Saturday, August 2, 2008

Keene stifles Navs, 1-0, in game 1 of the playoffs

Joseph Gravellese, North Shore Navigators Sports Information Department

All week long, the mission was clear for the Navigators: lock up home field advantage in the playoffs, in order to avoid needing a win at Keene, where the Navs are winless this season.

But despite earning home field – and despite a complete game, five-hit performance by Matt Costello - North Shore will need to win in Keene to keep their season alive as the Swamp Bats downed the Navigators 1-0 on a cloudy night at Fraser Field.

Tommy Meagher baffled the Navigators over seven shutout innings, giving up five hits and striking out seven batters. Costello was just as good, giving up just one unearned run and striking out nine, but a single run for Keene in the fourth inning was enough to hand the Navigators the loss.

James Wise picked up the save for the Swamp Bats, working around a leadoff single in the ninth inning by Mike Provencher to put Keene on the brink of the NECBL semifinals.

“Under a pressure situation that we’re in [tomorrow], hopefully we’ll be a little bit light, as far as not putting too much pressure on ourselves, because then it becomes more of a problem,” said pitching coach Jim Woods after the game.

“I don’t know if… we felt a little too much pressure tonight. The last few games we haven’t been hitting, maybe we are pressing a little bit because of that. And that could be a holdover, a layover of what we’ve been experiencing offensively [in the last few days].”

The Navigators’ best chance to score off of Meagher came in the bottom of the third inning. Leadoff hitter Kent Graham scorched a single to left for North Shore’s first hit of the game. John Hill followed by hitting a bounding ball up the middle that second baseman Chris Tremblay mishandled; the ball fell to the ground and Graham slid into second base safely, putting the first two men on with nobody out.

Meagher, however, sharpened his resolve and fanned the next batter, Justin Little, for a huge first out. Chad Zurcher then dropped a sacrifice bunt to move the two runners into scoring position, but Sean McNaughton grounded out to third to end the threat.

Keene followed up North Shore’s squander with the game’s only run in the top of the fourth. Evan Chambers earned a leadoff walk. With one out, he took off for second. Catcher John Hill’s throw skipped off of Zurcher’s glove and into centerfield, allowing Chambers to bolt for third.

That extra base would prove to be crucial, as the next batter, Josh Chester, tapped a soft base hit up the middle to bring Chambers plateward and give Keene their only run of the ballgame.

“I’m pretty sure it was my curveball,” said Costello on the pitch that gave up the winning run. “I usually don’t throw it to a righty, especially early in the count, and if I throw it I’m usually going to get it down. I hung a curveball, he sat back on it and slapped it to left.”

Meagher did not give up an extra base hit until the seventh inning, when Kent Graham (2-for-3) rocketed a two-out double that brought renewed life to the fans at Fraser Field. But Meagher once again stepped up his game, getting Hill to chop to first base to end the inning.

The Swamp Bats called upon James Wise, who saved just one game in the entire regular season, to lock down the victory in the eighth and ninth. The ninth inning started off well for the Navigators, as Mike Provencher lined a single to left and Tyler Kuehl successfully sacrificed him into scoring position. But once again, the Navs couldn’t bring him home.

Wise bore down, retiring Nick Belcher on a flyout to right and striking out Josh Garton to end the game.

Game two of the best-of-3 NECBL quarterfinals is tomorrow evening in Keene, as the Navs will take on the Swamp Bats at 5:05 PM. If North Shore wins, game three will be played on Monday night at Fraser Field.

With North Shore facing elimination tomorrow, Woods believes that lineup changes could be in order.

“We’re going to be seeing a left-hander, and he pitches pretty well, so we’ll probably focus on that type of lineup that we have used different times in the year [against lefties].”

He denied, however, that the Navs would gear their lineup toward Keene’s unusually small ballpark, which features a short porch of 320 feet to the power alley in right-center field.

“We generally just go up there, get the matchups that we want and let things fall where they may,” he said.

Costello was much more direct about what the team needs to do to get back in the series: “We better get on ‘em - and get on ‘em early.”


Anonymous said...

You can't get hits unless you play hitters.

Anonymous2 said...

We did.....Meagher just had great stuff tonight

Anonymous said...

Great pitching yes, no hits yes again, do something with the line up, have to!

Anonymous said...

That was a nice night, last evening. Wish we had won though. We got there around the 5th inning and I think many did not show thinking it may have been a rain out. I just hope that is not our last night in 2008...
Dave D. :)

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that the season is coming to an end and we still haven't gotten to meet all "The Navs". That is a little behind I agree with an earlier blogger there seem to be some favorites.

Anonymous said...

Sports Info Guys - Thanks for taking time over the summer and doing all of this. I understand that you guys are all volunteers’ and are doing the best you can. Since you will not have time to interview all the players - maybe a fond memory or comment from each of them would be nice.

Joe Grav said...

Thanks -

The problem with the "Know Your Navs" feature is that we started it a few weeks into the season. If we had known how popular it would become, we would have started it on opening day.

Additionally, since we all have paying jobs and other commitments, sometimes it's not possible for all of us to be at the park every night - and those who are there need to focus on scoring the game, writing the story, updating the blog, etc.

Also, after tough losses, we don't want to go down and bother the players into doing a goofy 5-minute interview when they might be in a hurry to just go home.

That is why we haven't gotten to everyone.

The suggestion that we are playing "favorites" is silly. We have made a concerted effort to cover the Massachusetts guys for our local fans, but beyond that, we've gotten guys from many different schools from all over the country.

I will take this criticism as a positive, since it appears you all like "Know Your Navs" so much!

Hopefully the season still has at least another week to go - if so, we will be able to get even more of the players.

I will be posting two of the interviews today in the run-up to the Keene game.


Anonymous said...

I think your taking it the wrong way, I don't feel the favorites comment had anything at all to do with the commentary. I think he or she was referring the the coaching as far as playing and I have to say I agree.

Anonymous said...

I personally believe that this is a first class organization; I have listened to just about every one of the games and could not have been more satisfied with the announcers, the scorekeepers (although everyone has a different opinion when it comes to a hit vs. an error). I know that we all have lives that come first and families as well. But to take time to volunteer and do what you all do is something special. I want to say thank you for all your hard work and trying to keep it as objective as possible. As far as the coaching staff yes there will always be people out there that don't agree with their style especially when you are losing or have lost, they call them recliner coaches or something to that effect. Keep up the great work you all.

Joe Grav said...

Thank you for your kind comments!

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