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COLONIALS PASS KEY LITMUS TEST AT GATE; ON THE FIELD AT BWP, C’s EXTEND WINNING STREAK TO 5 AS MOLINA DRIVE IN 4 … WELCH LAUNCHES MONSTER HR IN 6-3 WIN

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JULY 8, 2011) — THE PLANET put it “out there” on the pass line coming out: We wrote that last night’s game, the first after the 4,009 on July 4, would be a litmus test for the future of the Pittsfield Colonials franchise. We set the “magic number” at 1,000.

If the C’s drew 1,000 or more, it would provide a reasonable basis to believe there will be C’s baseball for the remainder of the year and into 2012. If they drew 800 or less, in the words of Don Meredith on “Monday Night Football,” “Put out the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end.”

1,054 Provides ‘Reasonable Basis’ for Expectation of Franchise Success

The team drew 1,054. Does this mean the franchise’s financial struggle is over? No, but it does establish a reasonable basis for the expectation of success. Moreover, if you look at a spreadsheet of attendance for this season, you will see it trending sharply up. July and August free up the school kids and parents, campers and counselors, tourists and other sundry visitors to the hinterlands of the Berkshires.

A pattern seems to be emerging. Based on two seasons, the formula for C’s success seems to be keep your head above water in May and June and cash-in during July and August.

In the past five home  games going into tonight, the C’s have drawn more than 1,500 a game. For those who poo-poo this figure by pointing out the aberration of 4,009 on July 4, we give you the first of those five games, which started late, endured numerous rain delays, and drew less than 300.

The bottom line is the Colonials’ bottom line. July and August will prove definitive.

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Qualben, Molina Power Pittsfield Past Bears, 6-3

Josh Cutler

PLANET VALENTI Sports

(PITTSFIELD Thursday, July 7th, 2011) — Though Angel Molina has struggled to ignite his powerful bat out of the gate, his two singles and four RBI powered the Colonials to their fifth straight victory, a 6-3 defeat of the Newark Bears before 1,054 fans at Historic Wahconah Park.

With the victory and New Jersey’s 3-2 loss to Quebec, Pittsfield improves to 22-16 (.579) on the season and moves within ½ game of the Jackals for second place in the Can-Am League standings.

Colonials Capitalize Early off Eden

Pittsfield busted out against Newark starter Eric Eden (3-1, 3.41 ERA) in the third inning.  With one out, Danny Bomback laced a sharp single to right and advanced to second on a balk by Eden.  Billy Mottram then reached on an error by first baseman Daryle Ward, who made an errant flip to Eden covering the base.   After Mottram stole second, Angel Molina lined a 3-2 pitch to right field, plating Pittsfield’s first two runs.

Still with one out in the 3rd, Johnny Welch dug in against Eden and launched a 1-0 offering deep into the night in left field to give the C’s a 4-0 advantage. Welch’s blast cleared the 377′ wall and landed deep into the woods. It was estimated to travel 480′. Welch’s 11th HR gave him the league lead.

Pittsfield would tack on two more in the fourth, care of yet another Molina two run single to right field. Colonials Manager Jamie Keefe said that while the statistics might not indicate that Molina has the prodigious power bat that everyone has expected this year (0 home runs in 137 at bats), his changing approach at the plate is benefitting the team’s cause: “Mo’s still trying to find that home run swing.  He’s trying to go the other way because everybody’s been working him off the plate, and he keeps going with it.   He’s not trying to pull it anymore, and if he keeps doing it, he’s going to keep getting more RBIs for us”.

Wahconah Park wasn’t the Garden of Eden for the Newark starter. Eden allowed six runs (five earned) on six hits through 3 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out two.

Qualben Solid Again for C’s

Meanwhile, lefty David Qualben (3-2, 3.17 ERA) continues to give Pittsfield strong innings out of the top of the rotation, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits in eight innings, walking two and striking out a season high seven on 119 pitches (69 strikes).

Qualben had few blemishes on the night, one coming in the fifth on a solo home run by Eric McGee. Qualben also allowed two runs in the eighth care of a Daryle Ward double and an error on a Danny Santiesteban fly ball by right fielder Peter Fatse, allowing a third run to score.  But that was it for the southpaw, who has thrown at least five innings in each of his eight starts.

Keefe continues to be satisfied with the work he’s getting out of his top lefty: “When he’s pounding the zone like that and has his offspeed pitches working, he’s pretty tough to beat”

Late Innings Still Shaky in Bullpen

While Qualben delivered eight solid innings, the work of reliever T.J. Wink in the 9th was enough to induce some heart palpitations from the lively crowd.  After getting two quick outs, Wink allowed a walk to Kyle Davis, a single to Billy Alvino, and then drilled Bobby Dombrowski with a pitch to load the bases. It was the second shaky outing for Wink, who had started the season with 17.2 innings of scoreless work.

Keefe had seen enough out of his usually reliable lefty out of the pen (0.93 ERA in 19.1 innings) and summoned righty Matt Lyons, who was originally penciled in to serve as the closer this year but has struggled in the early going (4.82 ERA in 9.1 innings). Lyons lock up the ballgame by getting Juan Martinez to fly out to Mottram in left, stranding three base runners with Newark’s best opportunity to tie the game all night.

Bomback and Molina each turned in two hits for Pittsfield.  McGee went 3-4 for the Bears, while Kyle Morrison backed up Eden with 4.1 impressive innings of shutout baseball.

Miguel Flores (1-4, 3.69 ERA) will look to start a personal winning streak Friday night after registering his first victory Saturday night against Brockton, toiling against lefty Alex Smith (3-2, 3.76 ERA).

COLONIALS NOTES: Friday night’s game time has been shifted to 7:30 PM in order to accommodate the “Lift Ev’ry Voice” festivities and tribute to the Negro Leagues, which will feature presentations from Baseball Hall of Fame representatives … Gov. Deval Patrick will throw out the first ball … An extended fireworks display will follow Friday night’s contest … Newark Centerfielder Tim Raines Jr. was ejected for arguing in the fifth inning.  Dombrowski replaced him in the lineup … Keefe stated that Fatse, who received 13 stitches following being drilled in the head with a pitch Sunday against Brockton, was fine.  Keefe said that Fatse was ready and willing to go in Monday’s July 4th contest, but he wanted to play it safe with his player.

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THAT’S ALL SHE WROTE FOR NOW, FOLKS. MORE LATER ON THE PLANET.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

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