Suns sweep Brockton, keep slim playoff hopes alive


PITTSFIELD >> It's not impossible, but the Pittsfield Suns need everything to play out perfectly in order to make the Futures League playoffs. Wednesday night, the Suns made a pretty good start of it.

The Suns scored a much-needed doubleheader sweep of the Brockton Rox, 9-1 in the opener and 5-2 in the nightcap,m to keep their narrow playoff hopes alive.

"It is really tough to do in this league," Pittsfield manager Tom Conley said of his team's first sweep of 2016. "You see teams do it."

The Suns had everything go their way in the doubleheader. Ryan Simpler and Adam Krol each pitched six strong innings to get the win. In the opener, the Suns scored five runs in the first inning. Then in the nightcap, Pittsfield rallied from a 2-1 deficit with three runs in the fifth inning and an insurance run in the sixth.

"I told the guys after that this was as complete a day as you can get," said Conley. "Even in our single games, I think the energy and the way we played, I was just really happy with the effort."

Pittsfield has three, or possibly four games remaining. The Suns are at Seacoast Thursday, at home to Wachusett Friday and at Nashua Saturday. The Suns need to win all three games, while the teams ahead of them lose. If that happens, the Suns and Torrington might have to play a previously postponed game.

"It's huge," said Eric Hamilton, when asked about the sweep. "It's a long day of baseball and you have to stay focused."

Bristol, currently sixth in the six-team playoff picture, is 2 ½ games ahead of Torrington and Pittsfield, but the Blues are on the road since Muzzy Field is hosting the New England American Legion baseball tournament. Bristol lost to Torrington on Wednesday, and finishes at North Shore, Nashua and Torrington. The Titans host Worcester, are at Brockton and host Bristol.

"We're going to do whatever we can and hope that everything works out for us," said Hamilton. "Starting [Tuesday] we knew what we had to get done. We know what we have to do.'

It was quite a doubleheader for Pittsfield's Kevin Donati. The former Pittsfield High School standout from UAlbany extended his hitting streak to six games. After flying out to right in his first at-bat in game 1, Donati reached base seven consecutive times. He finished up 3 for 4 in the first game with two runs scored and a run batted in. Then in the nightcap, Donati went 3 for 3 with two runs scored and an RBI.

During his six-game hitting streak, Donati is 13 for 23 with 11 runs scored. On July 5, he was hitting .170. Since then, he has raised his batting average to .342.

"It's coming in nice," said Donati, when asked how well he's seeing the ball. "I'm just trying to do my thing, get the right pitch to hit and our team is putting me in a good situation to do that with guys on base.

"I'm just getting good pitches to hit.'

Those pitches might not have mattered as much had the Suns not gotten two quality starts in the doubleheader. In the first game, Ryan Simpler gave up one run on nine hits in six innings, striking out eight batters and walking none. Simpler gave up a leadoff home run to Eric Feliz in the second inning. After that, he kept the Rox off the boards, as Brockton was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position against the right-hander from East Tennessee State.

In the nightcap, Krol was making his second Futures League start. The righty from St. Anselm hadn't started a game since he was a senior at Williston Northampton. Krol held Brockton to five hits in six innings, walking two and striking out three. His defense helped him out in the fourth inning. Dillon Cooper hit a one-out single to left, but Cooper was thrown out at third on a single to right by Jake Marotta. Right fielder Tyler Brosius' throw beat Cooper so badly that the runner was tagged out about five feet in front of the bag.

When his night was done, Krol gave up two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out three.

"You've got to do your job, it's as simple as that. I got the call and I was just happy that I was able to put together a good performance for my teammates and in front of this big crowd," said Krol. "Early on, my fastball was wild. As the game went on, my slider was there and I was able to spot up my fastball."

Jackson Strange's RBI single in the fourth inning put Brockton up 2-1. The Suns rallied for three runs in the fifth. The key blow was an opposite-field, two-run single by Hamilton. He now has a record 58 RBI. Hamilton also hit a pair of doubles in the first game, giving him 17 and tying former Sun Frank Crinella as the single-season league leader.

In the opener, the Suns erupted for five runs on four hits in the first inning. Al Zachary belted a two-run double and Colin Ridley followed with a two-run home run. It was Ridley's second homer and his first since June 19. It cleared the inflatable slide in right and cleared the back wall of Wahconah Park.

Hamilton finished the doubleheader by going 3 for 7 with three RBI. Zachary only had two hits in seven at-bats, but he drove in four in the twin bill.

Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.


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