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By Jim Stewart
Yogi Berra once noted “It's like déjà vu all over again” and you wouldn't be able to fault the Bolton Brewers for feeling the same way as the often-befuddled legendary catcher.
The Brewers, the dominant team in the NDBL in the regular season and in two playoff series, find themselves trailing the New Lowell Knights for the second consecutive season in the NDBL Championship.
New Lowell, backed by two excellent complete game pitching performances by Brandon Norrie and Nick Hodgson, swept both weekend games to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven Strother Cup final.
Norrie scattered four hits over seven innings and struck out five Brewers en-route to a 4-1 win on Saturday afternoon in Bolton at North Hill Park.
Hodgson's durability was at the heart of a 4-3 Knights' home win on Sunday afternoon.
The Knights' ace gave New Lowell a quality start of seven regulation innings plus two more extra innings of work over which he allowed three runs and seven hits while striking out two.
With Hodgson on the mound in Game 4 of the series, New Lowell came out swinging in support of their starter in the bottom half of the first inning.
Leadoff hitter Steve Bowman hit a homer on the first pitch, followed by Todd Patton's emphatic two-run shot from the four-hole to stake the Knights to a 3-0 lead. Bolton replied with two runs at the top of the fifth and tied the game 3-3 at the top of the sixth.
However, Chris Greer—who had two hits for the Knights – scurried in from third to plate the winning run in the bottom of the ninth on a Brewers' throwing error and New Lowell walked off the Brewers to take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series.
Brett Chater led the Brewers' offence with three hits and a run scored.
Steve Warden chipped in two hits and two RBIs for Bolton.
On Saturday during Game 3 at North Hill Park, the Brewers opened their half of the first inning on a promising note when Chris Fafalios drove in Brett Chater to stake the home side to a 1-0 lead over their NDBL rivals.
Unfortunately, Chater was the only Brewer to cross the plate as Bolton's bats stalled at home for the second consecutive playoff game.
The Knights responded by scoring two in the third inning, one in the fourth, and one more in the fifth en route to a 4-1 win. Todd Patton paced the Knights' attack with two hits. Steve Bowman, Brandon Norrie, Brett Elliott, and Steve Baldry delivered an RBI each for New Lowell. Adam Dzib had two hits for the Brewers.
Knights' starter Brandon Norrie threw a seven-inning CG and made the last out of the game to secure the road win from start to finish.
The righthander delivered an impressive quality start for the visitors.
According to Brewers' Head Coach Mike Wallace, Norrie's performance was the difference between the sides on Saturday.
“He was the factor. He threw a good fastball this afternoon and his slider was working for him.”
Coach Wallace lamented his team's power outage in Game 3.
“The offence was dormant today, unfortunately, and we didn't put enough pressure on them.”
The pressure to which Coach Wallace referred has surely been shifted to the shoulders of the Brewers as they face elimination in Game 5 at 1:00 on Saturday afternoon at New Lowell Recreation Park.
As Yogi Berra once quipped famously, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it” and the Brewers have clearly arrived at that fork at Highway 50 for the second year in a row.
However, the boys from Bolton can take heart in Berra's most famous malapropism – “It ain't over till it's over” – and force a Game 6 at North Hill Park on Sunday with first pitch thrown at 12 noon.
Game 7, if necessary, would start at 2:30 on Sunday as part of a series-ending doubleheader. Until then, the Brewers will have to retain a singular focus on Saturday and channel their inner Yogi since “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
Post date: 2023-09-21 11:32:11
Post date GMT: 2023-09-21 15:32:11
Post modified date: 2023-09-28 11:07:21
Post modified date GMT: 2023-09-28 15:07:21
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