Entering Friday night, the SwampBats had been in first place since June 24. If they lost to the North Adams SteepleCats (21-15-2), that would change and Keene would drop to second place, but Keene took the game, 5-2, to extend its division lead to 1.5 games with two to play.
Keene (24-15) loaded the bases in the top of the first inning, but couldn’t score. Two innings later, the SwampBats broke through. Troy Schreffler hit a double to bring in Zach Bushling. The next batter was Noah Martinez, who hit a 400-foot, two-run home run. That catapulted the SwampBats to a 3-0 lead.
The SwampBats added on another run in the top of the fourth inning when Ronny Medina scored off an RBI single from Schreffler. That made it 4-0 Keene.
Meanwhile, SwampBats starting pitcher Cole Stallings was mowing down the SteepleCats hitters. In his best start of the summer, Stallings pitched five scoreless innings of one-hit ball. He left with a 4-0 lead.
It stayed that way until the top of the seventh, when Tommy Joseph scored off another single from Schreffler to make it 5-0.
The SwampBat bullpen continued what Stallings started. Lenny Washington pitched scoreless sixth and seventh innings. Washington ran into a little trouble in the eighth, but Grant Besser came in to limit the damage. After having the bases loaded with nobody out, Besser escaped the inning with Keene up 5-2.
That ended up as the final score. Besser slammed the door in the ninth, facing only three batters and striking out two of them.
The win puts Keene 1.5 games in front of the Upper Valley Nighthawks (22-16) in first place. The SwampBats are back in action Saturday at Alumni Field against the Nighthawks for Summer Celebration Night, with fireworks following the game.
First pitch is at 6:30 p.m.