By GERRY deSIMAS, JR.
Connecticut Sports Online
TORRINGTON, June 27, 2003 -- Playing with injuries hasn't slowed down the Twisters' Armand Gaerlan.
As a sophomore at the University of San Francisco, he was slowed by a broken jaw but still played 22 games and hit over .300 with nine home runs. Earlier this year, his junior campaign got off to a slow start when he missed 13 games with a broken finger on his throwing hand.
But he rebounded to hit .327 with a team-high eight home runs, 34 RBI, seven doubles and three triples to earn All-West Coast Conference honors.
With the Twisters, Gaerlan isn't hurt and feels fine. And it is showing on the field. The 5-foot-10 shortstop was 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles as Torrington (8-4) solidified its hold on first place in the NECBL's Southern Division with a 6-4 win over the Manchester Silkworms before a season-high crowd of 1,220 fans at Fuessenich Park.
The Twisters extended its Southern Division lead over Manchester (8-7) to 1.5 games.
Gaerlan, who leads the Twisters with 12 hits and four doubles, had a key two-RBI double in the fourth inning when Torrington scored all six of its runs with two outs.
"The coaches have been stressing to pull the ball in play and see what happens," Gaerlan said. "I'm seeing the ball real well and I'm getting good wood on it."
In the past two games, Gaerlan is 6-for-10 with two doubles and three RBI. A lesson that Gaerlan learned after breaking his jaw two years ago is paying off today. When he returned to the field from his jaw injury, he had lost 20 pounds.
"I had to focus on simply putting the ball into play instead of trying to muscle the ball," he said.
Defensively, Gaerlan has played every inning of every game as the team awaits the return of shortstop Larry Best-Berfet, who arrived last night. "[Gaerlan] will get the opportunity to rest but by his performance, it shows he is no hurry to do that," Hunt said.
The Twisters had a season-high 13 hits as they won for the fourth game in a row and for the fifth time in the last six games. The game was the start of a three-game home stand at Fuessenich Park. The Twisters host North Adams tonight at 7 p.m. and host Northern Division leader Sanford on Sunday at 6 p.m.
The fourth inning was the key. Trailing 2-0, the Twisters had runners on first and second base with two outs. But six of Torrington's next seven batters had hits off Manchester starter James Cramplin.
Brian Cavanaugh had a RBI single down the left field line, Lance Salsgiver was hit by a pitch and Gaerlin followed with a two-RBI double to right field. Manchester reliever Josh Santerre couldn't stop the surge as Jim Fasano ripped a two-RBI double to center field and Chris Kelly singled.
Marvin Lowrance (3-for-4) added an RBI single as well for a 6-2 lead. The inning ended when Kelly was thrown out after overrunning second base.
Pitcher Jeff Hourigan (1-1) struck out nine over seven innings to earn the win. He allowed six hits but made some key strikeouts in the second, fourth and seventh innings to damper Silkworm rallies.
Manchester added two runs in the seventh to cut the lead to 6-4. But with runners on first and third base and one out, Hourigan fanned Ryan Cuscovitch and got Bryan Spamer to ground out.
John Cronin struck out two in the ninth to earn his fourth save of the year.
Matt Torra (2-0, 1.38) will start tonight on the mound for Torrington against North Adams with Bobby Garza (2-1, 1.66) scheduled to pitch Sunday.
DIAMOND DUST: Twister catcher Emory Davies threw out Spamer trying to steal second base in the sixth inning. It was the fourth straight runner he has thrown out. The first 25 runners that ran on the Twisters this year were successful. ... Gaerlan is the first Twisters to get four hits in a game since Justin McClain
went 4-for-4 against the Silkworms on June 26, 2001. The last Twister to get two doubles in a single game was Billy Ryan on June 26, 2001. ... Naugatuck's Gary Diaz plays for Manchester at second base. Diaz was 1-for-3 with a RBI single and two strikeouts. He came into the game hitting .149 in 13 games with seven singles. ... Twister second baseman Jeff Natale has six hits in his past five games, including a double last night. He had one hit in his first three appearances of the season. Torrington's four-game winning streak is the longest since they won six in a row in late June 2001. The Twisters lead the overall series with the Silkworms, 13-5 .