Thursday, July 31, 2008

Navs split doubleheader against Holyoke

Zander Kean, Navigators Sports Information Department

For the second time in as many days, the North Shore Navigators played a 7-inning doubleheader. And as they did Tuesday against Lowell, the Navs split their twin bill with the Holyoke Blue Sox on Wednesday.

In the first game, North Shore recorded a 1-0 victory behind six shutout innings from starter Wayde Kitchens. The Navs (25-15) took a 1-0 lead once again in the nightcap, but two Holyoke runs proved to be decisive, as the Blue Sox (19-22) came away with a 2-1 win.

Because one of the games to be made up in the doubleheader was supposed to be played at Fraser Field, the Navs were the “home” team for game one, and so Kitchens took the hill in the top of the first. He worked out of a two-on, two-out jam by getting Ken Gregory to pop out to third.

That would prove to be a theme throughout Kitchens’ outing. Though he put a runner on base in each inning – he yielded four hits and four walks - none of those runners crossed home. Kitchens struck out seven over his six innings. After the game, Kitchens said that working in a close game keeps him focused.

“It helps me. When we score more runs, I allow more things to happen on the mound. But When I know it’s a 0-0 game, I know I need to bear down and try not to give up any runs.”

North Shore picked up the game’s lone run in the bottom of the sixth. Josh Garton drew a four-pitch walk to lead off the inning, and was then pinch-run for by Jesse Bruinsma. After a bunt single from Matt Costello and a sacrifice by Tyler Kuehl put Bruinsma at third with one out, John Hill flied to center – deep enough for Bruinsma to score without a throw.

With the lead in hand, Chris Prescott pitched the seventh to pick up his ninth save of the season. In 17 innings of relief, the North Shore closer has allowed just one earned run.

Though they finished off the victory, the Navs picked up just two hits in the game – both bunt singles. After playing at least fifty games before the NECBL season started, some players might be feeling the effects of the long season.

“We’re in the tail end of our season, it’s definitely a grind,” pitcher Adam Herter said. “But we’ve got the playoffs coming up and we’re excited about that. Hopefully we keep winning and see what happens.”

Herter got the ball for game two, and started his outing strong. He picked off a runner at second base in each of the first two innings. He got a lead to work with in the top of the fourth, as a Sean McNaughton double to left-center brought home Chad Zurcher.

In the bottom of the inning, after Holyoke loaded the bases with nobody out, Herter got Craig Turner to chop a ball directly in front of home plate. The ball bounced back to North ShoreHolyoke’s Alex Hilliard followed with a single to right that put the Blue Sox ahead for good, 2-1. catcher Frank Pesanello, who stepped on the plate and threw on to first for a run-saving double play. But

The Navs had opportunities to take the lead back in the late innings, but Holyoke’s Jeremy Nowak struck out three of the four batters he faced to finish the game.

“We made some stupid swings on some bad pitch selections, but we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do,” head coach Jason Falcon said. “We have just got to keep swinging and hopefully our defense and pitching will continue for us.”

Bruinsma knows that the team must fight through any lingering fatigue as the playoffs draw closer.

“Everyone is getting kind of tired, but we’re trying to not let it bother us. We’re not going to make excuses and say that we’re not hitting the ball,” he said. “We’ve probably played tend games in the past eight days, with a hotel night last week and a hotel night tonight. We’re just going to come out tomorrow and do the best we can.”

Tomorrow, the Navs have a split doubleheader in Holyoke. The first game will be a makeup against the Torrington Twisters, with the Navs then taking on the Blue Sox in the regularly-scheduled nightcap.

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