Pittsfield Suns blast Bristol, move back into 1st place

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PITTSFIELD — The recipe for a bounce-back win can be pretty simple. Some timely hitting, some excellent pitching. Mix and serve.

After dropping two straight games, including a lopsided loss on Monday in Brockton, John Clayton, Jeff Boggess and the Pittsfield Suns got things turned around in a hurry on Tuesday night.

Clayton pitched eight shutout innings for his first Futures League win, while Boggess had three hits and four runs batted in as the Suns routed Bristol 8-0 at Wahconah Park. The win, coupled with Brockton's loss at Nashua, put the Suns back in first place in the Futures League. Pittsfield is a half-game ahead of the Rox, and 1 1/2 games ahead of Bristol and North Shore.

Clayton had thrown 93 pitches through eight innings, and according to Futures League pitch-count rules, he could not start an inning after reaching 90. The UAlbany right-hander, however, wanted to go for the complete game.

"I did," Clayton said. "I told [manager Matt Gedman], I forget what inning it was. I knew I had a low pitch count going in. A pitcher's complete game is always a goal. I was so close to it.

"But I love how we did. I love how the team responded after yesterday's loss."

The loss was a 17-6 thumping at Brockton, in a game where the Rox outscored the Suns 13-0 over the final 6 1/2 innings.

The Suns scored three runs in the first inning on a three-run home run by Boggess Tuesday night. Clayton did the rest.

The righty, who came into the game with a 1.68 earned run average and a .193 batting average by opposing hitters, was on point from the first inning. He retired the side on eight pitches in the first. By the time his night was over, Clayton scattered five hits and walked only one. He struck out six. Three strikeouts were in the first five innings of his night, while the other three were in the last two.

Clayton pitched out of jams in the second and seventh. After giving up a leadoff single to Zeke Diamond in the eighth, Clayton set the side down in order.

"Andrew [Fernandez] behind the plate, we kept mixing it up and kept the hitters off balance with a low pitch count. The defense did their job," said Clayton, who lowered his ERA to 1.13. "Drew had me focused on the strike zone. Basically, I'd say everything [worked]. Fastball inside, fastball away, and the curve ball whenever we wanted it."

"He threw the three pitches for strikes. He threw three pitches in any count. He got ahead, and he worked from there," Gedman said. "He was outstanding. He's given us a bunch of quality starts, so it was good to get him a win tonight."

The game coming up on the Fourth of July features some post-game fireworks. Tuesday's game had fireworks from the start.

With one out in the first, Bristol starter Arjun Thakar walked Jack Culumovic and Mark Coley on 3-2 pitches. Thakar worked the count full to Boggess, but on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, Boggess turned on one and sent it over the short fence in right for a three-run home run.

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"It was a 3-2 count, and I knew he wasn't coming with an off-speed" pitch, said the outfielder from Kansas State. "I was sitting fastball. Luckily, it was a fastball inside. I just turned on it and got the pitch I was looking for."

Boggess was a triple away from hitting for the cycle. He singled in the fourth and doubled in the eighth, eventually coming around to score on a wild pitch by Bristol reliever Brandon Miller.

While the three runs turned out to be all of the runs Clayton and reliever Kelvin Sosa needed, the Suns did make it 6-0 on a three-run double by Matt Malcom in the third.

Thakar gave up a one-out infield single to Dom Hughes and walked Matt Valente. But the pitcher from Trinity-Texas hurt himself on the first pitch he threw to Dan Baruch. Thakar was done for the night.

Reliever Tommy Hughes got Baruch on a pop fly, but walked Jack Cooney to load the bases. Malcom hit an 0-2 pitch inside the left-field line, and all three runners came around to score. The double also ended a five-game dry spell for Malcom, who hadn't driven in a run in that time.

The Suns pounded four Bristol pitchers for 10 hits. The damage, however, could have been worse, because the Suns managed to score eight runs but leave 11 runners on base.

Malcom had three hits and three RBI for Pittsfield, while Jack Culumovic had two hits.

The Suns also backed up their pitchers with some stellar defense — a defense that included a pair of double plays. The first one came in the second inning. Buddy Dewane singled but Sam Loda flied to center. Dom Hughes made the catch, but his relay throw back to first looked wide. First baseman Dan Baruch made a long stretch to snare the throw and complete the double play. Then in the fifth, Brogan Searle-Bealanger grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, with outfielder-turned-second baseman Mark Coley making a nice pivot to complete the double play.

"It's huge" to get a win like this one, said Boggess, "especially going into a big Fourth of July game. There are going to be a lot of fans, and it's going to be a great atmosphere. It'll be a great opportunity to win another ball game for us."

———

Bristol     000     000     000     —     0     6     3

Pittsfield     303     100     01x     —     8     10     0

Thakar (2 2/3), Hughes (2 1/3), Reynolds (2), Miller (1) and Loda. Clayton (8), Sosa (1) and Fernandez. W — Clayton (1-0). L — Thakar (0-2). 2B — B: Diamond. P: Malcom, Boggess. HR — P: Boggess (1). T — 2:28. A — N/A.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.

Pittsfield     303     100     01x     —     8     10     0

Thakar (2 2/3), Hughes (2 1/3), Reynolds (2), Miller (1) and Loda. Clayton (8), Sosa (1) and Fernandez. W — Clayton (1-0). L — Thakar (0-2). 2B — B: Diamond. P: Malcom, Boggess. HR — P: Boggess (1). T — 2:28. A — N/A.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.

Thakar (2 2/3), Hughes (2 1/3), Reynolds (2), Miller (1) and Loda. Clayton (8), Sosa (1) and Fernandez. W — Clayton (1-0). L — Thakar (0-2). 2B — B: Diamond. P: Malcom, Boggess. HR — P: Boggess (1). T — 2:28. A — N/A.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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