Joe Jasinski, Navigators Sports Information Department
A deficit was built. A comeback proceeded. But in the end, perhaps the most unlikely of causes sent the Navigators home with their third loss of the six-game road trip: a run in the bottom of the ninth given up by the bullpen.
A walk-off RBI single by shortstop Joe DePinto in the bottom of the ninth allowed the Torrington Twisters to defeat the North Shore Navigators, 3-2.
Scoring runs earlier and being more aggressive were items the Navigators could have performed better, Head Coach Jason Falcon said.
“Instead of putting pressure on them, we put all the pressure on ourselves,” Falcon said.
An impressive battle between starting pitchers Wayde Kitchens and Andrew Triggs (USC) developed early, with both pitchers surrendering four hits combined through the first five and a half innings.
After leaving five runners on through the first five innings, Torrington’s offense found the scoreboard in the sixth. After Jonathan Cluff (BYU) reached on an infield error and Jaren Mathews (Rutgers) earned a walk to put runners on first and second, Aaron Barrows (E. Kentucky) singled to left to score Cluff. After stealing third, Mathews sprinted home on a ground ball out to Kyle Geason for the Twisters’ second run of the inning.
The second run marked the end of Kitchens’ night. He has continued to pitch well on the season, fanning four batters in his five and two-thirds innings of work, allowing one earned run on four hits. He also walked three batters.
“I don’t know if I would say [Kitchens] was shaky, I just think he threw a lot of pitches,” Falcon said.
“They fouled off a lot of pitches and his pitch count got real high and, you know, we are not out here to burn out guys, so we decided to cut him short.
The next half inning, the Navigators managed to cut the lead in half. Mike Provencher led off the inning with a single down the third base line. Sean McNaughton followed suit, belting a towering single off the left field fence to put runners on first and second base. A passed ball advanced the runners, and Nick Belcher executed, smacking a sacrifice fly to centerfield, scoring Provencher from third.
After relieving Kitchens and escaping a jam in the sixth inning, Ryan Krull pitched the seventh and eighth innings without allowing a hit.
“[Krull] is getting better and better with each time out, and I think his numbers indicate that,” Falcon said. “He is part of that bullpen that is just outstanding.”
Early season nerves contributed to his shaky start to the season, but he is beginning to settle down and pitch more effectively, Krull said.
“I was new to the league, and wanted to come out and impress some people, and just put a little too much pressure on myself” he said. “I just kind of settled in there, and I am getting in a groove, so I’ve just got to keep throwing well.”
With three outs left, the Navigator bats refused to be silenced. Provencher led off the ninth with a roped triple over the centerfielder’s head. McNaughton then knocked a sacrifice fly to centerfield, allowing Provencher to cross the plate for the second time on the night.
Torrington would not let the North Shore comeback spoil their night.
Chris Kowalski came in for the ninth inning, and after retiring the first two batters effortlessly, allowed a single to Corey Shimada (Utah) to keep the inning alive. Shimada then stole second base, and on the ensuing pitch, was brought home when DePinto slapped the game-winning single to left field.
The loss was Kowalski’s first of the season. His 2.79 earned run average is seventh best on the staff.
“All my guys out of that bullpen did a great job, even Kowalski,” Falcon said. “He had a situation where a hit wins the game and, you know, you just tip your hat to them.”