OAK BLUFFS, Mass. — Pull up a seat, this is going to be good.
The Keene Swamp Bats picked the perfect time to earn their first win over NECBL newcomer Martha’s Vineyard.
But, even after scoring 14 runs, it wasn’t easy.
After going 0-2 against the Sharks in the regular season, the Bats grabbed a big win in Game 1 of the league championship series Wednesday night, 14-10.
Keene can clinch its first league championship since 2013 tonight at Alumni Field at 6:30.
Going into the seventh inning tied at 4, the Bats broke the game open with a seven-run rally — matching the number of runs they scored over the past two nights in the Northern Division finals — to take a lead they would never relinquish.
The rally started with a one-out single by Kyle Ball. Following up his heroics in Game 3 of the North finals Tuesday, Ball went a perfect 5-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBI, and was a triple short of the cycle.
Logan Mathieu got the scoring started right after that, crushing a two-run home run to right for his second dinger of the postseason and what turned out to be the winning runs.
Keene then proceeded to bat around the order: Ryan Hogan walked; Justice Lucas singled; Andrew MacNeil hit a double to drive in Hogan; Lucas scored on a wild pitch; Kevin Welsh walked; Randall Bednar singled in MacNeil; David Bedgood singled; Will Wagner drew a bases-loaded walk to score Welsh; and Ball was hit by a pitch to bring in Bednar.
After Martha’s Vineyard scored in the bottom of the seventh on a Nander De Sedas homer, and the Bats got that run back in the top of the eighth with Hogan scoring on a MacNeil groundout, the Sharks battled back.
In the bottom of the eighth, Alan Burnsed hit a two-run homer; then De Sedas hit his second dinger in two innings to make it back-to-back. Erick Zecha took over for Michael Bacica — who lasted 2.2 innings despite pitching for the second night in a row — but gave up two runs before finishing the inning: on a wild pitch and an RBI single by Matthew Chamberlain.
The five-run rally cut Keene’s lead to 12-10, but Ball added some insurance with a two-run homer, his first of the postseason, in the top of the ninth. Cristian Sanchez took the mound in the bottom half and pitched his third shutout inning of the playoffs to close things out.
The Bats’ offensive explosion started with a four-run rally in the second.
Ball led with a double, then back-to-back walks by Mathieu and Hogan loaded the bases for Lucas, who delivered with an RBI single. After MacNeil struck out and Welsh flew out to center, Bednar kept the rally going with a two-run single that brought in Mathieu and Hogan, and Bedgood finished it off with an RBI single that scored Lucas.
Keene starter Joseph Simeone pitched three shutout innings to begin, then things got shaky in the fourth. Martha’s Vineyard started with a two-run homer by Michael Knell, then a two-out error by Welsh at shortstop brought in two more runs and tied the game.
Simeone lasted one more inning, then was pulled for Bacica after five, having allowed seven hits and two walks and striking out three. Bacica finished with six earned runs, six hits and five walks while striking out five, but came away with the win.