NORTH ADAMS — It may be summer league baseball, but North Adams SteepleCats manager Mike Armstrong said it was time to treat it like the players were still in college.
With that change in attitude comes a three-game winning streak, after the SteepleCats beat Vermont 6-3 Sunday at Joe Wolfe Field. Two of the three wins this weekend came against the Mountaineers.
"I've been talking with the guys and with [president Dan Bosley] and [general manager Jonah Bayliss], but I think a really good way to look at summer ball because you play such a long schedule is to break your schedule into three-game series," said Armstrong. "Every player on this team, whether they're D-I, D-II or D-III, is used to playing three-game series and the commitment it takes to win three games in a row."
It's the SteepleCats' second three-game winning streak of the season. They won three in a row June 12-14.
"The biggest thing was to get the first one on Friday to kind of set the tone," said catcher Kyle Brennan. "Give it our all Saturday and have nothing left in the tank today. It doesn't matter because we have a day off [Monday]."
The SteepleCats scored three runs on three hits in the first inning, and the Mountaineers never caught up. Peter Lannoo and three North Adams relievers held the Mountaineers at bay. Brian Stepniak, the fourth North Adams pitcher, faced the minimum six hitters in the game and recorded his second win without a loss. Stepniak has now appeared in seven games, and has yet to give up a run.
But as to this developing three-at-a-time attitude, SteepleCats second baseman Dustin Shirley said the team is adjusting to it.
"That's how we felt today definitely," said Shirley, who plays at Dartmouth, and drove in two runs for the SteepleCats. "We got the wins yesterday and the day before. We won the series, but we kept the mentality that we wanted to sweep, and I think we succeeded in that."
On the field, the North Adams defense was stellar. The SteepleCats turned four double plays in the game. Three of them were inning-enders, and two of them kept the Mountaineers from getting into big innings.
The most impressive of those came in the seventh inning. Vermont's Joe Tietjen led off with a solid single to left. The next batter, Mikael Mogues, hit a liner up the middle as Tietjen took off for second. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, Mogues hit the ball right where Shirley was coming to. He caught the ball and, with Tietjen standing on second, threw to first to complete the double play. Shirley was due to cover second on the steal attempt.
"Today, luckily, we had some hard-hit balls smashed at some people, and we were able to turn some double plays in big situations," Shirley said.
The SteepleCats got an RBI double from Shirley in the first inning, driving in Nick Riotto with the first run. Edward Haus singled sharply off the glove of Vermont starter Joe Jacques and then C.J.Price got an RBI, plating Daniel Holst from third on a ground out.
Of the final three North Adams runs, two were unearned. The only one that was earned came in the fifth inning when Keaton Wright hit the second pitch from reliever Christian Isbell into the parking lot beyond the right-field fence. It was Wright's fifth home run and 15th RBI of the year, tying him for the NECBL lead in both.
Lannoo went the first four innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits. Jack Rupe pitched a scoreless fifth while Logan Austin gave up an unearned run on two hits in two innings of work. Stepniak walked one and struck out one in his two innings.
"They were pounding the zone," said Brennan. "Pete struggled missing just off a little bit. He was down, which is why he's effective. No one really hit the ball too hard.
"The guys coming out of the pen were going right at them, and they got it done."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.