Lake Monsters in first place

After a 3-6 start the Vermont Lake Monsters got hot towards the end of the week and won four in a row to improve to 7-6, and take a half game lead over the second place Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox) and Oneonta Tigers (Detroit Tigers) in the New York-Penn leagues Steddlar Division. The Tri-City Valley Cats sat in last place just a game back going into this weeks action. Vermonts winning streak began with a three game home sweep of the Spinners. The Monsters pitching staff held the visitors offense to just one run in each of the three games. The Expos then continued their winning ways with an 11-4 win over the Valley Cats on Sunday in Troy, taking sole possession of first place with the win. The streak started June 25 when Third baseman Steve Souza smashed two home runs and starting pitcher PJ Dean tossed six scoreless innings to lead the Vermont Lake Monsters to a 6-1 victory over the Lowell Spinners at historic Centennial Field. Souza gave the Lake Monsters a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run to the deepest part of field, a blast just to the left of centerfield and over the fence at the edge of the adjacent soccer bleachers. Souza struck again in the bottom of the third. Jose Lozada and Nick Arata, singled and Souza lined a three-run homer over the fence in leftfield for a 4-0 Vermont lead. Souza then made it 5-0 in the fifth when he followed a leadoff single from Arata with a RBI double to right-center for his fifth RBI of the game. The Lake Monsters got their final run of the game later in the fifth on a RBI single from Michael Guerrero. The two home runs for Souza mark the twelfth time in the Lake Monsters 15-year history that a Vermont player has hit two home runs in one game. It is also just the third time that a Lake Monster has hit two home runs in a game at Centennial Field. The other two with two homers in a game at Centennial were Milton Bradley on July 6, 1997, and Dee Brown on June 24, 2005. Souza's offensive night was more than enough for Dean (1-0), who allowed four hits in his six scoreless innings. Including hisfirst start last week at Lowell, Dean has allowed just one run on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in 12 innings of work this season. The Vermont middle infield combined to go 5-for-8 with three runs as Arata went 2-for-4 with two runs and Lozada was 3-for-4 with one run. The Lake Monsters also turned three double plays in the game on lineouts to Arata and Lozada. Lowell got its only run of the game in the eighth when they got back-to-back singles to leadoff the inning and a sacrifice fly from Matt Cooney. Lowell starter Hunter Strickland (0-1), who had allowed just two hits over eight innings before Thursday, was touched for six runs on 10 hits in just four-plus innings to take the loss. The Boston Red Sox 2007 World Series Trophy made an appearance at Centennial Field June 27 and the Lake Monsters performed for it. Derek Norris snapped a 1-1 tie with an RBI double in the bottom of the sixth inning and the Lake Monsters bullpen made the lead stand up as Vermont beat the Lowell Spinners 2-1 at historic Centennial Field. Vermont opened the scoring in the third inning. Tyler Moore led off with a single and then moved to third on a hit-and-run single from Jose Lozada. After a stolen base by Lozada, Nick Arata had an RBI groundout to shortstop to plate Moore with the games first run. Lowell was able to come back and tie the game in the fourth on a one-out infield single from Kade Keowen, a walk to Ricardo Burgos and an RBI single from Will Middlebrooks. The Spinners had a chance to take the lead with runners on first and third with one out, but reliever Tommy Milone came in and got Rafael GIl to ground into an inning-ending double play. The game stayed 1-1 until the bottom of the sixth when Lowell reliever Stephen Fife issued a one-out walk to Arata and Norris followed with a groundball double down the leftfield line that scored Arata from first base for the 2-1 lead. Last weekend at Lowell, the Spinners came-from-behind in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat the Lake Monsters twice. But Friday night after Steven Stewart tossed 1 2/3 scoreless innings, David Slovack tossed a perfect ninth inning to pick up his second save of the season. Milone (1-0) tossed three scoreless innings of relief for the victory, while Fife (1-1) took the loss for the Spinners. Lowell starter Brock Huntzinger, who had not allowed a run in 10 innings over his first two starts, gave up one run on two hits in