Keystone falls in 1st game of Mid-Atlantic regional

MIKE ORAZZI/Special to the Sun-Gazette New York’s John Calabrese looks to receive the throw at first base as Keystone’s Kevin Grenninger reaches safely during the Mid-Atlantic Regonal Tournament at Breen Field in Bristol, Conn., on Monday. Keystone lost, 7-0, and falls into the losers’ bracket.

BRISTOL, Conn. — Keystone showed vulnerabilities against Staten Island, but now’s not the time to panic.

A 7-0 loss to Staten Island handed Keystone its first defeat of the season.

Entering Monday’s matchup, Keystone manager Pat Johnson strongly endorsed Staten Island’s pitchers, and the unit lived up to the hype.

Staten Island’s Gregory Bruno fanned 11 batters in five scoreless innings. Derek Mendez struck out the side in the sixth, as the two pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts and allowed just two hits.

“We faced a great pitcher who pitched a great game,” Johnson said of Bruno. “I think we’re very evenly matched with that team, but they’ve got an elite pitcher and he pitched a great game.”

Bruno’s excellence has been consistent all summer. He’s help lead Staten Island to six shutout wins this year, and is the team’s clear go-to-man in pivotal matchups.

“He did a fantastic job today as always,” Staten Island manager Joe Calabrese said of Bruno. “He’s our No. 1 guy. When he’s on the mound, we’re extremely tough to beat. He pounds the strike zone and gets ahead in the count,” Calabrese said. “He just does a great job and I couldn’t be any happier with how he did today.”

Keystone’s defense had a strong first inning. Brady Myers turned a double play after he robbed Steven Martinez of a base hit and threw out Bruno who was drifting off first base. Mendez then supplied an RBI single to center field, but Connor Foltz got Keystone out of the inning when he made a diving grab in center field to rob Chris Cancel of a hit.

Keystone rotated between six pitchers in Monday’s loss, all of whom had difficulties locating the strike zone. Relief pitcher Gabe Johnson walked in Staten Island’s second run of the game after loading the bases in the second. Keystone’s pitchers held Staten Island to just four hits, but combined for 10 walks.

“Our guys do a great job of having quality at-bats,” Calabrese said. “We want to swing on the good pitches and not chase balls out of the zone.”

Staten Island widened its lead to 3-0 in the second after Bruno recorded an RBI sac-fly. Bruno recorded another RBI in the fourth, then put Staten Island ahead 5-0 after scoring off an RBI fielder’s choice.

Staten Island stretched its lead to 7-0 after drawing a pair of bases-loaded walks in the fifth.

Keystone generated offense in the sixth after Bruno was removed as he approached the 85-pitch limit. Reliever Mendez loaded the bases, but struck out Nate Wian to end the game.

Keystone’s scoring opportunities were scarce and the offense fizzled when it needed to produce.

Down 3-0 in the third, Keystone failed to record a score after putting runners on second and third with one out. They stranded another three runners in the sixth.

“We had opportunities and didn’t come through,” Johnson said. “We didn’t put the ball in play there and we could’ve gotten it to 3-1 at that point. That’s what we’re most disappointed at.”

Johnson kept his team motivated after the game.

Their summer isn’t over, and if they win out from here, they play in the Mid-Atlantic Regional championshp game, which could possibly be a rematch with Staten Island.

“We knew this was a possibility with playing a team that good,” Johnson said on losing the first round matchup. “The bottom bracket now is the road to Saturday.”

Calabrese believes Keystone will get another crack at his team.

“This was their first game, so I’m sure they were nervous,” he said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to see them again.”

Keystone first has to get past Delaware today at 4 p.m. Delaware lost its tournament opener to Maryland, 6-0.

Staten Island 120 220 –7 4 1

Keystone 000 000 — 0 2 2

W–Gregory Bruno. L–Levi Schlesinger.

Top Staten Island hitters: Chris Bedford 1-1, RBI; Gregory Bruno, 3 RBIs. Top Keystone hitters: Dallas Alexander 1-3; Kevin Grenninger 1-1.

Next game: Keystone vs. Delaware, today, 4 p.m. in losers’ bracket tournament.