|SteepleCats Homer Twice in Third Straight Win|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports|
12:34AM / Sunday, July 01, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- On Wednesday, Joe Wolfe Field will be the site of a SteepleCats game and the Steeple City's annual fireworks display.
On Saturday night, the 'Cats decided to get the fireworks part started a little early.
With two second-inning bombs bursting over the fence, North Adams earned a 9-1 win over the Winnipesaukee Muskrats and its third straight victory to end the month of June.
Jackson Coutts went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and one of the round-trippers, and Cris Ruiz had the other two-run shot as the SteepleCats built an 8-1 lead after two frames and never looked back.
With seven of its next eight games at home starting Sunday evening, North Adams (7-11) is looking forward to a chance to keep chipping away at the hole it built in a 4-11 start that featured a five-game losing streak.
"It's good to be home," North Adams coach Justin Sumner said. "We've been playing well the last week and a half. A couple of losses early, though.
"But we've been seeing guys turn the tide a little bit, guys playing a little better, a little more consistent. It's good to see."
While the eight-run explosion early set the tone, the key to victory Saturday night was consistency from North Adams' pitching staff. Five SteepleCats combined to scatter five hits and not allow an earned run for a team that came in with an ERA of 6.02, near the bottom of the New England Collegiate Baseball League.
"We've been bitten with the bug when it comes to pitching so far," Sumner said. "Every time it seems we're going to settle into something, something turns around and throws a wrench into it. I was glad to see Stanley Vargas come in and give us those innings in the middle to kind of bridge it.
"And it was good to see the guys at the end bounce back and throw up some zeroes."
Starter Andrew DiPiazza looked good early, allowing just the one unearned run on an infield error in the first inning.
He struck out three in the first two innings and did not allow a hit until a leadoff single to start the third glanced off the side of his head.
He got up from the comebacker, but it knocked him out of the game, putting the onus on Sumner's bullpen.
Vargas came on to throw four strong innings, ending his night by getting a fly ball to left to end a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth.
Grant Stone, Jeff Hayner and Colby Fortin finished up, each picking up a strikeout and allowing just one hit between them.
North Adams had eight hits in its first two times through the lineup.
In the bottom of the first, the SteepleCats erased a 1-0 lead with a four-run rally.
Greg Cavaliere, Joe Porricelli and Coutts got things started with three straight hits. James Ciliento then reached on a fielder's choice when the Muskrats (4-14) tried but failed to get Porricelli at the plate on a grounder to the right side.
Coutts ended up scoring on a passed ball, and Tony Ortiz drove in Ciliento with a single to left.
In the second inning, it was all about the long ball.
First Coutts, who is hitting a league-best .484, hit one into the Noel Field playground to score Porricelli. Then, after Hoosac Valley graduate and Trinity College student Matt Koperniak reached on a two-out single, Ruiz cleared the fence in left field to make it 8-1.
Stephen Thibault added an RBI single in the fifth to cap the scoring.
After beating up on the Northern Division's last place team on Saturday, North Adams faces a tougher challenge Sunday at 4:30 when division-leading Valley (14-4) comes to town. In their first meeting, the Blue Sox beat the 'Cats, 11-0, in Holyoke.
Continuing with Saturday's deal, kids can get into the ballpark free on Sunday to celebrate the start of summer. Tickets for Sunday's game can be found at www.steeplecats.org or one hour prior to the game's start at the ticket booth.