Monday, June 02, 2014
HUNTINGTON — It wasn’t quite as dramatic as Wednesday’s tournament-clinching comeback victory, but the Gateway Regional baseball team returned to a more conventional brand of winning in a key league matchup Thursday.
The Gators jumped out to an early lead and pitcher Brett Turban went the distance in a 6-3 win over Holyoke Catholic.
“It’s certainly nice to get some runs early, which we hadn’t been doing recently since we hit the tough part of our schedule,” Gateway coach Gary St. Peter said. “But getting a lead certainly makes it that much easier on our pitching and defense.”
Sophomore leadoff hitter Johnny Haskell obliged by hitting a leadoff home run in the bottom of the first.
“I was looking in and he gave me a fastball on the inner half,” Haskell said. “I thought at first it would be a fly ball, but it kept carrying over the left fielder’s head.
Haskell, who drove in another run on a single in the fifth, took it upon himself to rekindle the momentum from Wednesday’s seven-run rally to beat Sabis.
“We definitely rode what happened (Wednesday) into this game,” he said. “We told each other we couldn’t start off slowly again.
“I’ve been a leadoff hitter my entire career, so I’m very comfortable in that spot,” Haskell added. “I want to get on base whenever I lead off an inning, especially in the first inning, because I know my guys will knock me in.”
Turban, a freshman right-hander, allowed just five hits. He came within two outs of his second shutout of the season.
“I had a pretty solid fastball, and I was able to mix in some curves and sliders, mostly curves,” Turban said.
St. Peter said, “Brett’s having a really good season, and he keeps improving in terms of keeping the walks down and the pitch count down. He’s struggled a little bit here and there, but he’s done a great job so far. As a freshman, he’s still learning what type of pitcher he’s going to be.”
With the victory, Gateway (11-5, 6-2 Bi-County North) remained in a first-place tie with rival Granby (12-5, 6-2), which beat St. Mary 10-4 Thursday.
The Gaels (9-9, 5-3) missed out on their first opportunity to clinch the program’s first postseason berth since 2006. They’re now a game back in the league standings.
“We’re a long way from where we started at the beginning of the season,” Catholic coach Bill Dupre said. “We battled hard and only lost 6-3 to a team that’s probably going to be one of the top seeds in the tournament. So we have nothing to hang our heads about. I think the guys are confident at this point and believe in themselves. There may have been a few jitters, but I don’t think that was a factor.”
The Gators scored two runs in the first, fourth and fifth innings.
Everett Warner went 4 for 4 with an RBI and run scored, while Willis Pollard (run) and Turban (RBI, run) each added a pair of hits.
After escaping a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the top of the first, Turban settled into his outing and allowed only three to reach base over the next five innings.
“I figured I’d have a solid role on this team, even though I’m just a freshman,” Turban said. “I want to be more conditioned and work on my mechanics before the playoffs. I know the team’s going to be counting on me to help pitch.”
With the bases loaded and one down in the seventh, third baseman Geoff Sobotka nearly turned a game-ending double play that would have preserved the shutout. But Tom Heavren beat the throw to first and Catholic plated its first run.
A passed ball and a balk brought in two more runs, and Catholic brought the tying run to the plate with two outs, but Turban picked up his 11th strikeout to end the game.
“I knew I was still in good shape, I just needed to battle through it,” Turban said. “I can’t thank my guys enough for the support, both with the bats and in the field. This is a good squad.”
In the last of the fourth, Justin Edinger roped a two-run single to center to make it 4-0. The Gators added two more in the fifth on consecutive RBI singles by Turban and Haskell.
“Our senior leadership is starting to kick in, and those guys are keeping everyone focused as we prepare for tournament,” St. Peter said. “We still have a week left, so we want to keep it going. At this point of the season, it’s about executing. We can play the game a bunch of ways, which is important. ”
Nate Laprade, Nick Limoges and Kevin Johnson each had doubles for the Gaels. Tom Heavren picked up their lone RBI and also scored a run.
Catholic plays at Granby on Monday, then hosts Sabis Wednesday.
“We have two more games to try to take care of business,” Dupre said. “So we’ll get back to work like always. I have all the confidence in the world that these guys will respond. One loss isn’t going to shake us.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.