|SteepleCats Top League Leaders for Fourth Straight Win|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com Sports|
09:26PM / Sunday, July 01, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The Valley Blue Sox came into Sunday’s game at Joe Wolfe Field as the best team in NECBL this season.
But the North Adams SteepleCats are playing their best baseball of the season.
And a two-double, three-RBI performance by Greg Cavaliere kept the ‘Cats on a roll as they earned a 6-4 win over the New England Collegiate Baseball League Northern Division leaders.
Colby Fortin pitched 2-⅓ innings of two-hit relief to earn the win on the mound and North Adams (8-11) earned its fourth straight victory.
“Definitely, the pitching, the starting pitching, the bullpen has been lights out,” Cavaliere said of the secret to the team’s current run. “We’ve been scoring 10 runs a game, recently, just about, through this four-game stretch. We scored six today, got the job done, so that’s good.”
Cavaliere led off the bottom of the first with his first double of the day and went to second on a groundout before scoring on a Jackson Coutts sacrifice fly to give the SteepleCats an early 1-0 lead.
Valley (14-5) responded with runs in the third and fourth to take a 2-1 lead, but North Adams, which lost, 11-0, to the Blue Sox in Holyoke earlier this season, rallied for five in the fourth.
Hoosac Valley grad Matt Koperniak got things started with a leadoff double down the right field line.
Jacob Jablonski walked, and No. 9 hitter Jeffrey Brown reached on an infield single to load the bases for Cavaliere with two out.
“I’m just looking for a pitch over the plate, something I can drive, hit hard” the University of Rhode Island rising junior said. “I was lucky enough to get a changeup over the middle half of the plate, drove it the other way. Stayed on it and got some runs out of it.”
All three of his teammates came home to give North Adams a 4-2 lead.
After a Chad Minato walk, Coutts picked up his college teammate with a single up the middle to make it a three-run cushion. Joe Porricelli doubled down the line to plate Minato and give North Adams a little more insurance.
It came in handy when Valley picked up a run in the fifth and one more out of a bases-loaded situation in the top of the ninth.
That was the last of several tough jams for North Adams’ five pitchers, who never gave up the big inning as Valley built a picket fence and the ‘Cats stranded 13 base runners.
“Whenever you’ve got guys on, it’s just a matter of being able to slow everything down and execute your pitches,” North Adams coach Justin Sumner said. “You’ve got to tip your caps to them. They were aggressive early the first couple of innings. They didn’t miss pitches, and they were getting good wood on things.
“We were just fortunate to have enough arms to kind of mix a little rhythm -- go from he left and go from the right, just keep them off balance enough. Congratulations to Jeff Hayner for coming in in a tough spot and just closing the door.”
Hayner came in with one out and two on in the middle of an at-bat when Jack Cunningham (1-⅓ innings, no earned runs) succumbed to tightness in his arm. Hayner gave up a single to load the bases and a sac fly for the second out of the inning before getting the third out on a swinging strike to end the game.
A busy week at Joe Wolfe continues on Monday with a makeup game against Keene.
The ‘Cats are on the road Tuesday at Winnipesaukee before playing their next five in North Adams, starting with Wednesday’s game that precedes the city’s fireworks display.