Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Seasonal Awards: Your Take?

As Zander mentioned in his game story from Keene, Owner Phil Rosenfield named this season's Most Valuable Player, Cy Young, Fireman, and Gold Glove Awards. Here is a list of the winners in case you don't know:

Most Valuable Player: #15 Sean McNaughton OF (.353 BA, 3 HR, 33 RBI, 15 2B - 2nd in NECBL, 7 3B - 1st in NECBL, 0 E)

Cy Young: #34 Jimmy Lisowski LHP (38.2 IP, 2-1 W-L, 2.33 ERA, 26 K)
*Lisowski also pitched in the Navigator's early-season contest against Team USA, in which he went five innings, giving up two runs.

Fireman: #16 Chris Prescott RHP (16 APP, 1-0, 0.53 ERA, 9 SV, 22 K)

Gold Glove: #12 John Hill C (19 CSB - 1st in NECBL, .558 SBA%, 2 E)

So there they are...your 2008 Navigators Post-Season Awards. What is your take on the selections? Were they the right calls or do you feel there was someone more deserving?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Navs' home run barrage not enough as Keene clinches series

Zander Kean, Navigators Sports Information Department

When a baseball team hits five home runs in the course of a single game, as the North Shore Navigators did Sunday in Keene, they will generally come away with a resounding victory. But luck wasn’t on the Navs’ side as the Swamp Bats hit three bombs of their own, battling through multiple North Shore comebacks en route to a 10-7 victory.

North Shore came into the game looking to bounce back from a shutout loss at Fraser Field the night before. But it was Keene who got on the board first. After starter Sean Bierman shut down the Navs in order in the top of the first, Keene pounded out six hits – including a solo home run by Chris Tremblay - in the home half of the inning. Sean McNaughton stopped the bleeding by throwing Alex Lee out at home for the third out, but not before three runs crossed the plate against North Shore starter John Folino.

The Navs picked up a run in the top of the second. After Frank Pesanello doubled Kent Graham over to third, Graham came home on a groundout by Chad Zurcher, cutting the deficit to 3-1.

Folino was able to settle down after the first inning. Though Keene catcher Franco Valdes led off the second with a home run to left, Folino did not allow another run until the fifth. He credited a first-inning mound visit from head coach Jason Falcon with helping him get going.

“[Falcon] pretty much said ‘don’t worry about it, keep doing what you’ve been doing all summer.’ I was making good pitches and hitting spots, but they were just hitting the ball, kind of throwing the bat at it,” Folino said. “And that is what’s going to happen at the next level, so you can’t really complain.”

Over the next two innings, the Navs erased their deficit with a trio of solo home runs. McNaughton drilled the first pitch of the fourth inning over the left field fence, and two batters later, Pesanello deposited one to left-center. Then in the fifth, Mike Provencher tied the game with a left-center shot of his own.

But Keene was able to break through again in the bottom of the fifth. Evan Chambers doubled to left, followed by a Josh Chester triple and a Tremblay double. Chambers and Chester touched home, giving the Swamp Bats a 6-4 advantage.

Once again, the Navs would not be denied. With Nick Belcher on second, Pesanello crushed a Sean Tierney pitch well over the left field fence to tie the score at six. The North Shore catcher finished 4-4, with two home runs, a double and a single.

“I was seeing the ball pretty good today, I got it going. It took a while, but I was seeing the ball well and I got pitches to hit, so it worked out.”

But North Shore’s luck began to run out in the bottom of the inning. With Jason Markovitz on the mound, Keene loaded the bases with one out. Then, Cliff Hicks ripped a grounder toward Kyle Geason at third. If the ball had the gone six inches farther to the right, Geason could have snagged it and recorded at least one out. But instead it deflected off his glove, plating two Keene runners. That put the Swamp Bats ahead for good, 8-6.

Keene picked up another run before the sixth was done, but the Navs didn’t go down quietly. McNaughton blasted another one over the wall in the seventh to make the score 9-7. The home run was McNaughton’s fifth of the season, tying him with Provencher for the team lead.

“Sean McNaughton hit the crap out of the ball all year long,” Provencher said. “I have never seen someone hit the ball like he does, especially with a wood bat, it was just great. It was a great bunch of guys to be around, you can’t have a better time playing baseball."

Fittingly, Keene picked up the game’s final run with the long ball in the bottom of the eighth, this one off the bat of Dan Grovatt. James Wise then shut down North Shore in order in the ninth for his second save in as many nights.

