Saturday, June 28, 2008

Navs rally falls short against Mountaineers

Joe Jasinski, Navigators Sports Information Department

Last Friday in Newport, Mike Gallo went seven innings, gave up one run on four hits, highlighting a 7-1 Navigators’ trouncing of the Gulls.

Tonight, Gallo's line was the same: seven innings, allowing one run on four hits. Only difference, there was no offense.

That is, until the ninth inning.

Despite a two-run, ninth-inning push by the Navigators and stellar outing from Gallo, Vermont was able to return the favor of last night, defeating North Shore 3-2 in front of a rowdy crowd at Fraser Field.

If imaginable, Casey Harman’s performance on the mound for Vermont was perhaps more impressive than that of Gallo.

Harman pitched six innings of shutout baseball, also surrendering four hits, striking out six batters and walking one. He is yet to allow a run in his 24 innings pitched, and has also fanned 28 batters in those innings.

“We knew [he hasn’t given up a run yet this season] going in,” Coach Falcon. “I thought he was impressive. Obviously, he shut us down.”

The Mountaineers were able to advance a runner to third base in the first two innings, but were unable to capitalize on either situation.

They had no such problem in the fourth.

With a leadoff double by Alan Oaks over Mike Provencher’s head in right field, and a walk by Steven Felix, Vermont had runners on first and second with one out. A double steal attempt allowed Felix to reach second, but Jay McConnell’s throw to third was in time to retired Oaks. Matt Duffy then grounded a single up the middle to score Felix for Vermont’s first lead, which they never gave up.

The Navigators offense was stagnant. It was not until the bottom of the seventh inning that they had a baserunner reach second base. Tyler Kuehl led off the inning with an infield single, followed by a sacrifice bunt by Jay McConnell. However, nothing came of it with Kent Graham grounding to third and Kyle Geason hitting a chopper back to the pitcher.

Perhaps the “web gem” of the season thus far came in the top of the sixth inning when third baseman Kyle Geason charged a weak grounded, made a bare-handed grab and throw to get Oaks at first.

The defense continues to play consistently, Falcon said.

“Our defense has been outstanding,” he said. “[Kyle] Geason turned in a couple of great plays. I think our defense is definitely helping us out and keeping us in games.

Both bullpens pitched well until the ninth, when the offenses of Vermont and North Shore correspondingly came alive.

Navigators closer Chris Prescott entered the ninth inning in relief of Jason Markowitz, who posted a scoreless eighth inning, and gave up a leadoff walk to Michael Nesbitt. Felix then knocked a ball back to Prescott, who couldn’t find a handle on the ball, putting runners on first and second. After a Duffy sacrifice bunt turned into a throwing error by Jay McConnell to load the bases, Ogrinc punched a single up the middle, scoring two Mountaineer baserunners, making it 3-0, Vermont.

The Navigator bats were not to be silenced.

Thanks to a defensive blunder by Vermont shortstop Greg Sherry, Provencher was able to reach first to start off the bottom of the ninth. Nick Belcher then roped a double to the wall in left, advancing Provencher to third. Tyler Kuehl recorded his twelfth and thirteenth RBIs of the season with a slapped double along the right field line, making it 3-2 Vermont with no outs in the ninth.

A sacrifice bunt by John Hill was the last sign of progression for the Navigators, as Kent Graham and pinch-hitter Ryan McCrann struck out in succession to end the rally, and the game.

The difference was simple, as Gallo put it.

“These last two starts I’ve made one mistake each time,” he said. “Last game against Newport it was the first pitch fastball that the kid hit for a homerun. Luckily, in the Newport game we scored seven runs. Tonight, the bats came late, but that’s baseball. Sometimes things just don’t fall your way.”

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