NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Keene Swamp Bats held a 5-1 lead over the North Adams SteepleCats going into the bottom of the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game, but gave up three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth, losing 6-5.
It was the Bats’ first blown lead in a month, and it moved Keene and North Adams into a tie for first place in the Northern Division. The Bats stand at 23-15 with six games left; the Cats are 22-14 with eight games remaining.
The Bats get today off, then head to New Bedford, Mass., Friday to play the Bay Sox at 6:30 p.m.
Keene came out swinging with four runs in the top of the first — courtesy of a three-run homer by Logan Mathieu, his sixth dinger of the season, and an RBI single by Ryan Hogan. Kevin Welsh and David Bedgood scored on Mathieu’s round-tripper after back-to-back walks, and Hogan drove in Kyle Ball after the latter hit a single and stole second for his 15th robbery.
North Adams got on the board in the second on an RBI single by Paul Komistek, but the Bats extended their lead in the top of the seventh with Welsh scoring on a wild pitch. After that, things fell apart for Keene.
Joseph Simeone — the Bats’ lone All-Star pitcher — put in a strong six-inning start, allowing one earned run on seven hits with seven strikeouts, but the relievers didn’t fare as well.
Marc Davis gave up three runs in the seventh — after a pair of walks by Scout Knotts and Brian Picone set the stage for a three-run shot by Tre Kirklin, trimming the lead to one. Justin Willis gave up the lead in the eighth, allowing the tying run on an RBI single through the left infield gap by Knotts and the winning run on a groundout by Kyle Brennan that scored Paul Komistek — who advanced to third on an error in left field the previous play.
For the usually reliable Willis — who was making his third relief appearance in 72 hours — it was his first blown save and first loss of the season, and only the second game he pitched that ended in a Keene loss.