Futures League: Suns beat Old Orchard Beach, take Western Division lead
PITTSFIELD -- On a night of firsts, one first stands out for the Pittsfield Suns -- first place.
The Suns took sole possession of first place in the Futures League's Western Division after Justin Finan threw the first nine-inning complete game in team history in an 8-2 win over Old Orchard Beach Wednesday night at Wahconah Park.
It was also the first two-home run game for the Suns this year in a park that is notorious for the paucity of homers hit in it. Paul Cotler hit a solo blast in the sixth inning that cleared the football press box and batter's eye in center field and Dan Palazzo hit a two-run homer in the eighth that cleared the bullpens in left.
"It was big time, Justin going all the way and saving our bullpen for the rest of the week," said Cotler, who was a triple away from hitting for the cycle. "He was throwing strikes, which was huge.
"Flawless defense for seven innings. That could put a team out of contention early. If your hitters are being patient in counts and picking good pitches to swing at, it's hard to lose."
The win put the Suns a half-game ahead of Worcester and 2 1/2 games ahead of Torrington. The Suns are also a half-game behind Brockton for the best record in the Futures League. The Suns are 21-14 and the Rox, who visit Wahconah Park Friday, are 22-14.
"It's a great feeling -- first place, finally on top," said Cotler.
The Suns beat up four Old Orchard Beach pitchers for 11 hits and eight runs. Seven of the runs were earned.
On the other side, Finan was outstanding.
The right-hander from Holy Cross threw 89 pitches in nine innings, and 58 of them were strikes. He threw 21 first-pitch strikes in the game. Finan faced one batter over the minimum in the first four innings and pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. The Raging Tide finally got to him for a pair of runs in the eighth. In the ninth, he gave up a leadoff single to Mekae Hyde, got Graham McIntire to ground into a double play and retired Skip Flanagan on a fly to left to pick up the complete game win (2-2).
"Number 40 or the Suns?" Finan asked about being the first pitcher wearing a Pittsfield uniform to pitch a nine-inning complete game. "We played well all around. It was easy to pitch when you have a big lead. Dan [Palazzi] called a good game behind the plate."
The Old Orchard Beach hitters didn't hurt Finan's effort. Only three times did Finan get to a 2-2 count on an opposing hitter and he got to 3-1 on Hyde in the sixth before Hyde grounded out to B.J. Bochicchio at second to end the inning.
"My fastball felt pretty good. I didn't have control of my off-speed [pitches] for the most part the whole night," said Finan. "I just let them hit it and let the defense make plays."
"He was down in the zone. He did what he had to do," said Old Orchard Beach manager Chris Torres, who played two years in Pittsfield for the independent league Colonials. "He threw strikes."
The Suns took a 3-0 lead against Tides starter Zach Kirby, who left the game in the sixth. Reliever Ben Greenberg's first pitch to Cotler, the leadoff hitter, sailed over the batter's eye for the first home run for the Penn Quaker.
"He was probably going to come out throwing fastballs and I just tried to see a pitch I liked," Cotler said. "I was looking fastball so I recognized it early and was able to stay back on it.
"Drives to center are pretty tough to read. I knew I hit it pretty hard, that's all."
Cotler, who was 3 for 4, added an RBI double in the Suns' two-run seventh. In the eighth against reliever Nate Boyle, Palazzo hammered a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left for his second home run of the season. Palazzo finished 2 for 3 with two RBI.
O.O. Beach 000 000 020 -- 2 8 3
Pittsfield 011 101 22x -- 8 11 1
Kirby (5), Greenberg (1 1/3), Ore (2/3), Boyle (1) and Wagoner. Finan and Palazzo. W--Finan (2-2). L--Kirby (0-2). 2B--P 4 (McGarry, Gardella, Tower, Cotler). HR--P 2 (Cotler , Palazzo ).
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