A new season, a new roster, a new manager. The same old result.
One season after finishing 33-43 for the third consecutive year, the Vermont Lake Monsters began the 2015 campaign in similar fashion, falling to the Lowell Spinners 13-7.
Lowell jumped early and often on Vermont starter Jordan Schwartz, scoring two runs in the first inning before unloading for a nine spot in the second.
Schwartz lasted just 1.1 innings for Vermont, giving up 10 runs, nine of which were earned, on seven hits and four walks.
Bryan Hudson led the Spinners attack, going 3-for-5 with a walk, scoring three runs with a pair of RBI’s. Josh Ockimey had three hits of his own, tallying four RBI’s while scoring one. Jordon Austin had three hits while Victor Acosta added a pair.
“We have to minimize the big inning,” manager Aaron Nieckula said. “That’s the key to this game, minimize the big inning, and things got away from us a little bit, the wheels fell off.
“Give a lot of credit to our bullpen. They let up two runs through seven plus innings, and the offense kind of chipped away. We out-hit them, but under-runned them.”
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Big Innings: Paced by a nine-run second inning, the most runs the Lake Monsters had given up since yielding ten runs to the Staten Island Yankees in 2009, Lowell took advantage of six Vermont walks and three errors to blow the game open early.
Lowell scored early on Vermont miscues, taking advantage of a miscommunication in left field to plate two in the first inning, before exploding in the second.
While the two ran themselves into foul ground, the ball dropped just in front of shortstop Jesus Lopez in fair territory, plating a pair of runs.
“I think (the miscommunication) hurt a little,” said Nieckula. “I think the bunt miscue (in the first inning) hurt a little bit. All the little things add up and become big things.”
Lowell began the second with a pair of walks before Austin reached on a bunt. Hudson laced a two-run single to center, and Rivera added a third run on a single between short and third.
After a Schwartz wild pitch, his second of the game, plated a run, Ockimey tripled before Acosta doubled, plating three runs and chasing Schwartz.
The onslaught continued with Tyler Willman in for Vermont. A ground out plated Acosta, before Willman hit Austin.
Willman followed with back-to-back wild pitches, scoring Austin. A Hector Lorenzana ground out ended the biggest home inning against Vermont since an eight-run inning from Connecticut in 2013.
“We lost command on the mound and Schwartz wasn’t at his best,” Nieckula said. “We had an opportunity in the first inning with the bases loaded, but we struck out three straight times.”
Home Cooking: The Lake Monsters, who begin the season with six straight home games, got the bats going as well. A grand slam from Raga capped a six-run third inning, while capping an offense that outhit Lowell 13-12.
“We had good AB’s, good approach,” Nieckula said. “When you’re down that big that early, its easy to tuck your tail and say its over, but it’s never over. You gotta fight until the last outs made… Overall I thnk out productivity and approach was pretty darn good. I think we had some hard contacts that weren’t necessarily recorded. I’m very pleased with the way we looked on the offensive end.
Using the Body: On a hit and run in the seventh inning, Vermont second baseman Trace Loehr broke to cover second base. Rivera laced a ground ball up the middle, while Loehr fell to his knees, fielding the ball on a short hop. From his knees, Loehr delivered a strike to get Rivera by half a step at first base.
Runs Aplenty: In 2014, the Lake Monsters had the league’s second-worst ERA at 4.06, but yielded more than ten runs just three times. The most runs allowed by the Lake Monsters pitching staff, which has seven pitchers returning this season, was in a 12-4 loss to Tri-City.
Vermont pitchers seemingly picked up where they left off on opening night. Schwartz, Willman, Jesus Rivera, and Victor Veliz combined to surrender 13 runs on 11 hits and six walks. The pitching staff wasn’t helped by solid defense, however, as Vermont committed three errors, resulting in four unearned runs.
“Any time you commit errors behind the pitcher it’s always tough,” said Nieckula. “You’re adding pitches, you’re adding to his frustration. He’s a human being. He’s not going to show it on the outside but on the inside its frustrating. None the less, you have to go out and do your job.
“We’ll talk to (Schwartz). We told him, ‘Keep your head up, you threw the ball pretty well. A few walks here and there, a few balls up in the zone, there are things he can take away on a positive end that he build upon moving forward.
Fresh Faces: The Lake Monsters played Friday night with just nine position players on the roster. The expectation is that five to ten players may be added to the roster over the next five days as the Lake Monsters look to add bodies.
Up Next: Jonnie Massad (0-2 4.39 ERA in 56.2IP in 2014 with Vermont) is expected to get the start on Saturday for Vermont. Lowell sends Danny Rosenbaum to the mound. Rosenbaum has spent time with five different teams over a five-year minor league career, making it as high as AAA. He has a 34-36 career record with a 3.12 ERA. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 pm.