Monday, July 7, 2008

New starter, offensive assault propel Navs, 9-1

Joe Jasinski, Navigators Sports Information Department

Seven innings of one-run baseball from the starter; a four-hit performance from the leadoff batter; sixteen hits by the offense; two innings of perfect relief by the bullpen.

Simply put, the Navigators were close to flawless.

Behind Tyler Kuehl’s best offensive outing of the season and an inspiring first start for newcomer John Folino, the Navigators kept up their hunt for divisional supremacy, trouncing the Danbury Westerners 9-1 at Fraser Field.

With three singles and a double, Kuehl became the thirteenth player in the NECBL this season to accumulate four hits in a game. He also drove in one run and scored twice while batting leadoff for the first time all season.

“He is an on-base kind of kid,” Head Coach Jason Falcon said. “He gets his hits every game, gets the bat on the ball every time, and he just took advantage of their mistakes.”

However, Justin Little will remain the leadoff hitter upon his return, Falcon said.

Folino struck out six Danbury batters and walked one on the night. You could not ask for much more, Falcon said.

“[Folino] pounded the zone, got ahead on batters, only walked - what? One batter?” he said. “That is exactly what you are looking for.”

Converting from reliever to start has been somewhat difficult, Folino said.

“It is tough,” he said. “Coming out of the bullpen you just throw what you have, all you have, for a couple innings and you don’t have to worry about stamina. Being a [starter], you have to worry about stamina and condition more and also worry about your pitch count.”

After Danbury stranded a runner on third base in the first inning, the Navigators made sure to capitalize. Following a leadoff double by Tyler Kuehl, the hot-hitting Sean McNaughton brought him home by way of an opposite-field single, giving him 18 runs batted in this season.

The Navigators would preserve the lead until the top half of the fourth inning.

Melvin Castillo (Eastern Conn. St.) belted a triple over McNaughton’s head in center, plating TJ Thomas (San Diego St.), who had led off the inning with a single.

The deadlock was broken in the bottom half of the inning.

A deep shot to left-centerfield by Kent Graham plated both John Hill and Chad Zurcher to make it 3-1 Navs. Graham motored to third base for his second triple of the season. Two batters later, Kuehl brought Graham home with a single, his third hit of the evening, making the score 4-1 Navigators.

A five-run explosion in the bottom of the sixth inning extended the Navs lead and put the game out of reach from the Westerners.

McNaughton’s league leading eleventh double scored Kuehl, who had singled earlier in inning for his fourth hit of the game. Matt Costello then pulled a single to right field, scoring Provencher from third.

Danbury starter Nick Jones (St. Gregory’s Univ.) was then relieved from the game and was replaced by southpaw Theodore Hurvul (UConn).

Hurvul walked Zurcher, allowing Costello to score. Ryan McCrann completed the surge with single that scored Belcher from third. A deep fly ball to the warning track by Kuehl got everyone’s hearts racing; alas, it was caught on the warning track by leftfielder Vinny Dammann (Pace Univ.) to end the inning.

With McCrann’s RBI single, every Navigator hitter in the starting lineup produced at least one hit.

The run support was much appreciated, Folino said.

“Confidence wise, you don’t have to worry about pinching yourself,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about giving up solo homeruns…you can just attack and the more confidence you have the better the outcome is going to be.”

The bullpen continued its seasonal dominance. Ryan Krull pitched a perfect eighth inning and Chris Prescott struck out the side in the ninth to solidify the Navs’ 15th win of the season.

With the win tonight, the Navigators could potentially move into first place with losses from Keene and Sanford. North Shore was a game behind Keene and a half-game behind Sanford in the Northern Division going into Monday night’s action.

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