With the loss, the Navs’ season is over, and the players will start heading back home over the next few days – some as early as 7:00 Monday morning. But though their summer season is over, they will all have great memories to cherish.

“I met twenty-four great guys, so you can always have that to fall back on,” Graham said. “We obviously didn’t go as far as we would have wanted to, but there are still more important things than that. I think our team achieved a lot, and it will be sad to leave these guys, man.”

After the team had their final postgame meal at the Keene buffet, owner Phil Rosenfield – in collaboration with the coaches, writers and broadcaster Brett Franklin – handed out some team awards. McNaughton received team MVP, Jimmy Lisowski got the team’s Cy Young award, Chris Prescott was named Fireman of the Year, and John Hill received the Gold Glove.

Each award had stiff competition, a testament to the high level that the entire team played at over the course of the summer. As he said after the game, Falcon couldn’t have asked for a better team to coach for the past two months.

“We did a lot of really good things throughout the year, we probably had the best pitching staff in the league. But I think, more importantly, what we had the best in the league was attitudes,” Falcon said. “They didn’t give me any problems off the field, they weren’t a pain on the field. As a summer league coach, that’s probably the most important thing. The only other thing I could ask for is to win the whole thing, but you know what, you can’t be greedy.”

The team will attend a breakup brunch at Brothers Deli in Lynn on Monday. And though that will officially end their summer, they will all keep in touch throughout the upcoming year. Some of them will face off on the diamond next spring. And who knows, some might even meet in professional ball a few years down the road.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Live Updates - Navs @ Keene - Game 2

Well, this is the Navs' first absolute must-win game up here in Keene today. The squad is looking to retake home-field advantage, while staying alive in the NECBL postseason. Game time is set for 5:00 PM.

Last Night's Results

Keene 1, North Shore 0
Vermont 5, Sanford 3
Pittsfield 4, North Adams 3
Newport vs. Mainchester - ppd.

Pitching Matchup

NS: John Folino (3-0, 0.45 ERA, 20 IP, 16 K, 2 BB)
KS: Sean Bierman (2-2, 3.70 ERA, 41.1 IP, 42 K, 13 BB)

Starting Lineups

Navs / Swamp Bats
Kuehl 2B/Grovatt 1B
Provencher RF/Chambers LF
McNaughton LF/Hicks RF
Belcher SS/Chester 3B
Graham 1B/Tremblay 2B
Pesanello C/Lee CF
Zurcher DH/Karmas DH
Geason 3B/Macias SS
Little CF/Valdez C

Live Updates

7:40 PM: Garton strikes out to end it. The Navs certainly didn't go down without a fight, no shame in losing a game like this. Final score: Keene 10, Navs 7

7:38 PM: Kuehl grounds to short, looks like Garton is going to pinch-hit here with two outs.

7:36 PM: Costello flies out to left for the first out.

7:33 PM: Prescott retires the side in order after the home run. Here's the Navs' last chance, James Wise is in to pitch for Keene. Looks like Matt Costello is going to be pinch-hitting for Little to start things off.

7:28 PM: Grovatt leads off the home half with a bomb to right-center off Chris Prescott. Keene 10, Navs 7

7:25 PM: Pesanello led off the inning with a single to left, but was thrown out trying to swipe second. Cote then retired Zurcher and Geason to end the top of the eighth.

7:17 PM: Pesanello threw out pinch runner Casey McGrew for the first out of the inning. Kowalski then retired the next two batters, including a strikeout of Valdez to end the inning.

7:13 PM: Kowalski is on to pitch for the Navs here in the bottom of the seventh.

7:07 PM: The expression goes, "third time's a charm." But what about the fifth? McNaughton drops another one over the left field fence, cutting the deficit to two. Keene 9, Navs 7

7:01 PM: Keene gets another run on a double steal, but with runners on the corners, Krull shuts them down. Prov-McNaughton-Belcher coming up in the 7th. Keene 9, Navs 6

6:58 PM: Here's the barn...

6:52 PM: With the bases loaded, a grounder off the bat of Hicks went just out of Geason's reach down the third base line. It deflected off his glove, and by the time Geason tracked it down, two more Keene runs came home. Keene 8, Navs 6

6:33 PM: Behind right-center field here in Keene, there is a barn. With Belcher on second, Pesanello put a ball between the two windows on the second floor of said barn. Score tied, 6-6

6:30 PM: Bierman's day is done, as another lefthander, Sean Tierney, is on to pitch for Keene.

