Westerners Eliminate SteepleCats
Monday August 09th, 2010
NORTH ADAMS -- With Mike Hauschild’s complete game three-hitter and Brett Knief’s timely two-RBI single, the Danbury Westerners downed the SteepleCats and claimed the Western Division title 2-1 Saturday night.
The Westerners, who finished second in the division to the SteepleCats in the regular season, rallied to win the final two games of the series to clinch a spot in the NECBL Finals and play for the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup.
The SteepleCats nearly regained the lead they had let slip away, but Danbury third baseman Brian Kownacki wasn’t about to let that happen.
North Adams’ Kevin Wager stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning with a runner at first and one out before ripping a 1-0 pitch down the third base line. It would have gone for a double, sending Devin Shines from first to third, but Kownacki dove to his right, snatched the ball, got up and made a strong throw to first in time for the second out. Garrett Gray grounded to short to end the game.
"Unbelievable. You’re talking about a game changer and a game saver," Danbury manager Jamie Shevchik said. "That was probably, it was the best play that I’ve seen all year long. It literally saved the game."
Wager was equally impressed by the play.
"It’s baseball. It would have been second and third, one out. The guy made an amazing play, so what can you do?" Wager said. "I could have done more with it. I was just happy to see a fastball. [Hauschild] was awesome all night."
Indeed he was.
Of his 113 pitches, he threw 70 of them for strikes as he went the distance for the second time this season. The first was a shutout of Keene in his first outing of the season June 5.
But his effectiveness against North Adams is more impressive. This was his second start against the SteepleCats -- the other was June 11, also a 2-1 victory.
In the two games, he pitched 16 innings, gave up two runs -- both earned -- four walks, and struck out 19 batters, 13 coming Saturday night.
"We faced him the first time we faced them this year, [and] haven’t seen him since then," Shines said. "I heard he was their ace, and he came out here and pitched like it."
North Adams starter Rob Nixon outpitched him through the first six innings, despite a 26-pitch first inning, which saw Danbury leave the bases loaded.
That long inning proved fatal late, as Danbury rallied in the seventh with four hits -- none bigger than Knief’s two-out, two-RBI single up the middle, just past a diving Mike LeBel, to take a 2-1 lead.
Alfredo Rodriguez started off the inning with a single that squeaked past a diving Cam Kneeland at third, but Rodriguez was thrown out trying to steal second after Derek Ingui struck out. With two outs, Danbury responded with a pair of singles from Jimmy Brennan and Kownacki and a walk to Tucker Nathans to load the bases for Knief, who gave the Westerners a 2-1 lead.
"He got me with a change up on the second pitch, swung through it. Then we battle a little bit and a 2-2 curveball was a little off the plate. I got the benefit of the doubt from the umpire," Knief said. "I was looking fastball the whole time, and luckily I got it and good things happened."
Nixon left the game after Knief’s hit, having thrown 115 pitches, 70 for strikes.
The runs may not have meant as much, had Hauschild not been able to get out of a jam in the sixth with the ‘Cats clinging to a 1-0 lead.
College teammate Jonathan Castine came to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. Hauschild called upon his knowledge of the lefty to get him to ground out to first, keeping the Westerners very much alive.
"I just kind of stayed away from him because he can really turn on a fastball and middle-in," Hauschild said.
Castine did just that in the fifth, helping the ‘Cats plate their only run.
Shines led off the fifth with a strikeout, but a passed ball allowed him to reach base safely. Castine then singled through the right side, and Wager advanced the two with a sacrifice bunt, giving catcher Garrett Gray two runners in scoring position.
Gray nubbed a first-pitch offering down to first to score Shines from third, but the ‘Cats couldn’t bring Castine in and the game was far from over.
Hauschild was in full command, and after the sixth he didn’t allow a hit. A walk and an error by Rodriguez were the only ways ‘Cats batters reached base.
Despite the outcome, Wager was still able to see the silver lining.
"Successful summer? Yeah, we made it further than any other SteepleCats team," he said. "So yeah, it’s successful."