Monday June 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Four games isn't enough time to draw any conclusions about the Pittsfield Suns, especially after a 2-2 start. Nor is it really enough time to determine which hitters will be run producers as June turns into July.

It does appear, however, that outfielder Jimmy Ricoy is going to be someone that manager Jamie Keefe could be throwing into the middle of the Suns order.

"He's had a good run at it," Keefe said after Saturday's 14-12 loss to North Shore at Wahconah Park. "He knows what he's doing at the plate. The big thing with him is to make sure he stays within himself."

Four games in, Ricoy has been hitting .400 (6 for 15), with five runs scored, five runs batted in, two doubles and two home runs.

After starting 6 for 8, the UMass-Lowell product has gone 0 for his last 7. He was 0 for 3 on Saturday night, but still drove in two runs.

The lost weekend for the Suns continued on Sunday in Torrington as they were beaten by the Titans 4-2.

Six River Hawks played in 40 or more games and Ricoy was one of two freshmen who were in that list. Three others were seniors. He was eighth on the team with a .267 batting average, 2 homers and 38 RBI.

The Northeast 10 Conference is one of the rare leagues that uses wood bats. That certainly didn't hurt as the Lowell native stepped into this league without missing a beat.

"It's definitely an advantage," said Ricoy. "We've been working hard as a group."

In the home opener on Friday, Ricoy struck out swinging in his first at-bat. From there, he hit two singles and a double. On Friday at Wachusett, he hit his second double and had a pair of home runs.

"I'm seeing the ball good. I'm not going to see it like that all year," he said. "You take it when you can."

In Saturday's loss to the North Shore Navigators, Ricoy struck out once, grounded out twice, walked and was hit by a pitch. He drove in a run with the groundout and was hit by North Shore reliever Ryan Grant. That forced in a run, giving Ricoy two RBI for the night.

The outfielder hit fifth Sunday after batting sixth, and Keefe said that as the season goes on, Ricoy could move up into the middle of the order.

Ricoy is in Pittsfield thanks to the connection between Keefe and the Umass-Lowell program. Keith Beauregard is an assistant at UMass-Lowell. He was a coach for Keefe last year with the Can-Am League's Pittsfield Colonials.

"I played Legion baseball last summer because I was going into my freshman year," said Ricoy. "I definitely look up to [the older guys] and can learn a lot from them."

Learning is something Ricoy and his teammates will do after wins and after losses like the one on Sunday. The Suns, who scored double-digit runs in each of their first three games, were shut down by Torrington starter Tyler Dierke and two relievers in the 4-2 loss.

Dierke pitched seven strong innings, giving up only three hits, walking nobody and striking out five. He threw 89 pitches, 60 for strikes. The heart of the Pittsfield order on Sunday went a combined 0 for 15 at the plate.

Pittsfield starter Dan Bradley went 7 1/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits. He had only one bad frame, a three-run fourth inning.

The Colonials got a two-run single by Chad Funkhouser in the eighth inning to make it 4-2. Torrington closer Austin Bailey picked up his second save in four days by striking out Ricoy, Eli Marrero and Travis Smith to end the game.

Saturday night's game might have been one of the strangest to ever be played at the vintage park on Wahconah Street.

The Navigators, who spent last year in the NECBL, jumped out to an early 4-0 lead only to have the Suns take a 12-9 lead after eight innings.

The Navigators hit five singles off reliever Adam Krebs to score five runs. Rob Krentzman's two-run single accounted for the 14-12 final.

Ryan Grant, the fourth North Shore pitcher, got the win despite giving up four runs on two hits and three hit batters. Tim Cassidy got his UMass teammate Rob McLam on a ground out to start the ninth. Mike Rueger popped to second and Ryan Deitrich fouled out to end the game.

"I'm sure I've seen one like this before, but I try to forget. It's just one of those that try to put out of your memory," said Keefe. "We got ahead of 80 percent of the hitters but we just couldn't put anybody away."

To reach Howard Herman:

hherman@berkshireeagle.com,

or (413) 496-6253.

On Twitter: @howardherman