five innings on Friday. Keowen and Mitch Dening both were 2-for-4 for Lowell (6-5), while Ronald Bermudez was 2-for-3 and Moore was 2-for-3 with a run for Vermont (5-6.) Arata was 1-for-2 with a run, an RBI, two walks and three stolen bases. The game was played in front of 4,106 fans, the largest crowd at Centennial Field this season in eight games and the 36th largest crowd all-time in the Lake Monsters 15-year history. The Lake Monsters completed their sweep of the Spinners June 28 when Tyler Moore and Jose Lozada both hit two-run homers in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Vermont Lake Monsters snapped a 1-1 tie with a four-run outburst for a 5-1 victory. After Michael Guerrero led off the sixth with his second of three singles on the night, Moore smashed a 1-2 pitch from Lowell reliever Charlie Rosario (0-1) over the fence in leftfield for his first home run of the season to give Vermont a 3-1 lead. Two outs later, Ricky Nolan doubled and scored when Lozada smacked a 0-1 Rosario pitch down the rightfield line for his first homer of the year and a 5-1 lead. The Lake Monsters got another great outing from its pitching staff as Vermont completed the three-game series sweep of Lowell by holding the Spinners to just one run for the third straight game with wins of 6-1, 2-1 and 3-1. The last time that Lake Monsters allowed one or fewer runs in three straight games at Centennial Field was back in August of 1996 when Vermont swept a three-game series from New Jersey 3-1, 9-1 and 3-1. Brad Peacock went the first five innings for the Lake Monsters on Saturday, allowing 1 run on just two hits with two walks (both in the first inning) and six strikeouts. Reliever Kevin Light (1-0) tossed two scoreless innings for the win, while Carlos Peralta closed out the game with four strikeouts in two scoreless innings. Light had to work out of a huge jam in the top of the sixth with the game tied 1-1. He walked the first two batters of the inning and then loaded the bases on a Kade Keowen single. But Light got out of trouble by striking out Will Middlebrooks and getting Rafael Gil to hit into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play. The Lake Monsters took a 1-0 lead in the first as Derek Norris walked with two outs, went to third on a Jesus Valdez single and scored on an RBI single from Guerrero. The Spinners tied the game in the fourth when Ricardo Burgos doubled with one out and scored on a two-out RBI single from Keowen. Vermont then ended their week and began a six game road trip June 29 on a positive note. Behind a four-run top of the first inning they claimed an 11-4 victory over the Tri-City ValleyCats in New York-Penn League action Sunday evening at Bruno Stadium. The Lake Monsters came out swinging with four runs on three hits and two walks in the first. After loading the bases with back-to-back singles from Jose Lozada and James Keithley along with a walk to Steve Souza to open the game, Jesus Valdez gave Vermont a 2-0 lead with a two-run single. Later in the inning Souza scored on a wild pitch and Stephen Englund added a sacrifice fly. Tyler Moore increased the Lake Monsters lead with a three-run homer in the third inning. It was the second straight night that Moore homered for Vermont, the first time a Lake Monsters player had homered in two straight games since Bill Rhinehart in late August of 2007. Vermont upped the lead to 8-0 with a unearned run in the fifth and, after Tri-City got its first run in the bottom of the inning, Souza hit a two-out solo homer in the top of sixth. It was the fourth home run of the season for Souza, all coming in the last five games that he has played. Tri-City scored an unearned run in the seventh and added another run in the eighth on a wild pitch before Michael Guerrero smacked a long two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning for his first home run of the season and an 11-3 Vermont lead. ValleyCat Thomas Steele hit a solo homer in the bottom of ninth. Jose Pinales (1-0) allowed two runs (one earned) over three innings for the win in relief of starter Randy Matias, who allowed just one hit and struckout seven in four innings. Despite the one hit over four innings, Matias struggled with his control as he walked four and also hit a batter. Valdez was 3-for-5 with three runs, a double and two RBI for Vermont, while five other Lake Monsters had two hits in the game. It was also the first time since Aug. 14, 2007, at Batavia that Vermont has hit three home runs as a team in a single game.

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