Montpelier, Vt. - The Holyoke Blue Sox scored two runs in the top of the ninth but Kyle Grana struck out Connor Spencer leaving the tying run on third as Vermont edged out a 4-3 win in New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) action on Saturday night at Montpelier Recreation Field. It was the third win in four games for the Mountaineers (9-9) and brought them back to .500 on the yaer.
The contest was a pitching duel by definition as both starters were impressive in a low scoring game. Holyoke (8-10) got on the board in the top of the first when Danny Diekroeger hit a RBI single to bring in Jordan Keur for the first run of the game. Mountaineers starter Zach Varela then retired the next two in order to get out of the inning before settling in nicely. Varela (Wildomar, Calif./UC Riverside) faced just the minimum 15 batters over the next five innings allowing only two more baserunners. Paul McConkey was retired on an inning ending double play in the fourth while Connor Spencer was thrown out trying to steal second in the fifth.
On the other side, Holyoke left Scott Squier was dominant in his summer debut. Squier took a no-hitter into the sixth inning allowing a walk in the third. In the bottom of the sixth PJ Jones reached on a throwing error from shortstop Chris Woolley that put the lead off man for the Mountaineers. After getting one out, he then allowed a walk to Brian O'Grady putting runners at first and second with one out. Brett Johnson would strike out for the second out of the inning before Rob Kelly hit a hard fly ball to centerfield. Blue Sox centerfielder Jordan Keur dove to try and preserve the no-hitter but the ball bounced in front of him and over his glove as Kelly (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif./Saint Anslem) would reach third on a two RBI triple for the first hit of the game putting Vermont ahead 2-1.
Squier would get out of the sixth but after putting two on with one out in the seventh, he was lifted in favor of Kody Kerski. With runners on the corners, Jones (Vancouver, Wash./Washington State) laced a single to right scoring Chris Cook (Annapolis, Md./George Mason) to give the Mountaineers a 3-1 advantage. They would add another in the eighth off Kerski on Cook's RBI single making it 4-1 Vermont.
Varela pitched six innings of one run ball before turning it over to the pen where Matt McAllister (Warminster, Pa./West Chester) and Matt Dearden (Newburry, Fla./Indiana) each pitched scoreless frames. It was then up to Kyle Grana in the ninth to shut the door. Grana (St. Louis, Mo./Bellarmine) gave up a lead off walk to Chris Woolley before getting Keur to fly out for the first out of the inning. A single by Diekroeger put runners on first and second before McConkey scored Woolley on a single of his own.
With runners on second and third, Holyoke executed a double steal putting the tying runs in scoring position with one out. Max Pentecost hit a deep fly ball to center that was caught by Michael White (East Orange, N.J./Louisville) whose throw went up the first base lane and allowed the runners to advance and Diekroeger to score cutting the lead to 4-3. With the tying run on third, Grana was able to strike out Connor Spencer after a six pitch at-bat for the final out of the game.
Varela (1-0) got the win giving up just one run on four hits while striking out five and allowing zero walks. Grana picked up his third save of the summer giving up two runs on two hits and a walk in the ninth. For Holyoke, Squier (0-1) took the loss going six and one-third allowing three runs, two earned, on just one hit while walking three and striking out seven.
Both teams will take the next two days off before meeting again on Tuesday, July 3, at MacKenzie Stadium in Holyoke, Mass. for a 6:30 p.m. start. All game action can be heard live on ESPN 1240, WSKI and online at www.thevermontmountaineers.com
Game Notes: Michael White stole two bases in the third inning giving the Mountaineers 70 as a team this summer...Rob Kelly's two RBI's gives him 18 for the year, surpassing his 2011 Mountaineers total of 17.