Friday, August 1, 2008
Navs clinch home-field in 'extra' special win
Joe Jasinski, Navigators Sports Information Department
The scenario was simple: If the Navigators defeated the Torrington Twisters, they would secure second place in the NECBL Northern Division, and more importantly, home-field in the first round of the playoffs.
As the saying goes, good things come to those who wait.
After nine and a half innings of scoreless baseball, Kent Graham singled home Tyler Kuehl from third base with the bases loaded for the winning – and only – run.
“We just needed that win any way we could get it,” Graham said. “We would like to do it another way besides the bottom of the tenth, but any time you get a win in this league it is good.”
While the majority of offensive endeavors were unsuccessful, pitchers from both teams did not share the same misfortune.
Navigators starting pitcher Mike DiCato, whose last start came on July 19, delivered eight innings of shutout baseball, surrendering three hits while striking out and walking four batters each.
Pitching with modest offensive support is something DiCato has dealt with all season, Assistant Coach Kristaps Aldins said.
“I think that he just has not gotten the runs,” he said. “He has been one of the most hard-bitten starters that we have had. We just have not scored runs for him, but today he needed a run and he held it up.”
DiCato’s adversary, Torrington starter Danny Beck (2-4), pitched the entire nine and one third innings, giving up nine hits while walking five batters and striking out three.
After giving up a leadoff double to Alejandro Crisostamo (St. Augustine) in the top of the second inning, DiCato went on to strike out the next three batters, escaping the inning and preserving the shutout.
The three strikeouts commenced a sequence in which DiCato retired 12 batters in a row. The streak was broken up when Corey Shimada (Utah) singled to lead off the top of the sixth inning.
“I felt pretty good out there all the way through,” DiCato said. “I was commanding all three of my pitches. That is pretty much it. I felt good.”
Despite loading the bases in the fifth inning, the Navigators were unable to capitalize as Sean McNaughton flew out to left for the third out.
The Navigators left 13 runners on base in the game.
Tyler Kuehl led off the tenth inning with a single to left field. Despite going 0-for-4 in the game, McNaughton dropped a sacrifice bunt, allowing Kuehl to advance to second base with one out. After Nick Belcher and pinch-hitting Frank Pesanello were intentionally walked, Graham hit a grounder to second base with the infield in. The throw to the plate was mishandled by Torrington catcher Bryson Rahier (San Jose St.), allowing Kuehl to cross home plate.
“I think that we are finding ways to win,” Aldins said. “You are going to go through stretches at times when you are not swinging the bat or you are not pitching too well. But good teams are going to find a way to win, and I think we have been able to do that.”
Two North Shore pitchers – Chris Kowalski and Ryan Krull (1-0) – each gave an inning of relief, allowing a single hit combined.
The Navigators will open their playoff series against the Keene Swamp Bats on Saturday, August 2 at Fraser Field in Lynn. The game is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Keene won the season series with North Shore, taking four of the six meetings.
“I think we really, really have shown that we are a very talented ball club,” Aldins said. “We have had some ups and downs, but I think these guys expect to win. I think our guys believe that we are the best team in this league.”