Joseph Gravellese, North Shore Navigators Sports Information Department
Two hours before game time, severe thunderstorms rolled through Montpelier, Vermont, delaying the start of Friday night’s game between the North Shore Navigators and the Vermont Mountaineers. But neither Mother Nature nor the highly regarded Vermont Mountaineers pitching staff could slow down to hot bat of Mike Provencher.
Provencher went 2-for-5, improving his batting average to .333, and drove in three runs with a go-ahead, bases-clearing RBI double in the top of the 7th. Provencher’s double unleashed an offensive avalanche for the Navigators, who scored seven unanswered runs in the 7th and 8th en route to an 8-2 victory over the Mountaineers at Recreation Field.
The win improved North Shore’s league leading record to 11-5, while Vermont fell to 7-7.
The early innings were defined by yet another pitcher’s duel between Mike DiCato and Vermont’s Chris Petrini.
Petrini was impressive for the Mountianeers, scattering 5 hits and striking out 7 in 5 shutout innings. But DiCato was even better. DiCato earned his 2nd win of the year, holding Vermont to 2 hits and 2 walks while giving up just one unearned run over 7 innings.
“I was just able to throw strikes and let the defense do the work mostly,” said Dicato, repeating a recurring sentiment among Navs pitchers. “My breaking pitch was working well all night and that allowed me to be successful.”
Sean McNaughton and Justin Little each made a number of excellent running catches in the outfield to prevent what appeared off the bat to be sure hits. “Little took away a couple base hits tonight, and he’s been doing it for every other outing, too. It’s awesome [when you can get defense like this],” said DiCato.
The two pitchers combined for five scoreless innings to start the game.
The Navigators finally broke the ice in the 6th inning, thanks in large part to a slick play by John Hill.
Nick Belcher worked a walk off of relief pitcher R.J. Preach to start the inning.. Tyler Kuehl made two failed attempts to move Belcher over with a sacrifice bunt before grounding it to second base for a fielder’s choice.
Hill stepped up and immediately squared to bunt, standing in position for 5 seconds. Then, just as Preach went into his delivery, Hill pulled back and took a swing, smoking Preach’s grooved fastball to the rightfield wall for an RBI double.
The lead wouldn’t last long, however; the Mountaineers struck back with a run of their own off of Dicato in the home half of the 6th. Greg Sherry got it started with an infield hit to third base. On the first pitch to Gerald Ogrinc, Sherry took off for second base. Hill’s throw zipped into centerfield, moving Sherry to 3rd. Ogrinc then brought him in with a groundout to 2nd base.
That’s when Provencher and the Navigators offense went to work.
Kyle Geason led off the top of the 7th with a walk and went to 3rd on a double by McNaughton. Preach then plunked Little with a 2-2 fastball to load the bases for Provencher. He promptly hit a laser that rolled up against the 420 marker in centerfield, bringing home all three baserunners.
Tyler Kuehl brought Provencher home later in the inning with a 2-out RBI double.
The Navigators put three more runs on the board in the 8th when the wheels fell off the Vermont defense. The Mountaineers made four errors in the inning, allowing Geason, McNaughton, and Ryan McCrann to score.
Chris Kowalski struggled in relief, giving up six hits over the final two innings, but he held Vermont to just one run, preserving the 8-2 win.
It was a good all around offensive performance for the Navigators, with all nine starters reaching base at least once in the game.
“The top of the order was doing a lot of good things, but the bottom of the order really came through tonight, and I think that was the difference,” said coach Jason Falcon. “They were able to get on base and give the top of our order some things to work with. We’ve been going three pitches and out the last couple of nights, but tonight I think the bottom of the order did a great job in setting the table for us.”
The Navs complete the second leg of a home-and-home series with Vermont on Saturday night at Fraser Field; gametime is 7:00 PM.