OAK BLUFFS, Mass. — The Keene Swamp Bats went on a long, four-hour journey to visit the NECBL newcomer Martha’s Vineyard Sharks Friday, but their journey didn’t finish with a happy ending.
The Bats blew a four-run lead late in the game, and fell to the streaking Sharks, 8-7. Martha’s Vineyard has won 11 straight, launching it into first place in the Southern Division with a 19-9 record.
This marks Keene’s fourth loss in the past five games. The Bats fall to 15-11, and remain in second place in Northern Division, 1.5 games behind the first-place North Adams SteepleCats (16-9) and a few percentage points ahead of the Upper Valley Nighthawks (16-12).
The Bats play on the road Saturday at the Danbury Westerners at 4 p.m., followed by another road game Sunday at the Sanford Mainers at 4:30 p.m.
Keene jumped on the board quickly with a two-run home run by Will Wagner in the top of the first, but the Sharks cut the lead with a solo shot by Nander de Sedas in the bottom half, then took the lead with two runs in the third.
The Bats tied things in the fourth on an RBI single by Kevin Welsh, then seemed to pull away with a four-run rally in the fifth. The runs came from a two-run homer by Logan Mathieu, an RBI single by Andrew MacNeil and a defensive interference call when Seth Caddell attempted to steal third base.
Martha’s Vineyard started chipping away at the lead with two runs in the sixth — on an RBI double by Alan Burnsed and a wild pitch by Keene starter Antonio Knowles. Knowles was pulled after six innings — giving up five earned runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts — but things fell apart for reliever Marc Davis in the seventh.
With two outs and the bases loaded from three walks, Burnsed fought off an 0-2 count and hit a bases-clearing double to instantly give the Sharks the lead. Burnsed was thrown out at third on the play, but the damage was done.
Davis threw a shutout eighth inning, but wound up with the loss as the offense failed to come back. The Bats got two runners on in each of the final two innings, but failed to convert that into any runs.