoach to reach with one out. Colby May, the next batter, flied to center field, and catching the ball proved too difficult a task for the ‘Cats’ Justin Leeson. Consecutive singles later, North Adams was down 6-0.
Monroe pitched seven innings and allowed one hit while striking out five. TJ Ferguson and Jared Wilson combined to limit North Adams to one run over the final two innings.
"I’m definitely going to miss all this," SteepleCats reliever Bryan Guilmette, who struck out two in his scoreless two innings of work, said while looking into the crowd filtering out of the bleachers.
"These fans have been amazing. It’s pretty unbelievable considering the season we had but that says what the community here is like. We never gave up this year and I can only speak for myself, but I think the fans helped us through this."
Buried beneath the goodbyes and hugs was quite a quirky story.
SteepleCats shortstop Mike LeBel, widely considered one of the best players in the NECBL, was substituted to start the ninth on the mound.
"I had been bugging coach all season to put me in," said LeBel, who pitched in high school and plans to do some throwing this upcoming season for the University of Rhode Island.
He didn’t disappoint, striking out two in a perfect inning. Though LeBel finished 0 for 3 to complete the season with a team-leading .333 average, Kuklick had some sincere parting words for his shortstop.
"LeBel is the best, simply put," he said. "He’s been the best for us all season and I can’t wait to see what he does past this level of baseball. He’s something special."
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