6:26 PM: Markovitz gets it done, getting Lee to fly out to center, then striking out Karmas swinging.

6:19 PM: Keene has gotten to Folino again here in the fifth. A double by Chambers, a triple by Chester and a double by Tremblay have sent two runners across the plate. With one on and one out, Jason Markovitz is coming on in relief. Keene 6, Navs 4

6:11 PM: Provencher just sent one a couple rows of cars deep in the parking lot. 'Nuff said. Tie game, 4-4

6:05 PM: The Navs' defense gets it done in the fourth. A nice diving stab by Geason, a good jump on a line drive from Little, and a runner thrown out at second by Pesanello to get the job done.

5:56 PM: Deja Vu! Pesanello missed a home run by a couple of feet in his first at bat, but wouldn't be denied this time, dropping one beyond the left field fence. Keene 4, Navs 3

5:53 PM: BOMB! McNaughton crushes the first pitch he sees over the left-center field fence. Keene 4, Navs 2

5:50 PM: And Folino does just that! Two strikeouts and a nice play by Geason on a slow roller send the Swamp Bats down in order.

5:42 PM: Navs down in order in the third. Let's see if Folino can keep Keene off the board, with North Shore's 3-4-5 hitters up next inning.

5:38 PM: Valdez led off the bottom of the second with an opposite-field shot, but Folino prevented any further damage, striking out two in the process. Keene 4, Navs 1

5:31 PM: The Navs respond in the second, as with one out, Graham reached on an error by Macias at short. Pesanello followed with a wall-ball double, hit to the deepest part of the park. With runners then on second and third, Zurcher grounded to second, allowing Graham to score the Navs' first run. Keene 3, Navs 1

5:20 PM: The first three Swamp Bat runners reached base, putting a run in and men on first and third. Chester grounded into a double play that plated another run, and then Tremblay hit a solo shot to right-center. McNaughton was able to prevent any further damage, throwing out Lee at home to prevent any further damage. Keene 3, Navs 0

5:08 PM: Kuehl, Prov, and McNaughton go down in order. Folino will look to do the same to the Keene lineup here in the bottom of the inning.

5:03 PM: Kuehl is on his way to the dish, here we go...

4:52 PM: The coaches are out to exchange lineup cards, and Folino is warming up in the pen behind us. Almost ready to get underway!

4:25 PM: The Navs just finished taking infield, and now the Keene players are going to work, preparing the home plate area for play. The first pitch should be coming in just over a half hour.

Know Your Navs: Frank Pesanello

Frank Pesanello, of Northeastern University and Plainville, MA, added some pop to the Navigators lineup with his arrival on July 14.

You joined the team late in the season - how did you get in touch with coach Falcon, and how did you decide that you wanted to pla
y in this league?

I played in Danbury, two years ago, so I was already familiar with the league. One of my friends coaches at Clark with Coach Falcon, and that's how we got in touch and everything came into place.

What were some of your expectations of this league coming in, and how has it met (or been different from) what you expected?

I knew from my time in Danbury that this was a good league. But it's a lot better playing on a good team. When I was at Danbury, we weren't very good - it's a lot better experience on this team, a lot better atmosphere.

This team seems to be pretty tight, with some great chemistry. What was the adjustment period for you, and how long did it take for you to feel like you were really a part of the team?

No time at all. I know Folino because we played together in Danbury, and we've got some BC and UMass guys, so I play against them in school - so it wasn't hard at all.

What aspect of your game needs the most improvement?

Just putting the ball in play right now, I think, is the one thing I have to work on. I'd like to mix in a few more home runs I guess... it can't hurt.

What's the competition been like in the Colonial Athletic Association with Northeastern?

It's been great - we've had a number of first round draft picks out of the conference, and every hitter mashes pretty well. It's been tough. We've got a few kids from the CAA in the NECBL as well.

What are some of the things that brought you to Northeastern, and what are some things that are unique about the school that have added to your experience there so far?

I transferred there [from Maine] because of Northeastern's coach [Neil McPhee] - he's a little nuts, but he's very honest, and he's a great coach. They've also got a tremendous Criminal Justice program, which is what I want to do - so it was an easy decision. Overall it's been a great experience.

