Monday, July 14, 2008

Ness’ ‘dirty stuff’ too much for Navigators

Joe Jasinski, Navigators Sports Information Department

Starting pitcher Michael Ness (Duke) and the Pittsfield Dukes’ pitching staff came into the game with the second-best earned run average (3.24) in the NECBL behind North Shore (2.67).

Allowing a combined one run on three hits, including six and one-third of no-hit baseball by Ness (4-1), they made their case for being the best.

Thanks to quality pitching and timely hitting, the Dukes (16-11) managed to split the season series, defeating North Shore (17-10) 4-1 at Fraser Field.

“I told their coach, I have not seen a guy deal like that against us in a long time,” Coach Falcon said. “Tip your cap to him, he did a great job. Sometimes you run in to guys who have nights like this.”

The loss moves the Navigators a game and a half behind the first-place Sanford Mainers and a game behind the Keene Swampbats, who were both idle, in the Northern Division standings.

The Dukes scored all four of their runs with two outs, highlighted by a game-winning, two-run single by Domenic DiRicco (Cornell) in the top of the sixth inning.

After Navigators starting pitcher Mike DiCato (2-3) retired the first two batters of the second inning in order, a dropped fly ball by Mike Provencher allowed Chris Edmonson (Le Moyne) to reach second and kept the inning going for Pittsfield. Jason Krizan (Dallas Baptiste) then looped a broken-bat single into centerfield, scoring Edmondson, and giving the Dukes a 1-0 lead.

An Edmondson single, Krizan sacrifice bunt, and walks by Matt Adams (Slipery Rock) and Jake Rosenbeck (Buffalo) loaded the bases for Pittsfield in the sixth inning. With runners in scoring position, Pittfield was once again able to capitalize. Both Edmondson and Adams crossed the plate on a DiRicco single up the middle, making it 3-0 Pittsfield.

DiCato was relieved from the game after the sixth inning, allowing two earned runs on eight hits, striking out and walking two Pittsfield batters.

“It looks like [DiCato] changed his mechanics a little bit tonight,” Falcon said. “I know that he is snakebit a little bit – he got that one unearned run. I wish we took advantage of the strike zone as much as they did, but it did not look like that happened tonight. That was probably one of the best hitting teams in the league, so I thought he did pretty well.”

The next inning, Krizan delivered a two-out double down the left-field line, scoring Musso from second base, and expanding the Dukes’ lead to four runs.

After retiring 19 batters without allowing a hit, Ness gave up the first Navigators hit to Sean McNaughton in the bottom of the seventh inning.

McNaughton drilled a triple to the wall in right-center field, and was brought home two batters later, when Tyler Kuehl laced a single off Ness’ ankle. The Navigators then proceeded to load the bases, but a fly out to left field by pinch-hitter Joshua Garton (Volunteer State C.C.) allowed Ness to escape the inning allowing only the one run.

Garton was the last out Ness recorded in his seven innings of work. The Navigator bats produced three hits off of Ness, striking out twice and walking once.

“I don’t know what to say,” Tyler Kuehl said. “He just had dirty stuff.”

The Pittsfield bullpen pitched two innings of no-hit relief.

The Navigators bullpen provided three innings of solid relief following DiCato’s departure. Despite allowing a run in the seventh inning, Ryan Krull and Chris Kowalski allowed just one hit in their three innings of relief. Kowalski struck out the side in the top of the ninth.

“All year long, our pen has been great – coming in, throwing strikes,” Kowalski said. “You know that we’re going to go out there and compete. It is good just to know that we will always get in there and throw strikes.”

McNaughton led off the ninth inning with a walk, advanced so second base on a passed ball, but was unable to advance any further.

The Navigators have four games remaining before Sunday’s All-Star game in Torrington, including a double-header on Saturday; the Navigators face the North Adams Steeplecats in the matinee and the Torrington Twisters in the nightcap.

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