Pinch-hitter Danny Diekroeger (Standford) hit a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth off Muskrats closer Nic Manuppelli (Youngstown) and gave the Holyoke Blue Sox a thrilling 5-4 win.
Holyoke had just three hits and seven base runners entering the ninth. After a leadoff groundout, a routine bouncer to second got through Wil Leathers (Spartanburg Methodist) for an error, and Max Pentacost (Kennesaw St) hustled all the way to second. The moment spurred the Blue Sox and their sizeable crowd, as after six shutout innings, a tie game was still just a hit away.
Connor Spencer (UC Irvine) followed up with a single to shallow left, and would become the game-winning run on Diekroeger’s blast. The ball was launched to the wall in left, straight over the drawn-in defense, deep enough to allow the run from first base.
Last place Holyoke stays alive in the playoff hunt, as Vermont continued its slide with a home loss to Mystic Monday night. Laconia’s loss is not overly costly, as Sanford had three scores to settle on the day, and fell in all three. Laconia gained a game on the Mainers, and now leads them by 1.5 games for the third seed, as the two teams face off in Laconia Tuesday.
Kyle Convissar (Maryland) hit a broken-bat, two-run homerun in the sixth, his sixth of the season, to put Laconia up 4-3, which would hold until the last play of the game.
England Smith (Walters St), in his second start of 2012, provided Laconia with its 13th quality start of the season, throwing six great innings. He only allowed three hits, two in the second, and the third a surprise bunt single in the third. Smith fanned six Blue Sox.
With the addition of Kyle Mullen (St. Joseph’s), who missed his start due to rain Saturday at Mystic, and Nick Kevlin (Dominican) out of the bullpen, Muskrat arms set down 16 Blue Sox in order from the fourth inning on into the ninth. The leadoff man in the fourth was hit by a pitch, after which the streak started. Discounting the hit batter, which is not an official at-bat, the streak increases to 19 in a row put down.
Muskrats pitchers also combined for 8 strikeouts in the game, totaling 390 this summer and pulling the team within a very realistic 15 punch-outs of Newport’s NECBL record, set in 2008.
Manuppelli’s only other blown save and loss of the season also came against the West, in Danbury’s walk-off win June 12th. The Muskrats closer prefers to be used regularly and struggles after breaks, and was pitching on eight days’ rest in this game.
A very different looking Muskrats team fell to Holyoke in extra innings way back on June 10th, the third game of the season. Laconia has lost seven lineup regulars since that game, while the Blue Sox have spent most of the summer in the cellar of the Western standings.
Laconia and Sanford face off at home Tuesday on Fan Appreciation Night. The busy Mainers will take a tour of New Hampshire Tuesday, visiting Keene midday to make up a rainout before coming to Laconia.
Regardless of what Sanford does in their remaining games, Laconia controls the playoff layout. A win for the Muskrats will lock them into the three seed for the postseason, set up a first round series with New Bedford, and eliminate the need to make up the rainout with Mystic. First pitch is at 6:30 PM.