Definitely being in the city is a lot of fun. Going out at night, socializing, seeing famous people walk around, sometimes. It's great.

Do you have some baseball idols or role models?

I have some favorite players, I like Manny and stuff... but nobody who I really model myself after. Actually, a lot of my favorite athletes are football players...

What music do you use to get yourself pumped up before a big game?

I listen to a lot of country, really. Nothing to get too pumped up, just something to hang out and relax.

You guys have played a lot of doubleheaders lately. What's that like for a catcher?

It's nice having another catcher here to split time. But it's not bad. It's not terrible. We've had some long days, and it can be tiring - but it's a lot of fun.

Favorite all-time walk up at-bat songs?

I don't know, this is a tough one. There's so many. I have a terrible one now, I didn't pick it out myself... I can't think of any specifically, though.

If you were to pick your own right now, what would it be?

Honestly... there's so many choices, so many good ones, that I just can't pick one.

Continuing with really hard questions - you can only keep one film, one album, and memories of one baseball game - what would they be?

Favorite movie... hmm... definitely Gladiator. That's one of my favorites. As far as baseball experiences, probably this year, hitting two home runs against Wilmington, who were ranked at the time... as far as a favorite album, I don't know. Any good country album.

Favorite female celebrity?

Definitely Jessica Biel.

And two quick ones: funniest teammate?


And most easy-going member of the team?

Hmm.. there's a bunch of them. I'll say Folino.

Mailbag: Know Your Navs

I've gotten a number of questions/comments about "Know Your Navs," mainly pertaining to the fact that we haven't covered everyone yet and the season is almost over. Here is a comment I made in response, which will hopefully clear up some of the confusion:

"The problem with the "Know Your Navs" feature is that we started it a few weeks into the season. If we had known how popular it would become, we would have started it on opening day.

Additionally, since we all have paying jobs and other commitments, sometimes it's not possible for all of us to be at the park every night - and those who are there need to focus on scoring the game, writing the story, updating the blog, etc.

Also, after tough losses, we don't want to go down and bother the players into doing a goofy 5-minute interview when they might be in a hurry to just go home.

That is why we haven't gotten to everyone.

The suggestion that we are playing "favorites" is silly. We have made a concerted effort to cover the Massachusetts guys for our local fans, but beyond that, we've gotten guys from many different schools from all over the country.

I will take this criticism as a positive, since it appears you all like "Know Your Navs" so much!

Hopefully the season still has at least another week to go - if so, we will be able to get even more of the players.

I will be posting two of the interviews today in the run-up to the Keene game."

Thanks, as always, for your support of the team and this site.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Keene stifles Navs, 1-0, in game 1 of the playoffs

Joseph Gravellese, North Shore Navigators Sports Information Department

All week long, the mission was clear for the Navigators: lock up home field advantage in the playoffs, in order to avoid needing a win at Keene, where the Navs are winless this season.

But despite earning home field – and despite a complete game, five-hit performance by Matt Costello - North Shore will need to win in Keene to keep their season alive as the Swamp Bats downed the Navigators 1-0 on a cloudy night at Fraser Field.

Tommy Meagher baffled the Navigators over seven shutout innings, giving up five hits and striking out seven batters. Costello was just as good, giving up just one unearned run and striking out nine, but a single run for Keene in the fourth inning was enough to hand the Navigators the loss.

James Wise picked up the save for the Swamp Bats, working around a leadoff single in the ninth inning by Mike Provencher to put Keene on the brink of the NECBL semifinals.

“Under a pressure situation that we’re in [tomorrow], hopefully we’ll be a little bit light, as far as not putting too much pressure on ourselves, because then it becomes more of a problem,” said pitching coach Jim Woods after the game.

“I don’t know if… we felt a little too much pressure tonight. The last few games we haven’t been hitting, maybe we are pressing a little bit because of that. And that could be a holdover, a layover of what we’ve been experiencing offensively [in the last few days].”

The Navigators’ best chance to score off of Meagher came in the bottom of the third inning. Leadoff hitter Kent Graham scorched a single to left for North Shore’s first hit of the game. John Hill followed by hitting a bounding ball up the middle that second baseman Chris Tremblay mishandled; the ball fell to the ground and Graham slid into second base safely, putting the first two men on with nobody out.

Meagher, however, sharpened his resolve and fanned the next batter, Justin Little, for a huge first out. Chad Zurcher then dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners into scoring position, but Sean McNaughton grounded out to third to end the threat.

