North Adams SteepleCats record 9-2 win over Danbury to halt losing skid
NORTH ADAMS — North Adams starter Nick Payero had one job on Sunday night — give the SteepleCats a chance to end a three-game losing streak. He did that, and then some.
The right-hander from Seton Hall shut out visiting Danbury for seven innings and held the Westerners to only two hits. The SteepleCat offense backed him up with a 13-hit night in a 9-2 victory at Joe Wolfe Field.
"I felt a little pressure" taking the mound in this situation, Payero said. "I felt comfortable. My parents are here. I felt like I could put a good outing [under] my name.
"That's what I did today. It felt good."
The Northern Division-leading SteepleCats (17-10) evened their season series with Danbury to 1-1. North Adams scored a run in the first inning, and never trailed. Tre Kirklin was 4 for 4 for the SteepleCats, one of four North Adams hitters to have multiple-hit games.
"Three games is right in that neighborhood of whether it's a skid or a streak. You don't ever want a losing skid or a streak," North Adams manager Mike Dailey said. "Once you get to three games, you need to win."
The win kept the SteepleCats atop the Northern Division standings. They are a half-game ahead of Keene and Upper Valley, and a game ahead of Vermont.
"We knew if we lost tonight, we'd be out of first place," said Dailey. "We've been there since game one. The guys knew there was a sense of urgency.
"Everybody stepped up and did what they needed to do."
Payero improved his record to 5-0, good for second in the league. In seven innings of work, he gave up two hits and two walks, while striking out five. Payero lowered his earned-run average to a league-leading 1.29. He gave up a third-inning single to Alex Baratta and a sixth-inning single to Noah Dickerson. Only once did a Danbury runner get to second. That was Nick Lorusso, who reached on a one-out error by Joe Porricelli and got to third with two outs. But Lorusso was stranded at third when Payero got Jay Curtis IV to fly to Kirklin in center to end the inning.
Payero faced 26 batters and threw 91 pitches in his seven innings of work. Fifty-seven of those pitches were strikes.
"I had really good fastball command today," the rising sophomore said. "I was able to get in and out on hitters, up and down, and work the zone. My [split-finger fastball] was on. It was my go-to pitch."
Jackson Tavel pitched the final two innings for North Adams, and he surrendered Danbury's only run. Caleb Upshaw drove in Jack McCarthy from third with a ground out.
North Adams took the lead for keeps in the first inning. Andrew Pedone worked a walk and went to second on a single by Porricelli. The hit extended Porricelli's current hit streak to six games.
Matt Koperniak, who was 2 for 4 with two runs scored and a run batted in, moved Pedone to third on a fly out. But with runners on the corners, Danbury starter Christian Allegretti was called for a balk, and Pedone trotted home with the game's first run. Koperniak leads the NECBL with a .417 batting average.
"That's all we need," said Payero. "I trust my team. I trust my stuff, and that's how it went."
The SteepleCats scored single runs in the fourth and fifth, and broke the game open with three runs in the sixth. Kirklin had an RBI single and Porricelli, who was 3 for 5 with three RBI, made it 6-0 with a two-run single. It might have been a double but Pedone was thrown out at third for the third out of the inning before Porricelli made it to second base.
What Kirklin is doing right now is also very impressive. Ten days ago, the speedy outfielder from Jacksonville (Ala.) State was hitting .154. He went 4 for 4 with two runs scored and two RBI, and is now hitting .294.
"Just staying with the approach, sticking with the plan," said Kirklin, when asked what the difference has been in the last 10 days. "Knowing that what I've been working on and working towards is going to pan out if I stick to it."
Coming into Sunday night's game, Kirklin had been hitting .365 in his previous 10 games.
"He's seeing spin so much better. He's recognizing the curve ball. He's recognizing to leave curve balls that start at the knees alone," said Dailey. "He's making pitchers come up in the zone and is making them pay for it. We need him. He is a very big cog in our machine and he's starting to come around."
The SteepleCats will be on the road for the next three days, a road trip that will include a hotel stay. They'll be at Mystic, New Bedford and then up to Sanford. North Adams won't be home until Saturday night, when Newport visits.
Danbury 000 000 020 — 2 3 1
North Adams 100 113 21x — 9 13 1
Allegretti (5), Gussman (1), Goetz (2) and Curtis. Payero (7), Tavel (2) and Muntz. W — Payero (5-0). L — Allegretti (4-1). 2B — D: Jordan. NA: Koperniak, Muntz. T — 2:34. A — 514.
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