BY JOSH CUTLER
PLANET VALENTI Sports
(PITTSFIELD, Saturday, May 28th, 2011) — How quickly the tables can turn.
As soon as New Jersey right fielder Jeremy Sladen circled the bases with his game-tying solo blast off of Colonials closer Matt Lyons in the top of the ninth, Johnny Welch’s answer in the bottom of the ninth with a leadoff solo blast into the 1791 Club in right field would send the 522 Wahconah Park patrons home happy, as the Colonials topped the New Jersey Jackals, 4-3.
The win earned the Colonials the series victory, as the C’s took the final two games of the three game season opening set. Pittsfield now heads into a four-game set with the Rockland Boulders beginning on Sunday at the old ballyard.
9th Inning Woes for Both Teams
With standout closer Juan Padilla (17 saves in 2010) not returning to the team, Colonials Manager Jamie Keefe turned to Matt Lyons, who in 2010 had an eye-popping 32 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings with the club. After getting Nick Giarraputo to fly out to right, Slayden laced the first pitch he saw from Lyons over the 1791 Club and off the back wall beyond the right field auxiliary fence, spoiling the victory for Colonials starter Miguel Flores, who dominated the Jackals lineup through his 7 2/3 innings of work.
Though the breeze was blowing to right throughout the afternoon, Slayden’s bomb needed no help from the wind, as right fielder Angel Molina never budged from his position when the ball sailed over his head and over the fence.
However, even with new life breathed into the Jackals, reliever Jeff Gogal couldn’t maintain the momentum Slayden infused, as Welch took a 2-2 fastball to the opposite field for his second home run in as many days.
Welch, a newcomer to the Colonials who has experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows in his first series with the club — The Good: two homers, four RBI in 12 at bats; The Bad: five strikeouts, four on opening night). Welch was mobbed by his teammates at home plate after he rounded the bags.
Starting Pitching Hot, Relief Pitching Not
Jackals starter Chris Vasami came out of the gates hurling, setting down the first eight batters he faced, until Quentin Davis singled to left in the third. The only blemish on Vasami’s five innings of work was a solo shot by new Colonial left fielder Billy Mottram, who launched a 3-1 fastball over the right field auxiliary fence.
Despite only throwing 77 pitches (49 strikes) in five innings of work, Jackals manager Joe Calfapietra elected to lift Vasami in place of reliever Steve Fox for the sixth. Fox, who spent 2010 in the Boston Red Sox organization, immediately ran into trouble, allowing a leadoff single to Matt Nandin, who then stole second and advanced to third on a Danny Bomback groundout. Molina then laced the next pitch through the middle, plating Bomback and tying the game, 2-2. After a Rafael Cabreja single, Molina would score the third Pittsfield run when Welch grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Miguel Flores, the Colonials’ most reliable starter in 2010 (10-4, 3.63 ERA), cruised through his outing, giving up two runs (one earned) and five hits, walking three while striking out five. T.J. Wink was loosening in the pen through the sixth inning, but Keefe elected to stick with Flores at the start of the seventh. The move paid off as Flores induced Leonard Davis into a flyout to center and Mike Leslie would strike out swinging. Keefe then turned to Wink to face Mike Jones in a lefty on lefty matchup. Though Jones would single off of Wink, Kris Sanchez would then ground out to short to end the threat.