Big first inning helps Suns rout Sharks, 10-0
PITTSFIELD -- Anyone arriving late to Wahconah Park missed all the action.
Pittsfield Suns left fielder Rob McLam led off with a double to left field, and Brandon Slattery ended the inning with a foul pop out. In between, 11 other Pittsfield batters came to the plate. In all, 10 of them got hits, seven runs were scored and the Suns were on their way to a 10-0 rout of Martha's Vineyard on Monday night.
"That was amazing," said Suns catcher Steve Dill, who hit a two-run double in that first inning. "Out of our nine hitters, eight of them got hits in the first inning. It was awesome. I probably won't see anything like that ever again."
Dill was one of four different Pittsfield batters to get two hits each. McLam and Ryan Deitrich got their two hits in the first inning, sending the crowd of 812 into a frenzy.
With the win, the Suns are 22-21 and just one-half game behind Martha's Vineyard for the Final Futures League playoff spot. The Suns are also only 2 1/2 games behind Torrington for second in the league.
The Suns chased Martha's Vineyard starter Mike Hegarty (0-3) after one-third of an inning. Hegarty gave up seven earned runs on seven hits and saw his earned run average rise from an unpalatable 9.00 to an astronomical 16.20.
The seven-run first inning made a winner of Matt Gage (2-0). The big left-hander from Siena, whose brother Dave is manager Jamie Keefe's coach, went five innings and shut out the Sharks on five hits and a walk while striking out four. He threw 89 pitches, 54 for strikes.
"It was fun. I was glad I got some run support," he said. "It was good that I got to warm up real good and sat down for a little bit and got seven runs.
"My fastball was working well, my off-speed pitches were working well. In the later innings, I got away from my mechanics a little bit."
The Suns scored those seven first-inning runs on 10 hits and three Sharks errors. The first six Suns batters had four singles and two doubles. Jimmy Ricoy had an RBI single, Travis Smith an RBI double and then after Alex Davison looked at strike three, Dill went the other way with a two-run double into the right-field corner.
The first pitch to Brandon Howard was a ball, and that brought Martha's Vineyard manager Ernie May sprinting to the mound. That was it for Hegarty.
The first pitch from reliever Matthew Cook was a single by Howard, sending Dill to third. With McLam up, Howard stole second and Dill scored the seventh run after catcher Pat Quinn threw the ball away.
"That was a situation where Matt Haggerty is throwing strikes, but too many down the middle instead of working in and out," said May.
"The ball's finding holes which is good," said Keefe. "We put the bat on the ball and drove the ball pretty well."
From that point, the Suns only had two more hits, but put three runs on the board.
Martha's Vineyard, meanwhile, ended up leaving 13 runners stranded. The Sharks left the bases loaded in the fourth, eighth and ninth innings and had runners in scoring position two other times, but came up empty. Tyler Sturkie pitched two solid innings of relief but both Matt Coleman and Jeff Thomas loaded the bases. Neither reliever gave up a run.
"Sometimes you lose your focus when you're in a 10-run ball game, that's what happens too when you go to your bullpen," said Keefe. "Those guys have to realize their job is to come out and close that inning. Everybody's a closer at that point."
Time is running low for the Suns, but both Keefe and the players believe they're in good position to make that playoff run.
"We play all of the teams ahead of us," said Dill. "As long as we take care of what we have to take care of, we'll be in good shape and we know that."
NOTES: The Suns have nine games remaining in the regular season, four of them at home. That includes a doubleheader at Martha's Vineyard on Friday.
The Suns will be at home Thursday against Wachusett, Sunday against Nashua and the home finale on Monday, Aug. 6 against Old Orchard Beach.
Pittsfield infielder Paul Speicher has left the team. The LeMoyne College product suffered a strained medial collateral ligament.
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