Keene followed up North Shore’s squander with the game’s only run in the top of the fourth. Evan Chambers earned a leadoff walk. With one out, he took off for second. Catcher John Hill’s throw skipped off of Zurcher’s glove and into centerfield, allowing Chambers to bolt for third.

That extra base would prove to be crucial, as the next batter, Josh Chester, tapped a soft base hit up the middle to bring Chambers plateward and give Keene their only run of the ballgame.

“I’m pretty sure it was my curveball,” said Costello on the pitch that gave up the winning run. “I usually don’t throw it to a righty, especially early in the count, and if I throw it I’m usually going to get it down. I hung a curveball, he sat back on it and slapped it to left.”

Meagher did not give up an extra base hit until the seventh inning, when Kent Graham (2-for-3) rocketed a two-out double that brought renewed life to the fans at Fraser Field. But Meagher once again stepped up his game, getting Hill to chop to first base to end the inning.

The Swamp Bats called upon James Wise, who saved just one game in the entire regular season, to lock down the victory in the eighth and ninth. The ninth inning started off well for the Navigators, as Mike Provencher lined a single to left and Tyler Kuehl successfully sacrificed him into scoring position. But once again, the Navs couldn’t bring him home.

Wise bore down, retiring Nick Belcher on a flyout to right and striking out Josh Garton to end the game.

Game two of the best-of-3 NECBL quarterfinals is tomorrow evening in Keene, as the Navs will take on the Swamp Bats at 5:05 PM. If North Shore wins, game three will be played on Monday night at Fraser Field.

With North Shore facing elimination tomorrow, Woods believes that lineup changes could be in order.

“We’re going to be seeing a left-hander, and he pitches pretty well, so we’ll probably focus on that type of lineup that we have used different times in the year [against lefties].”

He denied, however, that the Navs would gear their lineup toward Keene’s unusually small ballpark, which features a short porch of 320 feet to the power alley in right-center field.

“We generally just go up there, get the matchups that we want and let things fall where they may,” he said.

Costello was much more direct about what the team needs to do to get back in the series: “We better get on ‘em - and get on ‘em early.”


Matt Costello

“A little tired, for some reason I never feel really good on the day of my start. But I’ve been there before, and I usually start feeling a little better by the fourth or fifth inning.”

- on how he felt tonight

“With certain hitters I was going for the ground ball approach, and with certain hitters I can get in their head and usually get the strikeout and get them to roll over.”

-on his approach that let him get quick innings

“Even though my curveball got slapped around a little bit, I usually don’t have my curveball with me. It’s usually just strictly fastball-changeup, mixing in an occasional slider for an out pitch, but my curveball was there tonight.”

-on his pitch selection tonight

“I’m pretty sure it was my curveball I usually don’t throw it to a righty, especially early in the count, and if I throw it I’m usually going to get it down. I hung a curveball, he sat back on it and slapped it to left.”

-on the pitch that scored the game’s only run

“Better get on ‘em and get on ‘em early.”

-on what the team needs to do in Keene tomorrow

Pitching coach Jim Woods

“Under a pressure situation that we’re in, hopefully we’ll be a little bit light as far as not putting too much pressure on ourselves, because then it becomes more of a problem, too. I don’t know if there was pressure on us, and we felt a little too much pressure tonight. The last few games we haven’t been hitting, maybe we are pressing a little bit because of that. And that could be a holdover, a layover of what we’ve been experiencing offensively so far.”

-general thoughts from the game

“I think maybe that they’re just pressing, especially now that we went into a little bit of a slump. For instance, the other night, we didn’t actually need to win the game and we hit the ball pretty well. Prior to that, when we needed to win ballgames they were all 1-0 wins and 2-1 losses. So maybe we are pressing a little bit and need to come out a little bit more loose tomorrow and get the job done and score some runs.”

-on offensive struggles

“Again he was ahead of the hitters, he changes speed so much it gets guys out on their front foot, and he does such a nice job of doing that. Guys can’t get good swings on him, they really have no idea what’s coming next. And he was able to do that all night long, nine innings. Our first complete game of the year and it was a 1-0 loss, which is just bad. Such a good effort [from him].”

-on Matt Costello’s outing

“We’re going to be seeing a left-hander, and he pitches pretty well, so we’ll probably focus on that type of lineup that we have in different times in the year that we have against a left hander.”

