Saturday, July 12, 2008

College teammates lead Navs to 7-4 victory over Lowell

Zander Kean, Navigators Sports Information Department

Point Loma Nazarene University is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, a level of competition considered weaker than any division in the NCAA. And in the NECBL, each team is largely made up of players from NCAA Division I and II schools.

But Adam Herter and Tyler Kuehl, the North Shore Navigators’ two PLNU Sea Lions, showed that they can compete with the best Saturday in leading the Navs to a 7-4 victory over the Lowell All-Americans.

With his parents in attendance, Kuehl launched his first NECBL home run – a three-run shot to left in the top of the sixth – and made two stellar defensive plays in the field. And Herter rebounded from a tough outing against Keene with seven solid innings on the mound.

Lowell (8-18) started off strong against Herter with two runs in the top of the first. With Pat McKenna on first and one out, Nicholas Pecora tripled over the head of North Shore (17-9) right fielder Mike Provencher, putting the All-Americans on the board. Kevin Rivers followed with an RBI single that extended his team’s lead to 2-0.

The Navs struggled in the early innings against Lowell starter Mark Gormley. Gormley came into the game with a 3.38 ERA and struck out seven batters in his first three innings of work.

Those strikeouts were due in part to a liberal strike zone called by home plate umpire Mike Noeth. But as Justin Little said after the game, the Navs were able to use the wide zone to their advantage.

“It didn’t really impact us too much, you just know that when you have a strike zone like that, you have to open it up and swing a little bit more,” he said. “We adjusted nicely and it didn’t really hurt us tonight.”

And timely two-out hitting allowed North Shore to break through in the top of the third. After Little doubled to left – his first extra-base hit of the season – and Mike Provencher was hit by a pitch, Sean McNaughton drove in Little with a single to left. McNaughton came into the game with a team-high .380 batting average and 24 RBI.

The Navigators would then take the lead in the following inning. With the bases loaded, John Hill lined a single to right, scoring Kuehl and Kent Graham to give North Shore its first lead of the night at 3-2. And with two on and one out in the fifth, Kuehl deposited a Gormley fastball over the left field wall, opening up a four-run lead. The Navigator second baseman finished 3-5, with three RBI and three runs scored.

“Tyler Kuehl had one of the best games I’ve ever seen anyone have on both the offensive and defensive sides,” Falcon said.

That run support would prove to be more than enough for Herter, who did not allow a run past the first inning. The right-hander faced just one batter over the minimum from the third through the seventh, striking out four against just one walk.

In his last start, Herter gave up seven runs in just 2 2/3 innings against the Keene Swamp Bats. But a relief appearance in which he struck out the side against Danbury allowed Herter to refocus, Falcon said.

“He established the strike zone early, which was really missing last time for him. 7 innings is exactly what I was hoping for out of him. He had a low pitch count, he got ahead of hitters, and he forced them to swing at his pitch, so I was happy to see that.”

The Navigators picked up their hurler in the field, and then some. In the fifth, Kuehl snagged a line drive off the bat of Steve Daniels at the very top of his jump, doubling off the runner at first to end the inning. Then in the sixth, Graham made a backhanded stab on a hot Pecora grounder. And finally, Kuehl tracked down a chopper up the middle, completing the throw to first as his momentum carried him away from the bag.

North Shore came into the game with a league-high .971 fielding percentage as a team, and Falcon knows that type of consistent defense is one of his team’s keys to success.

“We can’t afford to lose games right at the end like we did last week in Danbury, so it was nice to finish this one off and get a win. The defense was a big part of that - it wasn’t just the guys making the big plays behind Adam [Herter], it was all the solid routine plays we made, too.”

The Navs added an insurance run in the seventh, as Graham brought Kuehl home with a sacrifice fly to center.

Lowell tightened the game in the bottom of the ninth against North Shore reliever Mike Adams. With one run already home, runners on the corners and two out, a McKenna single brought in Lowell’s fourth run. As Chris Prescott entered from the Navigator bullpen, Pecora came to the plate representing the tying run. But Prescott struck him out swinging to end the game and record his eighth save of the season.

The win brought the Navs into a temporary tie with Keene for second place in the NECBL Northern Division, pending the Swamp Bats’ result against Vermont. The Navigators have another day off Sunday, and are back at Fraser Field Monday as Mike DiCato gets the start against the Pittsfield Dukes.

8 comments:

Christine said...

Isn't there a game on Sunday 7/13 vs. Torrington, @ 12:30 PM. I have an email about this makeup date for a rainout. We were planning on coming, can someone let me know if there will be a game or not? Thanks!

Zander said...

The game against Torrington has been postponed due to the Agannis Games being played at Fraser tomorrow. At this point, the game hasn't been rescheduled yet.

We just found out about that earlier today, I'll throw something up on the site in a minute.

Anonymous said...

NAIA is by no means weaker than ncaa. Good NAIA schools, PLNU included, are very good programs. I don't know who told you that NAIA is weak, but that is very wrong. The level of comptetion on average can be compared to NCAA division 2 at least. Please don't make comments like that if you don't know what you're talking about.

zander said...

In that case, I apologize. I was trying to bring out the fact that Kuehl and Herter have performed very well in a league where some teams, like Keene, have ten players from the ACC (7) and SEC (3) combined. But I definitely could have worded that better.

To be quite honest, I'm most familiar with the ACC since that's where I go to school, and most of the college baseball I have watched involves that conference. So describing either the NAIA in general or the conference that PLNU plays in as being "little-known," rather than "weak" would have been a better way to go about it, in retrospect.

Again, it definitely wasn't my intention to demerit those programs, but rather to highlight the way that these two guys have played with the competition in this league. But thanks for the comment, it's always good to learn more about something I'm not too familiar with, and now I won't make that mistake again.

-Zander

Joe Grav said...

I have no doubt that PLNU is a solid program and could probably beat a good number of NCAAd2 teams. The same probably goes for a number of NAIA teams.

With that said, I still think it's fair to say that the top divisions of NCAA are definitely considered superior to NAIA.

I agree that "Good NAIA schools, PLNU included, are very good programs," but you take it too far, I think, by saying that "NAIA is by no means weaker than ncaa."

Joe Grav said...

Actually, if you think about the Navs roster overall, they've all been quite impressive this year. Most of these NECBL rosters have a ton of D1 guys. Even Lowell, who has struggled all year, has around half of its roster filled with D1 players.

The Navs have just a few D1 guys - (this is off the top of my head, I might be missing someone) McNaughton, Kowalski, Geason, Prescott and Dicato - yet they are one of the best teams in the league.

You can draw your own conclusions as to whether this means the gap between D1 and D2/3/NAIA isn't that big, these players are just extraordinarily good, or that Coach Falcon is an excellent talent evaluator.

No matter how you look at it, it's been fun to watch.

Also: PLNU is now my 3rd favorite college baseball program after BC and Harvard, just because of the way our PA announcer says it: "Point LA-MAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Nazareeene"

JG

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Herter had a "stellar" outing. It sure is nice when the Nav's bats are hot and give the pitchers the extra insurance runs they need. And they only had two errors and only one was costly this time.
Hopefully with another day’s rest (no games today) they can relax some and rest their tired arms and legs.

Joe Grav said...

And the two errors were made up for by three absolutely amazing defensive plays, two by Kuehl and one by Graham

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