|SteepleCats Top Southern Division Leader Plymouth Behind Koperniak Grand Slam|
|By John Wood, North Adams SteepleCats|
12:42AM / Saturday, July 14, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, Mass —With the season quickly nearing its end, the SteepleCats needed a win to get back on track and behind dominant pitching and early offense, that’s exactly what they got.
After a two-game road trip this week, the North Adams SteepleCats made their way home on Friday to face off against the Southern Division leaders in the Plymouth Pilgrims. Behind the big early offense courtesy of Hoosac Valley graduate Matt Koperniak and a rowdy crowd, the SteepleCats were able to find their way back into the win column with a big 7-5 victory over the Pilgrims.
In his second start, AIC sophomore Joe Kemlage came out strong for North Adams. After getting into an early jam that saw Plymouth take an early 1-0 lead, Kemlage struck out his next three opponents to get the SteepleCats out of the inning.
“I tried to mix it up a lot since everything felt good” said Kemlage. “Pounding the strike zone, staying low, and working a lot with the offspeed has been really working for me so far”.
With the Pilgrims generating some early offense in the top half of the inning, the SteepleCats saw their chance to respond in the bottom half and did in a big way. After a walk, single, an error by the shortstop put Greg Cavaliere, Tony Ortiz, and Jackson Coutts on to load the bases, third baseman Matt Koperniak sent a ball soaring over the rightfield fence for a grand slam, giving North Adams a 4-1 lead.
“Fortunately I got a ball up in the zone and that’s where I was looking” Koperniak said. “I just jumped on it, got the barrel on it, and it carried out”.
Koperniak has also been a gem in the field for the SteepleCats, eliminating almost any chance of the runner reaching the bag with a ball hit in his direction.
“The biggest thing is trying to get the good hop” Matt explained. “Then after that you just let the hands do the work and not worry about the throw”.
After a scoreless 2nd, the SteepleCats offense didn’t produce in the top of the third against Plymouth starter Same Williams as they did in the 1st. Yet this wasn’t the case for Plymouth, as an error on a sure to be double play placed two runners on when Max Flower came to the plate. The outfielder brought his team back in the game as his deep shot over the left field fence for a three-run home run tied the game at four.
As the starting pitchers held the respective teams at bay in the 5th, the Pilgrims put two runners on to cut Kemlage’s night short after 4.1 innings. Centenary College’s Andy Purpura then took the rubber for the SteepleCats, pitching his way out of a bases-loaded jam with two fly outs to keep the game tied at four.
While struggling to find the offense they had in the 1st, North Adams finally began seeing some production start in the 5th inning. After singling and stealing a base, outfielder Greg Cavaliere was driven in by his URI teammate Jackson Coutts. Allowing the SteepleCats to retake the lead.
This offense then continued in the 6th and 7th innings for the home team. SteepleCats second baseman Jacob Jablonski ended Sam Williams’ night after his single scored James Ciliento to bring the North Adams lead to 6-4. Christian Rosati then came on to relieve Williams, and the SteepleCats plated a run on him in the 7th courtesy of an RBI single from shortstop Joe Porricelli.
After four unsuccessful innings at the plate, the Pilgrims were finally able to drive one home in the 8th. Against relief pitcher Davis Brown, Tyler Wyatt was able to sky a fly into the outfield deep enough to send Max Flower in from third, making the game a 7-5 contest.
Yet Brown then shut down the Pilgrim offense, allowing no more and striking out to secure the victory for North Adams.
The SteepleCats are on the road on Saturday as they head up to Vermont to battle against the Vermont Mountaineers at 6:30. They then return to Joe Wolfe Field on Sunday when they face the Sanford Mainers at 4:30. Tickets for Sunday’s game and any SteepleCats home game can be purchased online at www.steeplecats.org or one hour prior to the game’s start at the ticket booth.