Grant Besser provides strong outing, but Keene SwampBats lose late lead to Mystic Schooners

·3 min read

Jul. 9—Despite Grant Besser's best outing of the season, the SwampBats dropped a Friday night matchup with the Mystic Schooners, 3-2, at Alumni Field.

The game was close the whole way, but an RBI single from Mystic's Michael Bello in the eighth inning was the decider.

Keene took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, then a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning, then Mystic tied the game in the seventh and took the lead in the eighth.

Besser — the rising junior out of Florida Southwestern State College, who is headed to Rutgers University next year — threw a season-high five innings and allowed just one unearned run on five hits. He retired the last seven hitters that he faced. He also had a season-high five strikeouts.

"Just competing with myself today," Besser said. "Everything worked out today, but we didn't get a win."

Three of his five strikeouts came in his final two innings, when he retired six in a row.

"I went through the lineup a couple times, so I knew what to throw. It felt like I was getting pretty predictable, so I started mixing the off-speed in there," Besser said. "Really, it was a change of pitching. Just knowing the hitters and adapting to what I saw before."

The unearned run came directly from an error, a storyline that has plagued this team all season long.

"Good game, for the most part, but we have to make those plays," said Keene manager Shaun McKenna. "We have to make the routine plays. ... You make all the routine plays and you win the game."

Mystic put pressure on Besser in the first two innings, but he kept his composure and leaned on his defense to get out of the jams. Mystic loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning, but a groundout to Paxton Tomaini at shortstop ended the inning.

Then in the second inning, Mystic's Mason LaPlante singled with Logan Allen on second base, but Lucas Costello played the ball on a hop in center field and gunned down Allen — who rounded third and was heading home — to end the inning and preserve the 1-0 Keene lead.

"Just had to execute my best pitches," Besser said of the mindset with runners in scoring position. "That's really it."

In addition to the defensive gem, Costello scored Keene's two runs. The first was in the bottom of the first inning on a wild pitch, then he came around to score again in the fifth inning after drawing a walk and scoring on an RBI double from Tony Santa Maria.

Santa Maria's RBI double gave Keene the lead at the time, but a solo home run from Allen to lead off the seventh tied the game at two.

Then Mystic (14-10) took the lead for good in the eighth on Bello's RBI single.

Both late runs came off Riley Skeen, who pitched three innings in relief of Besser. He allowed the two runs (both earned) on six hits with four strikeouts.

After Mystic took the lead in the top of the eighth, Keene put runners on first and second with one in the bottom half — a chance to tie — but a timely double play for the Schooners preserved their one-run lead.

Caden Leonard pitched a scoreless ninth inning to hold the deficit at just one run, but Keene couldn't get that tying run in the bottom half.

"Pitching was really good," McKenna said. "We just didn't knock anyone's socks off offensively."

Keene drops to 10-16 and wraps up its homestand Saturday against the Valley Blue Sox before a day off Monday. First pitch at Alumni Field is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Chris Detwiler can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1411, or cdetwiler@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Detwiler.