-on if there will be any lineup changes tomorrow

“We generally just go up there, get the matchups that we want and let things fall where they may.”

-on if the lineup will be geared toward Keene’s small park

LIVE: Keene shuts out Navs in Game 1

KEE 0 0 0 / 1 0 0 / 0 0 0 - 1 5 1
NSR 0 0 0 / 0 0 0 / 0 0 0 - 0 5 2

9:11 PM: Swing and a miss, the game is over.

9:09 PM: Belcher hits a deep fly to right, 2nd out - Provencher tags and reaches 3rd. The throw skipped past the 3B, but the shortstop was there to back it up. The game is on Garton now.

9:08 PM: Kuehl bunts him over to 2nd.

9:06 PM: Provencher reaches to lead off the inning with a base hit to left!!

9:03 PM: Reliever James Wise in to close for Keene - I'm personally stunned that they pulled Meagher, who confounded the Navs for 8 shutout innings today.

9:02 PM: We go to the bottom of the ninth.

8:56 PM: ...and he hits into a double play. :( We go to the 9th. Changes: Belcher to SS, Geason in at 3rd base. Costello still pitching.

8:54 PM: Zurcher punches a 1-out single and is lifted for pinch-runner Jesse Bruinsma. McNaughton up...

8:49 PM: Bottom of the 8th - top of the order up - time to get it going!

8:44 PM: Hill squibs it down to first base - the inning is over, and the frustration continues. Costello is back out there to start the 8th.

8:41 PM: Graham picks up the Navs' first extra-base hit of the game, a 2-out rip into the corner in left field - he stands at 2nd base with 2 outs for John Hill.

8:35 PM: Costello fans two more in the 7th (7 Ks overall)... on to the home half

8:29 PM: A 7-pitch 6th inning - Meagher continues to impress. Through 6 innings, it's still 1-0 Keene.

8:28 PM: Meagher Ks Provencher - his 6th strikeout of the game.

8:24 PM: A nice, quick 6th inning for Costello - time to get him some run support!

8:19 PM: Zurch hits a looper to right-center, but Lee tracks it down... the Navs threaten but do not score in the 5th.

8:18 PM: With 2 outs, Little executes a perfect hit and run, scorching a base hit to left. 1st + 3rd, 2 out for Zurcher.

8:15 PM: Garton gets it started the right way, ripping a base hit to left center.

8:12 PM: Costello strikes him out looking at the knees! That's 5 Ks for Costello... and at the halfway point, it's 1-0 'Bats.

8:10 PM: Chambers bats with two outs and Macias on third base.

8:03 PM: Meagher continues to quickly mow through the Navs batting order, much to the delight of the large Swamp Bats traveling contingent. Through four full, it's 1-0 Swamp Bats.

7:59 PM: Casey McGrew hits a grounder down to first base; Graham makes a sweet scoop and takes it to the bag for the final out of the 4th.

7:56 PM: Chester rips a base hit up the middle, scoring Evan Chambers to make it 1-0 Keene.

7:49 PM: McNaughton grounds out to third, stranding two runners in scoring position.

7:47 PM: With 1 out, Zurcher rolls a bunt down the third base line; he's just barely thrown out. The runners move up to 2nd & 3rd w/ 2 out for McNaughton.

7:43 PM: Wow... Hill knocks it up the middle toward second base - Tremblay ranges over to play it, boots it, and it falls to the ground, allowing the first two men of the inning to reach.

7:43 PM: Graham lines a base hit to right, the Navs' first hit.

7:41 PM: One pitch, one out to Grovatt, and the inning is over.

7:41 PM: Macias grounds out to short to end the K-streak.

7:40 PM: Valdes strikes out swinging. This is getting funny now.

7:36 PM: Meagher strikes out the side - wow! Through two quick innings, we're scoreless.

7:34 PM: The backwards-K streak ends, but Belcher goes down swinging for the second out.

7:32 PM: Tyler Kuehl becomes the third consecutive batter to strike out looking. At times like these, I randomly wonder what the record is for most guys striking out looking in a row.

7:30 PM: Costello gives up a base hit to Trembley, then battles back with two straight Ks to end the inning.

7:19 PM: Provencher grounds out to short to end the first.

7:17 PM: Meagher gives McNaughton nothing but breaking balls, and strikes him out swinging on a curve off the outside corner.

7:15 PM: Zurcher works a one out walk to become the game's first baserunner.

