By Joe Jasinski, Navigators Sports Information Department
Fans surrounded the visitor’s dugout. Scouts littered the seats behind home plate, five radar guns drawn with each pitch. American flags were given to attendees to commemorate Flag Day and Team USA’s arrival.
For one night, the Navigators were to step aside as the main attraction at Fraser Field, honoring players who are trying out for the chance to represent our country.
Someone forgot to tell the Navigator hitters.
Behind five innings of work from left-hander Jimmy Lisowski and a worthy offensive effort by the home team, the Navigators defeated Team USA, 6-3.
The Navigator bats exploded for five runs off of USA’s starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (Missouri) in the bottom of the first inning. After back-to-back singles by Ryan Kuehl and John Hill, Nick Belcher reached on an error by USA shortstop Christian Colon (Cal St. - Fullerton) to load the bases. Centerfielder Mike Provencher brought Kuehl and Hill home with a single to left. Leftfielder Peter Fatse continued the rally by roping a bases-clearing triple to right-centerfield.
“Obviously we all knew who [Gibson] was coming into the game,” Fatse said. “He throws really hard and you just have to try and keep it simple. That is what I did there and it transpired into a triple.”
A soft single to center by first basemen – and new addition to the Navigators roster – Jon Griffin (Manatee C.C.) brought Fatse home for the fifth run of the inning.
The inning certainly helped the Navigators because it put pressure on Team USA to go out and put runners on base. However, the runs were not essential for Lisowski to be effective, Coach Jason Falcon said.
“I don’t think Jimmy having that five run lead was going to make much of a difference,” Falcon said. “But it certainly didn’t hurt.”
Team USA produced one run in the top of the third inning when designated hitter Josh Phegley (Indiana) poked a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing centerfielder Josh Fellhauser (Cal St. - Fullerton) to touch home. Fellhauser had singled and reached third base on a double by Colon.
Despite retiring the first two batters in order, Lisowski ran into trouble again in the fourth inning, surrendering a triple to third baseman Derek Dietrich (Georgia Tech) and a walk to catcher Ryan Ortiz (Oregon St.), putting runners on first and third. Lisowski then struck out leftfielder Brian Fletcher (Auburn) to get out of the jam unscathed, preserving the four-run lead.
In the top of the fifth inning, Team USA continued to chip away at the lead. With two outs, Phegley belted a double to left-centerfield. Next up was right-fielder Kentrail Davis (Tennessee), who knocked a single to center to score Phegley, cutting the lead to 5-2.
Lisowski allowed two runs on seven hits while striking out three batters and allowing one walk. It was an outstanding start, Coach Falcon said.
“This was his day to start and he went out there and did as well as I expected him to do,” Falcon said. “He is a kid that dominates in Division III and I expected him to come out there and compete, battle, and get outs and that is what he did.”
Lisowski admitted that he was a little nervous during the days leading up to this matchup, but once he threw that first pitch, nervousness were replaced by composure.
“You just go after them and eventually you have to realize ‘these kids are college players and so am I.’”
Gibson also pitched five innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits. He recorded five strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, pinch-hitter Derek Trent walked, reached second on a passed ball, and proceeded to third after a ground out by pinch-hitter Ryan McCrann. An error by Dietrich on a Kent Graham chopper allowed Trent to score another insurance run, making the score 6-2.
In his inning of relief, Ryan Krull loaded the bases with one out. After fanning substitute leftfielder Aaron Senne (Missouri), Krull threw a wild pitch, allowing Hunter Morris (Auburn) to score.
Adam Herter closed the door in the ninth, earning the save.
Team U.S.A. has played and will continue to play several NECBL teams this week, having already defeated the Keene Swamp Bats and the Holyoke Sox by scores of 11-0 and 7-2, respectively. They will continue their tour through the league with North Adams on June 15, Pittsfield on June 16 and Torrington on June 17.