Thursday, July 24, 2008

Navs rally to win rain-shortened game in Sanford

Zander Kean, Navigators Sports Information Department

At approximately 3:00 PM on Wednesday, the overcast sky over Sanford, Maine began spitting light rain. That rain then turned into a downpour, pushing the start of the North Shore Navigators’ game against the Mainers back two hours.

Finally, Goodall Park drained well enough for the game to get underway at 8:30. And in what would turn out to be their last at-bat, the Navs broke open a pitcher’s duel to come away with a rain-shortened 4-1 victory.

With the win, North Shore (22-10) moved into sole possession of first place in the NECBL North and clinched the season series against the Mainers (22-12). The Navs have won four of five against Sanford.

“We got the offense when we needed it, maybe Lady Luck was on our side, maybe she knew the rain was coming,” head coach Jason Falcon said.

On the hill for the Navigators, Adam Herter began his night with a strikeout of Corey Hunt. And with the help of a double play in the second inning, Herter faced the minimum number of hitters through the first three innings and retired 10 of the first 11 batters he faced.

“I felt good. The rain delay was kind of a bummer, just waiting around getting ready to play, but it worked out well for us,” Herter said. “I was just going after their pitcher. You have just got to stay sharp mentally and go out and bear the conditions.”

Sanford’s Pat Lehman began his outing just as well. Coming into the contest with a 0.90 ERA over his six starts, Lehman scattered four hits over the first five innings. In that span, he struck out six Navs and walked just one.

The Mainers put the game’s first run on the board in the bottom of the fifth. Anthony D’Alfonso drove a Herter offering just over the head of North Shore centerfielder Justin Little, reaching third as the ball bounced off the wall. Herter then struck out Devin Harris, but gave up a fly ball to Will Greenberg that was deep enough to send D’Alfonso home.

Mike Provencher and Sean McNaughton helped the Navs respond in the following inning. Provencher led off the inning with a double to the gap in left-center, and McNaughton roped a triple to the same spot to tie the score at 1. Two batters later, Nick Belcher hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to give North Shore its first lead of the night, 2-1.

But the Navigators weren’t finished in the inning. John Hill plated Matt Costello – who had reached on an infield single – with a triple to left-center. And Chad Zurcher followed with a line-drive base hit to right, sending home Hill for the fourth Navigator run.

Catchers aren’t typically known for their wheels, but Hill’s hustle gave him his first three-bagger of the season.

“I knew he had it in him, and I am probably the only guy that has said that. He got to third, looked at me and said, ‘thank you, I don’t think I will ever hit one again,’” Falcon said. “Maybe you don’t take that chance with a guy out, but we had the lead and we had a good guy on the mound, so I was thinking what the hell, let’s take a chance.”

In the bottom of the sixth, the rain came back with a vengeance as Herter worked a quick 1-2-3 inning. With the weather showing no signs of letting up, the Mainer players wasted no time in covering the infield with their tarp. By the time the rain stopped, the infield was completely soaked, and within a few minutes the game was called.

In his six innings, Herter allowed just two hits and an unearned run. He did not walk a batter and struck out three Mainers. He credited the Navs’ solid defense – North Shore came into the game with a league-best .972 fielding percentage – with allowing him to work through easy innings.

“I was trying to get the ball back as soon as I could; just trying to get it over the plate to let them put the ball in play. Luckily, [Sanford] hit the ball hard on the ground and our defense worked well under the conditions and we came away with a big win tonight.”

With Mike DiCato on the hill, the Navigators will look to build their division lead tomorrow – weather permitting – as they travel to Keene to take on the Swamp Bats.

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