Tuesday, July 8, 2008

McNaughton's two bombs carry Navigators past Lowell

Zander Kean, Navigators Sports Information Department

In the first 23 games of the NCEBL season, Sean McNaughton hit at a .366 clip with 11 doubles and four triples, drove in 19 runs, drew a team-high 13 walks and played an errorless outfield. In short, he did just about everything his North Shore Navigators teammates could want – everything but hit a home run.

But McNaughton didn’t leave Lowell empty-handed. He blasted his first two home runs of the season, leading the Navigator offense to a 7-3 victory over the Lowell All-Americans.

McNaughton added a double in the seventh inning to finish 3-for-5 with 3 RBI, raising his batting average to a team-high .379 and earning postgame praise from Navigator head coach Jason Falcon.

“The second [home run] is as hard of a hit ball I’ve seen all year. I thought the double was going to have a chance too, but it is just nice to see him comfortable in the zone,” Falcon said. “He is a tough out; there is no easy way to pitch that kid. He’s a tough out and he’s a good kid.”

As they did in last night’s game against Danbury, the Navigators (16-8) put a crooked number on the board in the first inning. Justin Little worked a walk to open the game, then advanced to second when an attempted pickoff got away from Lowell (8-15) first baseman Tony Plagman. Mike Provencher struck out swinging, and then McNaughton belted a Jason Kosakow offering over the left-centerfield fence to put the Navs up 2-0.

North shore added to its lead the following inning. Catcher John Hill led off the frame with a double to deep right-center and Kyle Geason drew a one-out walk, setting the table for Little. With both runners in motion, Little put a line drive in the hole between third base and shortstop that easily scored Hill.

Next up to bat, Provencher drove a ball over the head of centerfielder Steve Daniels. Little got a good jump and nearly ran by Geason as the two rounded the bases. The two crossed the plate within a few steps of each other, giving Provencher a pair of RBI and North Shore a 5-0 advantage. After the game, the fleet-footed Little commented on Geason’s footspeed.

“It’s like molasses on an ice-cold day in Vermont,” Little said with a laugh. “That’s how slow.”

A five-run lead was more than enough for North Shore starter Jimmy Lisowski, who came into the contest with a 0.96 ERA in 18 2/3 innings pitched. Lisowski allowed baserunners in every inning, but was able to minimize damage, stranding runners in scoring position throughout his six innings of work.

“I just knew I had to execute pitches, kind of knowing that you have to hit a spot, and going out there and doing it. My curveball wasn’t working that well so I kind of had to rely upon my fastball,” he said. “Luckily, they chased a couple bad pitches late in those innings which helped me, and they swung early in the count, which helped me once again.”

Lisowski received a little more help in the top of the fifth. With one out, Kosakow hung a curveball to McNaughton and the Navigator left fielder didn’t miss it, launching the ball to almost the same spot in left-center. McNaughton’s second home run of the night put the Navs up 6-0. Kosakow retired the next two Navigators but left at the end of the inning, yielding six runs on six hits, with four strikeouts against two walks for his outing.

Chad Zurcher drove in the final North Shore run with a single to left, scoring Jay McConnell, who had reached with a double.

Lowell did break through against Lisowski in the bottom of the fifth. With Michael Baillarge on first, former Navigator Dan Coury doubled between Little and Provencher, sending Baillarge around for the All-Americans’ first run.

In the following inning, Kevin Rivers scored on a Plagman double to make the score 6-2. Lisowski then retired Baillarge and Dan Godefroi in order for the final two outs of his start, in which he gave up two runs on six hits, struck out four and walked four over six innings. After the game, Falcon talked about his starter’s consistency.

“He is good for six a game, and he is one of those guys, you know, who is not going to overpower you, but he is going to hit his spots and give his team a chance to win every night,” Falcon said. “You can’t beat that… you really can’t beat that.”

After Lisowski’s day was finished, the Navigator bullpen took over. Chris Kowalski, Jason Markovitz and Chris Prescott combined to give up just one run over three innings. After pinch-hitter Chad Zurcher drove in Jay McConnell to give the Navs an insurance run in the top of the eighth, Prescott worked the ninth, fanning Rivers to clinch the North Shore victory.

In the three games since a 9-1 loss to Sanford, the Navigator offense has produced 26 runs while the team has allowed just four. Little talked about how putting runs on the board early makes the pitching staff’s task that much easier.

“It’s nice for our pitchers, getting to the bullpen with a lead instead of being down one or being down two. It’s nice getting up early on people, then we can give it to our bullpen and they can close it out for us.”

The Navs will look to extend their winning streak to four as they take a long bus ride to Danbury, Conn. to take on the Westerners. Wayde Kitchens will make the start.


Anonymous said...

Your article says Lisowski walked 4 and struck out 4. The box score however says 3 walks and 3 strikeouts.

Joe Grav said...

I listened to parts of the game on the radio, and I remember hearing the announcer say 4 strikeouts. Maybe the scorers missed a drop third strike or something (just like us, the official scorers are inexperienced volunteers and could easily have made a mistake).

I'm not sure about the walks, though.

Thanks for reading,


Joe J said...

I just double-checked my scorebook and had four strikeouts and three walks recorded for Lisowski. I apologize for the inaccuracy, my notes are certainly not the neatest. As Joe said, I recall there being a dropped third strike, so that could've been the reason for the variance between myself and the box score. Regardless, Thanks for picking up on my mistake.

Joe J

Zander said...

As they said, there must have just been a disparity somewhere between what happened on the field and what I took down from Joe after Lisowski was done. Never hurts to have a reminder to double-check everything, thanks for letting us know about the discrepancy.


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