7:10 PM: Nice and quick! Costello mows down Grovatt, Chambers, and Hicks in order to get the game started off right.

7:09 PM: The first batter of the game, Dan Grovatt, flies out to left.

7:04 PM: Kudos to Navigators intern Lauren Darrah for her rendition of the national anthem.

7:02 PM: The teams have been introduced, the national anthems performed... and we're just about ready for baseball here in game one.

6:44 PM: Host families are being honored in an on-field ceremony.

6:35 PM: Starting lineups -

Keene / NS
Dan Grovatt 1B / Justin Little CF
Evan Chambers DH / Chad Zurcher SS
Cliff Hicks LF / Sean McNaughton LF
Josh Chester 3B / Mike Provencher RF
Chris Tremblay 2B / Tyler Kuehl 2B
Alex Lee CF / Nick Belcher 3B
Casey McGrew RF / Josh Garton DH
Franco Valdes C / Kent Graham 1B
Jose Macias SS / John Hill C

Tommy Meagher RHP / Matt Costello LHP

6:11 PM: Game 1 of the Quarterfinals between Keene and North Shore at Fraser Field is currently in a weather delay. They are currently aiming to start the game at 7 PM.

Elsewhere in the playoffs:
Vermont @ Sanford, 6:30
Manchester @ Newport, 6:35
North Adams @ Pittsfield, 7

Friday, August 1, 2008

Last Game of the Regular

Fresh off their extra-inning triumph of the Torrington Twisters, the Navs took the field a mere half-hour later to conclude their regular season against a somewhat familiar foe, the Holyoke Blue Sox (does three games in just over 24 hours constitute familiarity?).

It had been a long day for the team:

1 p.m. - Board the bus from the hotel.
1:30 p.m. - Arrive at McKenzie Stadium for a 3 p.m. scheduled game against Torrington.
1:31 - 6:30 p.m. - Wait.
6:35 - 9 p.m. - Game vs. Twisters

Finally, after rapidly devouring pasta, prepared by Blue Sox employees (it was delish', by the way), the team took the field for game two of the day's double header.

Watching that game, the one element that caught my eye was this: The Navs were having a blast.

We had the pleasure of witnessing three unlikely men take the hill. Hear our assessments of each one's stuff:

Ryan McCrann (1 1/3 IP, 4 R, 3 H, 5 BB)

Former Postion(s): First baseman, third baseman, outfielder

Assessment: McCrann showed...potential? Ok, yes, he had some issues with accuracy (five walks). Yes, his fastball could use more velocity on his fastball. Yes, he needs to keep baserunners honest (six stolen bases). But hey, you give him a couple more innings, maybe let him do some relief work in the playoffs, you might have yourself a reliable pitcher...or maybe not.

Grade: C+

Kent Graham (1 2/3 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 3 BB)

Former Position: First baseman

Assessment: Best way to describe Graham's pitching style: Deliberate intimidation. His routine is done very purposely; he wastes little time in between pitches, and when he gives up a base hit, he insists that the ball be returned to him so that he may promptly attack the next batter. He even attempted a pick-off throw; very impressive. He's got the heater down, now he just needs that off-speed pitch. Best part of his outing: Graham got Ken Gregory to fly out to left field to end the second inning. But before the ball was anyway close to finding Sean McNaughton's glove, Graham calmly walked to the Navigators dugout...too cool.

Grade: B

Mike Provencher (1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 SO)

Former Position: Outfielder

Assessment: Granted he faced two pitchers as pinch-hitters in the inning, Provencher was probably the hardest thrower of all the make-shift pitchers the Navs threw on the mound. He pitched solely out of the stretch, and threw all heat. When Provencher sprinted in from the bullpen as he entered the game in the fifth inning, you almost expected The Troggs - "Wild Thing" to come on the PA system. For the Red Sox fans out there, Provencher is the Navs' Jon Papelbon.

Grade: B+

Joshua Garton (1 IP, 0 R, 0 H)

Former Position: Outfielder

Assessment: Garton had a modus operandi comparable to that of Provencher, but maybe not as high-energy. Still, he got the job done, though he threw to some pinch-hitting pitchers as well. Though it is unrelated to his outing on the hill, Garton must be commended for his defensive play in the bottom of the first inning. With the bases loaded, Craig Turner hit a reasonably-deep fly ball to Garton in right field. Alex Hilliard rightfully tagged up from third, as Garton made the catch from some 275 feet away. Two seconds later, Garton's throw hit catcher Frank Pesanello square in the chest, gunning out Hilliard at the plate. Looking at Garton joyously sprinting to the dugout, you could see smoke coming out of his hand.

