Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Navigators, Costello victorious in fourteen-inning epic

Joe Jasinski, Navigatos Sports Information Department

Fourteen innings; ten pitchers; an ejection; a defensive blunder by a back-up catcher…playing left field.

After remaining deadlocked at 1-1 after thirteen and a half innings, a Matt Costello line-drive over the glove of replacement left-fielder Franco Valdes allowed Mike Provencher to score the game-winning run in front of the faithful fans at Fraser Field.

Leading off the fourteenth inning, Provencher chopped a ball down the third base line, narrowly beating out the throw to first from Keene catcher Dan Petro (E. Tennessee St.). After Provencher stole second on another close play, Swamp Bat first-baseman Paul Karmas (St. John’s Univ.) was ejected from the game for arguing with the first-base umpire Paul Brooks.

It was Provencher’s first hit of the night, having been retired five times previously.

Starting left-fielder Dan Grovatt (Virginia) replaced Karmas at first base, and back-up catcher Franco Valdes (Virginia) moved out to left field. After Sean McNaughton was intentionally walked, pinch-hitting John Folino laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, advancing both base-runners to second and third. Tyler Kuehl was then intentionally walked, bringing Costello to the plate to face the new Keene reliever Sean Bierman (Vanderbilt).

Costello roped a first-pitch fastball to left field. Valdes advanced forward to make the catch, but allowed the ball to shoot over his glove, scoring Provencher uncontested.

The win puts the Navigators (21-10) a game and half ahead of the third-place Swamp Bats (20-12) in the NECBL Northern Division. North Shore also moves percentage points ahead of the second-place Sanford Mainers (22-11), who’s game versus Lowell was postponed due to rain.

Costello went three for seven from the plate, tied for the most hits of any batter in the game (Nick Belcher also had three hits). Despite his fourteenth-inning heroics, the joy was accompanied by fatigue, Costello said.

“Honestly,” he said, “I’m so tired that I do not even know how to react. It felt good; really good. This one was a lot of fun – but very tiring.”

Perhaps overshadowed by the longevity of the night was the six innings pitched by Navigators’ starter Wayde Kitchens, who threw six innings of consistency, giving up a single run on five hits while striking out three batters.

The Swamp Bats left thirteen men on base – the Navigators left eighteen – none more important than the two left on in the top of the tenth inning. A single, an errant throw to an unmanned second base by Costello and a walk loaded the bases with no outs for Keene. Ryan Krull then struck out Chris Trembley (Kent State) and induced a 5-2-3 double play to leave the mound unscathed.

“I really just wanted to get one guy at a time,” Krull said. “Just wanted to get that first guy. You have to start somewhere.”

North Shore sent four relievers to the hill through the eight innings following Kitchens’ departure. Jason Markowitz and Krull each gave two innings of shutout relief, followed by Chris Kowalski, who gave two and one-third innings. Despite inheriting two base-runners from Kowalski, Chris Prescott (1-0) did not allow a run in his inning and two-thirds work.

“It just says a lot about our guys,” Head Coach Jason Falcon said. “They are not going to give in to anybody. I do not know how many times they had runners in scoring position with less than two outs – but give credit to the players, they just do not want to give up anything.”

Justin Little led off the fifth inning with his second bunt single of the evening. After stealing second and advancing to third base on a passed ball, Little was brought home on a McNaughton ground out, making the score 1-0 North Shore.

Despite escaping a jam in the fifth inning with runners on second and third base, Kitchens’ shutout was erased in the sixth inning after Paul Karmas singled home Evan Chambers, who had reached on a double, one of two extra-base hits Kitchens surrendered.

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