SANFORD — Mainers coach Ceejay Suarez hasn’t wavered in his belief that his team is primed for a great summer if the offense can give his bullpen a lead.

Having his relievers come in with a deficit isn’t a recipe for a winning effort, though.  

Sanford’s bullpen delivered another strong outing on Wednesday, but Danbury’s pitching was just a bit better. The Westerners held Sanford to three hits, and Noah Dickerson hit a go-ahead two-run single in the top of the sixth to lead Danbury to a 3-1 win over Sanford in a NECBL baseball game at Goodall Park.

Suarez lauded the effort of his relief pitching, but he knows the bats will need to start clicking as the season wears on.

“(The depth of the pitching staff) is great to see as a coach,” Suarez said. “We just need to be in a position to give them the ball with the lead … I think we’ve got to change our (offensive) approach a little bit going forward.”

Emmitt Sheehan went the first four innings for Danbury, striking out seven while allowing just one hit and two walks in a no-decision effort. The Westerners allowed only two more Mainers hits over the final five innings.

“(Sheehan) was lights out,” Suarez said. “He’s one of the better pitchers we’ll face all summer.”

Danbury (6-3) took a 1-0 lead in the second off of starter Matt Rudis, who lasted only two innings. Matt Zaffino led off with a double to left field, then advanced to third on a wild pitch from starter Matt Rudis with Jake McCarthy at the plate. On the next pitch, McCarthy drove in Zaffino with a sacrifice fly to left field.

Sanford (3-6) evened the score in the fifth. Sterling Hayes drew a two-out walk, then advanced to second on a wild pitch off reliever Christian Allegretti. Connor Tate followed at the plate, and worked the count to 3-2 before blasting a line drive to left field off the wall to score Hayes.

Right-hander Gerlando Siracusa came in for Rudis and pitched three scoreless innings, striking out two, to keep the score tied at 1-1 heading into the sixth.

The Westerners reclaimed their lead in the top of the inning with Dickerson’s go-ahead two-run single off reliever Kyle Skidmore, who picked up the loss.

With Dickerson at second, the Westerners looked to extend their lead when Jack McCarthy hit a line drive towards the gap in left center, but Shane Marshall made a diving catch near the warning track and doubled off Dickerson, who left the second base bag before too early to end the inning.

Right-hander Gavin Bates came in to pitch in the seventh and delivered two scoreless innings, striking out four, to keep the score at 3-1 in his first appearance at Goodall Park.

“I just had really good command of my fastball,” Bates said. “That allowed me to use my slider in good counts.”

The Mainers put the tying run at the plate in the ninth after pinch hitter Orlando Adams blooped a single to center field with one out. But Danbury reliever Tanner Penner got Brandon Lankford to fly out to right field, then struck out Elliot Curtis on a high fastball out of the zone to end it.

Despite the loss, Bates remains optimistic Sanford will start to turn things around. And with strong arms surrounding him in the bullpen, he said, having Suarez elect to go to him in situations like Wednesday give him more confidence.

“We’ve got a lot of good arms and and a lot of good guys, we’ll figure it out,” Bates said. “We’re confident we’ll start to click soon.”

UP NEXT: Sanford heads to Keene, New Hampshire to face the Swamp Bats (4-3) at Alumni Field Thursday at 6:30 p.m.


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