PITTSFIELD — Five games into the 2016 Futures League baseball season, and the Pittsfield Suns have learned a few things.
There are times when the pitching will be good. The power is there. Hitting with men on base, however, is a prime thing that needs to be fixed.
Pittsfield had a chance to break open a one-run game but couldn't get that one big hit. Visiting Worcester got three clutch hits and went on to beat the Suns 4-2, in a game stopped in the ninth inning by torrential downpours. The game was played before 2,954 fans, including more than 1,500 Pittsfield school children on the team's annual School Day game.
"The lineup, we click at times, but hopefully going forward we can string something together more consistently, especially with guys in scoring position," Suns manager Tom Conley said. "We strike out too much with that."
The Suns had seven hits against Worcester pitchers Brady Furdon and Zach Whitaker, but only pushed single runs home in the fifth and sixth innings.
"It's tough when you get guys in scoring position and you need that one timely hit," said Pittsfield third baseman Eric Hamilton. "We had our chances early in the game, but we didn't come through."
Hamilton did his part, hitting a solo home run into the left field bullpen with one out in the sixth inning. That tied the score at 2.
Worcester came back to take the lead for keeps in the top of the seventh, using some "small ball" to take the lead.
Reliever Manny Powers, the third of five Pittsfield pitchers, walked Rafael Bournigal to lead off the seventh. Bournigal, whose father Rafael was a seven-year big league player, stole second on a 1-0 pitch, took third on a wild pitch and scored the winning run on an RBI single by Mike Coggeshall.
After former Suns player Zach Tower singled and Joe Mercadante struck out, Powers was one pitch from getting out of the inning. Evan Hirshbaum hit the seventh pitch of the at-bat to center, plating Coggeshall to make it 4-2.
It was during the seventh that Conley was ejected. He argued a check swing by Tower on a 2-2 pitch.
The rains chased the two teams shortly after Conley left. The Bravehearts had scored two runs in the ninth and had runners on the corners with one out, when the storm washed out the rest of the day.
The rain also washed away what turned out to be a pretty good four innings of work by Pittsfield starter Austin Hansen.
Hansen, who just finished his freshman year at the University of Oklahoma, was 4-0 with a 2.93 earned-run average in 17 appearances. This was his first start since high school.
"He was going to stay around 90 [pitches], but he did a great job," said Conley. "His fastball and curveball were really good. His fastball is his best pitch, and he was attacking guys."
Hansen struck out the first two hitters of the game, struck out the side in the second and struck out two more in the third. He was finished after 85 pitches and four innings when Matt Diesel flied out to Devin McGrath in right to end the inning.
When his day was done, Hansen held the Bravehearts to two hits and three walks.
The other good note was Hamilton's sixth-inning home run. It was his second homer of the year and the fifth by the Suns in five games. Last year, Pittsfield had 17 home runs as a team.
"The first pitch, he threw a slider in the dirt. I knew I was going to get a lot of off-speed stuff," he said. "The next pitch was another slider, and I fouled it off. I knew a curve was coming. He hung it for me and I didn't miss it."
One thing the slugger (13 homers) from SUNY-Oswego has discovered after three home games is that in order to hit the ball out of Wahconah Park, it's got to have a charge to it.
"I know it's pretty deep out there, but it's one of the best balls I hit in a while," said Hamilton. "You definitely can't miss it to get it out of this place.
"I knew I had that one. It's good to get back on track."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.