NORTH ADAMS, Mass.
– North Adams scored three runs – two of them unearned – in the bottom of the seventh inning against Danbury ace Brett Houseal, as the SteepleCats erased an early 2-0 deficit and went on to win by a final margin of 4-2 to keep their season alive with a win at home in New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) Western Division Semifinal action on Saturday night at Joe Wolfe Field.
After getting drubbed in their playoff opener yesterday at Rogers Park, the SteepleCats (23-21) extended the best-of-three series to the necessary third game with the split in Game 2 tonight, as the Westerners (24-19) had their chances to put away the series but cost themselves the opportunity with four errors on the night.
Adam Sargent (Miami) came on in relief of starter Chris Bielak (Marist) in the top of the sixth inning, and after finding himself in a one-out, bases-loaded situation in the top of the seventh, the dropdown righty struck out the next two batters to swing the momentum back in favor of the home side.
With North Adams down, 2-1, in the home half of the seventh, Shane O’Connell (URI) led off the inning with a single before moving from first to third on a hit-and-run single off the bat of collegiate teammate Jeff Roy (URI) to put the tying run in scoring position.
After Shane Klemcke (UT-Pan American) drew the tying run home on a groundout to second, the Danbury miscues began to pile on, as Charlie Law (Rutgers) reached on a throwing error from the shortstop and moved to second on the play while Roy scored the go-ahead run at the same time. After moving to third on a wild pitch, Law would then come in during Brett Clements’ (Nova Southeastern) at-bat, as the Westerners committed a second-straight error on a miscue at first to put another insurance run and make it 4-2 after seven innings.
That would be all North Adams would need, as Matt Longfield (Villanova) notched his fourth save of the season, working a perfect eighth and ninth inning with two strikeouts to push the series to Game 3.
North Adams would finish with just six hits on the night thanks mostly to Houseal, who took the tough-luck loss despite allowing just one earned run over seven innings. The righty from Marist struck out two and walked two while yielding all six hits. Brandon Adkins worked a scoreless inning in the eighth for the Westerners, as well.
Meanwhile, Sargent wound up with the victory to improve to 2-0 after allowing only two hits over 1.2 innings while striking out two and walking two. Bielak, the starter, took a no decision after surrendering two earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and a walk over 5.1 innings.
Roy led the home side with two hits and a run scored while Klemcke’s RBI was the only run driven in by the home side, as three of the four SteepleCat runs were all scored on Danbury errors.
Danbury, meanwhile, finished with nine hits, as Zach Shank, Tyler Gurman and Daniel Spingola all compiled two hits apiece, including a solo jack off the bat of Gurman.
The Westerners took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, as Andrew Garner led things off with a double before moving to third on a passed ball and scoring on a wild pitch. Danbury had runners at second and third later in the inning, but Bielak managed to avoid further damage.
After the SteepleCats stranded two runners on in both the first and third innings, Gurman continued his hot hitting in his limited time with the Westerners, blasting a solo homer in the top of the fourth over the left field fence to double the visitors’ lead to 2-0.
That would be it as far as the offense was concerned for Danbury, as the SteepleCats would finally get on the board in the fifth, as Conor Biggio (Notre Dame) got to second on a ground rule double with one out before coming in to score on a two-base throwing error from the catcher, cutting the deficit to 2-1.
Danbury would leave two base runners on in the sixth before the game changing missed opportunity in the seventh, as Sargent was in a jam before benefitting from back-to-back strikeouts. From that point on, the momentum would swing back in favor of the SteepleCats for the remainder of the game.
The SteepleCats and Westerners will conclude the series tomorrow, as the winner will move on to the Western Division Finals while the loser’s season will come to an end. First pitch from Rogers Park is set for 6:30 p.m.