On four strike outs, Cosart and Nunez left four Vermont runners on base, holding the Lake Monsters to an 0-for-5 clip with runners in scoring position. Steven Pallares battled through a nine pitch at-bat after falling behind 0-2 before lacing a single to center field on one of the hardest hit balls of the night for Vermont.
The seven innings of dominance would still be enough, as Lowell used a two-run third inning to pull away from Vermont, 5-0, sweeping the season opening series. It is the first time in Vermont’s 21-year history in the N.Y.-Penn League that they lost the first three home games of the season and the seventh time that Vermont has started the season 0-3.
“Not to take anything away from what they’ve done on the mound, they did a real nice job keeping our hitters off-balance and stifle our offense, but I think what happened today, we had the new draftees come in, guys who haven’t played in over a month, based on the fact that if they didn’t make the college World Series they were out of it,” manager Aaron Nieckula said.
“No excuses, you’ve still got to go up there, maintain selectivity, have a good approach, try to put good wood on the ball. I think we’ll be okay, it’s just a matter of getting our work in, staying positive, and going out there and doing the best you can.”
Kevin Ferreras took the loss despite peppering the strike zone over four innings of work, giving up four runs on six hits.
Cosart got the win for Lowell.
Outside of a five run seventh inning in a 7-1 loss on Saturday, the Vermont bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in 16 innings of work.
“We told (the bullpen) before the game, ‘You guys are doing an outstanding job, doing a great job keeping us in the ball game, picking up your teammates and giving us a chance to get back in the game and score some runs,” said Nieckula. “If we can sustain that success, longevity in the bullpen, I think we’ll be okay in the long run.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED:
Missed chances: Vermont put two base runners on in the bottom of the third and fourth innings, but were unable to capitalize. In the third, Pallares and Argenis Raga worked one out walks and made it to second and third on a passed ball, but a Trace Loehr pop out and a Skye Bolt ground out ended the threat.
In the fourth, Mikey White was hit and Chris Iriart walked to put runners on for the 5-6-7 hitters, but a pair of pop outs and ground out to first kept the Lake Monsters off the board.
“They pounded the strike zone,” White said. “We’re still getting back into it. They pounded the zone and made us put the ball in play and their defense made plays.”
Lack of offense: Since the seven run, 13 hit outburst on opening day, Vermont managed just one run on seven hits over the final two games of the series. Vermont was a combined 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position over the weekend while leaving 15 runners on base.
“I was telling the staff on the bench, I like what I see,” Nieckula said. “I think we’re playing hard. We’re doing some good things, especially in the bullpen. In the field we’ve been fine for the most part, made a few boneheaded plays here and there, but I just think, we need to score a few more runs, obviously.”
Pounding the zone: Ferreras attacked the strike zone for the Lake Monsters, throwing 44 strikes on 58 pitches. Ferreras managed to avoid a big inning in the third. After the first batters reached to load the bases, Ferreras induced a sacrifice fly to get the first out of the inning.
A broken bat infield single extended the lead to 3-0, but a strikeout and a pop out kept the inning from getting out of hand.
“We thought he came out and threw the ball extremely well,” Nieckula said. “Made some good pitches, worked in and out, up and down. Got the secondary pitches working. Commanded the zone, and that’s exactly what you have to do in this game… If he wasn’t on a limited pitch count or innings he probably could have gone another one or two because he wasn’t laboring. I thought he pitched pretty well and gave us a chance.”
Up next: Vermont hosts Aberdeen on Monday, the final three games in a six game homestand to begin the season. Dustin Driver gets the ball for Vermont as they seek their first win of the season. Driver started four games for Beloit, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05.