That was quick.
A swift, two-game post All-Star break surge — if one can call it that — has propelled the Keene Swamp Bats from playoff bubble position to first place in the North Division of the NECBL.
Ain’t baseball grand?
The men in purple toppled North Adams 5-1 Tuesday to move ahead of the Steeplecats by a half game with two regular-season games to play. At 25-17, the Bats are a game up in the win column and can clinch a playoff spot with one more victory in their two final regular-season contests.
Upper Valley is a game and a half back, while Valley and Vermont are two back in the bunched standings.
“It’s crazy how tight it is among the top five teams, Bats President Kevn Watterson said. “At some point, tiebreakers may come into play.”
If they do, Keene is holding the right card, in that it owns the tiebreaker over Valley and Upper Valley, Watterson said.
Keene does not have that advantage, however, against North Adams.
Keene plays its third road game in as many days today against the 18-23 Ocean State Waves, then plays Vermont at home Thursday. The top three teams in each division make the playoffs; the two division winners get a first-round bye.
There is no such drama in the Southern Division: Martha’s Vineyard, Newport and Mystic are in a strong position to claim the three postseason spots.
On Tuesday for the Bats, Georgia Southern product David Johnson delivered the goods in the form of a six-plus-inning mound gem in which he allowed just one run while striking out five.
Keene High grad Erik Zecha finished up, fanning four over the final 2.1 innings.
Together, the two allowed 10 hits, but nothing for extra bases, and they held the front-running Cats scoreless over the final seven frames.
The Bats had nine hits and won despite 13 strikeouts. They did their damage in the fifth inning, when they pushed four runs across, and added another in the top of the ninth.
Logan Mathieu belted his seventh homer, Andrew MacNeil had a triple and David Bedgood and Kyle Ball each doubled, the latter’s two-bagger delivering two of the four fifth-inning runs. A passed ball and MacNeil’s triple accounted for the other runs.
Mathieu had three hits, his homer coming in the ninth.
Joseph Kemlage came in to stop the fifth-inning bleeding for North Adams. He went the final five innings and fanned six.
Johnson was stout for the most part, and did wiggle out of some small jams. In the seventh, after walking Andrew Pedone and allowing a bunt single to JJ Sousa, Zecha came on.
Zecha, the righty out of RPI, was flawless. After walking Josh Loffler, he struck out Tre Kirklin, arguably the most dangerous batter in North Adams’ lineup, on three pitches to end the rally.
Matthew Koperniak of Trinity College had three hits to lead the North Adams’ offense.
The Bats will give the ball to Joseph Simeone (UConn) at Old Mountain Field in South Kingston, R.I., against the Waves. First pitch is at 6:30.
The Mystic Schooners earned a split of a double-header with Danbury Tuesday. TT Bowens hit his 14th homer of the season and Steve Barmakian and Will Lucas each hit their second for Mystic (21-19). Bowens doubled and drove in four runs. ...
Upper Valley was flat all around for the second consecutive night; its pitching staff giving up 15 hits in a 8-5 loss to Newport. The loss drops the Nighthawks to 23-18 overall and 11-10 at home; they suddenly may need league-wide assistance for one of three playoffs spots in the NECBL’s Northern Division with three regular season games remaining. But the Hawks still control their own destiny; win out and they’re in.