Grade: B

The fun didn't stop there.

Chris Kowalski gave new meaning to the word "utility player." Kowalski has been known to ring guys up in the late innings of games, he's been known to drop bombs in batting practice, and come through with base hits in his pinch-hit opportunities. But last night, "Killer" played both first base, in which he made an impressive catch in foul ground, and shortstop, where, ranging to his left, methodically threw out Jeremy Nowak at first (Note: Nick Belcher was playing 1B at the time).

We also witnessed another one of the defensive plays of the year. With Ryan Krull pitching in the fourth inning, he had a ball hit his foot and fly 15 feet into the air. He looked around aimlessly, not knowing where in fact the ball had gone. Meanwhile, Kyle Geason sprinted in from third base, picked up the ball barehanded as it landed to the left of the mound, and fired it to Kowalski (playing first base) to retire the batter. It was not the first time Geason had hurled a barehander like that, but it certainly does not get old.

All in all, it was awesome watching the second game against the Blue Sox. The entire team was happy, and it was the ideal way to conclude a truly prosperous regular season.

Navs clinch home-field in 'extra' special win

Joe Jasinski, Navigators Sports Information Department

The scenario was simple: If the Navigators defeated the Torrington Twisters, they would secure second place in the NECBL Northern Division, and more importantly, home-field in the first round of the playoffs.

As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.

After nine and a half innings of scoreless baseball, Kent Graham singled home Tyler Kuehl from third base with the bases loaded for the winning – and only – run.

“We just needed that win any way we could get it,” Graham said. “We would like to do it another way besides the bottom of the tenth, but any time you get a win in this league it is good.”

While the majority of offensive endeavors were unsuccessful, pitchers from both teams did not share the same misfortune.

Navigators starting pitcher Mike DiCato, whose last start came on July 19, delivered eight innings of shutout baseball, surrendering three hits while striking out and walking four batters each.

Pitching with modest offensive support is something DiCato has dealt with all season, Assistant Coach Kristaps Aldins said.

“I think that he just has not gotten the runs,” he said. “He has been one of the most hard-bitten starters that we have had. We just have not scored runs for him, but today he needed a run and he held it up.”

DiCato’s adversary, Torrington starter Danny Beck (2-4), pitched the entire nine and one third innings, giving up nine hits while walking five batters and striking out three.

After giving up a leadoff double to Alejandro Crisostamo (St. Augustine) in the top of the second inning, DiCato went on to strike out the next three batters, escaping the inning and preserving the shutout.

The three strikeouts commenced a sequence in which DiCato retired 12 batters in a row. The streak was broken up when Corey Shimada (Utah) singled to lead off the top of the sixth inning.

“I felt pretty good out there all the way through,” DiCato said. “I was commanding all three of my pitches. That is pretty much it. I felt good.”

Despite loading the bases in the fifth inning, the Navigators were unable to capitalize as Sean McNaughton flew out to left for the third out.

The Navigators left 13 runners on base in the game.

Tyler Kuehl led off the tenth inning with a single to left field. Despite going 0-for-4 in the game, McNaughton dropped a sacrifice bunt, allowing Kuehl to advance to second base with one out. After Nick Belcher and pinch-hitting Frank Pesanello were intentionally walked, Graham hit a grounder to second base with the infield in. The throw to the plate was mishandled by Torrington catcher Bryson Rahier (San Jose St.), allowing Kuehl to cross home plate.

“I think that we are finding ways to win,” Aldins said. “You are going to go through stretches at times when you are not swinging the bat or you are not pitching too well. But good teams are going to find a way to win, and I think we have been able to do that.”

Two North Shore pitchers – Chris Kowalski and Ryan Krull (1-0) – each gave an inning of relief, allowing a single hit combined.

The Navigators will open their playoff series against the Keene Swamp Bats on Saturday, August 2 at Fraser Field in Lynn. The game is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Keene won the season series with North Shore, taking four of the six meetings.

“I think we really, really have shown that we are a very talented ball club,” Aldins said. “We have had some ups and downs, but I think these guys expect to win. I think our guys believe that we are the best team in this league.”

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