JAY — The wind was blowing out at Roland Ouellette Field Friday, a cause for celebration for hitters and nervous breakdowns for pitchers.
Kyle Storer nearly managed to have both.
Storer homered twice and drove in five runs, then held on to nail down the save with two innings of relief as Jay edged Moutnain Valley, 10-9, in a Mountain Valley Conference slugfest.
The two teams combined for eight home runs, a half-dozen of those by Mountain Valley. Derek Volkernick hit the Falcons’ sixth to lead off the seventh inning and pull them within a run. Storer fanned the next two batters, then gave up a double to Connor Blais to put the tying run in scoring position. Cam Kaubris then worked a full count.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Storer said. “I found my rhythm and tried to stay calm.”
Storer struck out Kaubris looking with a fastball on the inside corner to end the game.
“It was actually supposed to be an outside fastball, but it ended up going inside,” said Storer, who struck out four and gave up two hits in relief.
“Kyle struggled against St. Dom’s on Monday throwing strikes but he was hitting his spots much better and his curve ball was excellent,” Jay coach Chris Bessey said. “I think he surprised Kaubris a little bit by coming in because we had been going away pretty much.”
It’s a wonder any pitcher dared throw a strike with the gusts blowing numerous fly balls over the fence. Ryan Laubauskas got the fireworks started for the Falcons (1-1) with a three-run homer in the first. The Tigers (2-1) scored a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the frame to make it 3-2. Gino Salgado (3-for-4, two HR, double) clubbed a two-run homer to make it 5-2 Falcons in the third, but the Tigers pulled back within one again on Storer’s first dinger, a two-run blast.
“I’m just proud of my kids for competing with what they’ve gone through for the last couple of days,” said Mountain Valley coach Steve LaPointe, whose team has been grieving the loss of classmate and former teammate Dan Garneau, who passed away Thursday after a battle with cancer.
“I think we’re so concerned with throwing strikes, I don’t know if we’re throwing quality strikes right now,” he added. “We’ll get better as time goes by. I think we can hit the ball a little bit.”
Mountain Valley, which out-hit Jay, 13-7, kept swinging in the fourth, when Matt Duka went deep to make it 6-4. But Jay again answered in the bottom of the frame, this time with six runs. Grant Richards had a two-run single to tie it, Jacob Lord beat out an infield hit to put the Tigers in front, then Storer crushed a 3-2 pitch from Falcon reliever Izaak Mills to deep left-center for a three-run homer and a 10-6 lead.
“That (pitch) was wicked high, but I like them there,” Storer said. “I didn’t know where I hit it, but I guess it went.”
“Jordan DeMillo led off that inning getting down 0-2, he fouled off some pitches and ended up working a walk,” Bessey said. “Sometimes it’s the little things like working a walk that get a big inning started.”
The Falcons got two back in the fifth on back-to-back homers by Salgado and Mills. Mills returned to the mound and shut down the Tigers to give the Falcons a couple of chances to come back against Storer, but he stranded two runners in the sixth and the tying run in the seventh.
The Tigers fared well with a rugged early schedule, beating St. Dom’s and Mountain Valley. They lost to Mt. Abram on Thursday.
“I knew it was going to be a tough first week, and to come out 2-1, I’m ecstatic,” Bessey said. “That’s a good start, but obviously, it’s a long season, too, so you have to take it in stride.”