Thursday, July 3, 2008

Keene strikes early and often to beat Navs, 12-7

Zander Kean, Navigators Sports Information Department

Before the start of Thursday’s game, the North Shore Navigators stood a half-game ahead of the Keene Swamp Bats in the NECBL North standings. And the Navs were out for revenge, having dropped their first two meetings with the Swamp Bats.

But three Keene home runs wiped away that opportunity, as the Swamp Bats handed North Shore a 12-7 defeat.

Down 11-1 in the eighth, the Navs (13-7) mounted a furious rally to cut the deficit to four. After Provencher doubled and Derek Trent walked, Matt Costello bombed a Ryan Boden pitch off the Alumni Field scoreboard. It was the first home run of the season for a Navigator other than Provencher.

Tyler Kuehl, Nick Belcher and Jay McConnell also crossed home in the inning as Matt Costello came up again with the bases loaded, representing the tying run in an 11-7 game. But Costello struck out, ending the North Shore rally.

The Swamp Bats (13-6) drew first blood in the bottom of the second off North Shore starter Adam Herter. Paul Karmas led off the inning with a triple down the right field like, and Cliff Hicks knocked him in with a single up the middle. Designated hitter Evan Chambers then sent a Herter fastball over the left field fence to put Keene up 3-0.

The Navigators had a chance to bounce back in the top of the third. Kyle Geason continued his recent hot hitting with a double in the third inning, but was stranded at third when Mike Provencher popped out to right with two out.

Keene extended their lead in the bottom of the inning with another home run, this time off the bat of Cliff Hicks. With two outs and a runner on first, Hicks blasted a line drive off of the scoreboard in right center, putting the Swamp Bats ahead by a 5-0 score.

The Swamp Bats weren’t done in the inning, as Franco Valdes made the score 7-0 with a 2-run double that landed on the chalk of the right field foul line. That chased Herter from the game.

Mike Adams relieved Herter and got the final out of the inning, but gave up a three-run homer to Josh Chester that gave the Swamp Bats a double-digit lead in the fourth. But the Navs turned their third double play of the night to prevent any further damage.

On the bright side for the Navigators, Kent Graham took advantage of Alumni Field’s spacious right field as he launched a triple in the top of the fifth. It was his first hit since returning from a back injury that kept him out of action for two weeks.

In the end, North Shore just couldn’t string hits together against Keene starter Sean McDermott, who pitched 5 2/3 innings in his first start of the season. McDermott had put together a 2.45 ERA in five relief appearances before tonight.

The Navs were able to put up a crooked number in the sixth as Tom Cote relieved McDermott with two out and runners on first and second. Nick Belcher gave Cote a rude welcome with a double to left, scoring Matt Costello for the first Navigator run of the night.

Keene added a run in the seventh and another in the eighth to account for the 12-7 final.

With the win, Keene moved a half-game ahead of North Shore in the North Division, though the Sanford Mainers can hang on to the division lead with a win in Holyoke tonight The Navigators continue their road trip tomorrow in Holyoke as they take on the Blue Sox.

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