The Keene Swamp Bats split a double-header with the Sanford Mainers at home Monday, and it was anything but uneventful.
Keene dropped the opener, 8-3, as right-hander Zach Messinger’s pitching struggles continued for a second straight outing.
The Bats broke out the bats in the nightcap of the seven-inning double-header to score an 18-12 win. The draw on the day leaves Keene at 18-12 and a game back of front-running North Adams. The Bats were coming off a grueling three-day road trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Danbury, Conn., and Sanford before coming home for Monday’s two games.
Messinger, the University of Virginia product, has been one of the more consistent starters for the men in purple, but has struggled in his past two starts. He has given up 14 runs, all earned.
He started the first inning strong, retiring three in a row but was haunted by the long ball in the second and third innings.
Shane Marshall tied the team lead in dingers with his fifth into deep right field, off of the barn, to stake Sanford to a 6-2 lead. The Bats’ David Bedgood retaliated with his 12th and still-NECBL-leading homer into right field, a solo shot.
Johnathan Edwards relieved Messinger for the final two innings of the game and was flawless through one until Drew DeMartino took an outside fastball deep to right center, putting him back in the team lead for homers at six and extending the Mainers lead to five.
Mainers reliever Connor Peplow recorded the final three outs in the bottom of the seventh to give Sanford its 11th win. It had blown leads against Keene in its previous two meetings, the most recent a day earlier, in Maine.
Kevin Welsh and Randall Bednar, Keene’s No. 1 and No. 2 batters in the order, struggled at the plate, combining for a 1-for-8 line with five strikeouts.
The bitter taste from the Game 2 win was that Keene exhausted its bullpen, using four pitchers to get the job done.
The seven-inning format was a saving grace. Luke Albright will make the start tonight, and Keene will need the Kent State standout for at least six innings. After Monday, Keene is down to Logan Mathieu, Sean Heine, Cristian Sanchez and Joseph Simeone as relief options. Albright is coming off his worst start, in which he lasted just 1.2 innings in a 15-5 loss to against Winnipesaukee.
Marc Davis was the Bats’ Game 2 starter. But, like Messinger, he fell victim to the long ball, surrendering two in his 4.1 innings of work. He allowed nine runs, all earned, on five hits.
He did, in the end, get credit for the win. He walked three and fanned two.
The Bats applied early pressure, scoring 13 of their 18 runs in the first four innings, including a six-run fourth. They rapped 15 hits and had 16 RBIs.
Maine didn’t go away, however. It hung six runs of its own in the top of the fifth to pull to within one. Orlando Adams clubbed his second homer of the night, a grand slam off reliever Erik Zecha, who inherited a bases-loaded jam.
And while it was anything but a comfortable situation, the Keene onslaught continued unabated, as the Bats scored in every inning but the third, enough to cover the difference.
Bednar blasted yet another home run, a 340-foot homer into deep left field, scoring Welsh.
In the Keene fourth, Justice Lucas belted his first dinger of the season. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound designated hitter launched a fastball off of Sanford reliever Gavin Bates to the parking lot in left. He was one of four Keene players to collect three hits.
Welsh also got his first homer of the season, and a most opportune time, as Sanford had worked its way back to a one-run deficit, 13-12. Two runners were aboard when he went deep.
Also, in the game, Andrew McNeil had his 20th RBI.
Keene then looked to Justin Willis, another reliever who pitched in Sanford Sunday, to get the final six outs. The right-hander, who came in with a 2.84 ERA, was flawless.
The Bats are home again tonight against Vermont in a 6:30 start at Alumni Field.