By Lloyd Jones
CONWAY — Jeff Locke might be pitching better now than last year when he made the National League All Star team.
The talented left-hander from Redstone might be 7-0 if the ball had bounced his way a little better this season. Locke, 2-1, has seen the bullpen squander four leads in which he has staked it to and his lone loss was a 1-0 decision back on June 8 in Milwaukee.
Locke was on track for a win Friday in Cincinnati, but a throwing error and the bullpen got derailed again led to a come from behind 6-5 victory for the host Reds.
Locke provided his seventh straight quality start of pitching six innings or more and amazingly lowered his earned run average for the eighth straight game and heads into the All Star break has one of the hottest pitchers over the last two months.
With an ERA if 2.89, Locke leads the Pirates starting pitchers in that category by almost half a run.
Friday, Locke allowed one earned run over 6 2⁄3 innings and with a little bit of luck that run in the first inning wouldn't have scored.
Speedster Billy Hamilton managed to reach safely on a leadoff bunt in the bottom of the first inning. The ball was fielded cleanly by Gaby Sanchez, but when he tried to tag Hamilton in the basepath, Hamilton jumped and eluded the tag. He scored on a double by Zack Cozart.
Locke gave up a double and single in the second, but used a strikeout and catcher to short to first double play to get out of the inning. After that the Redstone Rocket went into cruise mode and kept the Reds in check while his teammates scored five unanswered runs.
He finished the game with five strikeouts and no walks. The free pass had been Locke's bugaboo last season in which he led the NL in walks with 84. This year, he's been incredibly stingy with ball four, walking just six in 56 innings — his walks-per-nine innings rate has fallen to 0.96.
"Just trying to throw more strikes instead of balls," Locke said. "Was trying to get ahead of guys. I know we were very sporadic, a lot of deep counts, the pitch count was up a little bit. Just have to find a way to get back down in the zone and keep attacking."
The other difference with Locke is his changeup. He generated five swinging strikes in the first inning, which matched or exceeded his swinging strike total in 10 starts from last season. Of the 14 swinging strikes Locke generated, nine came via changeups. Four of his five strikeouts came on changeups.
"Since I've come back up this year, I've had struggles with a consistent breaking ball," Locke said. "I don't know if it's the fact the ball is completely different compared to up here. ...The changeup has been very reliable."
Locke was cruising into the seventh inning with a 5-1 lead got the first two outs, but then third baseman Pedro Alvarez committed his Major League worst 18th throwing error (no one else had more than 10) of the season. The miscue eventually led to two unearned runs and to Locke's exit.
Reliever Tony Watson, who's is on the All Star team this summer, came on in relief, but had a night to forget.
Watson, who had allowed just one hit in six consecutive scoreless appearances heading into Friday, gave up a solo home run to Devin Mesoraco with two outs in the eighth before giving up four singles in a row to Ryan Ludwick, Chris Heisey, Ramon Santiago and pinch-hitter Brayan Pena.
"All two-strike hits, you know he got some balls in some areas he probably didn't want to," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He has been lights-out for us all year and (Friday night) he wasn't able to get that last out in the eighth inning."
Locke felt for his teammate.
"It's the last guy down there you think something like that's going to happen to," he said. "I'm sure he'd like to do everything over again. He's still the guy we're most likely always going to give the ball to right there. He's been trusted all season. You really feel for him."
At the All Star break, Locke remains 2-1 on the season in eight starts. This season, he has pitched 56 innings; allowed 49 hits; 18 earned runs; 3 home runs; walked 6; and struck out 35 while holding opponents to a .237 batting average. His ERA is 2.89, but has gone down in each subsequent start. He has a 2.03 ERA in seven starts since joining the Pirates rotation in June.
Locke next scheduled start is slated to come on Sunday (1:35 p.m.) when the Pirates (49-46) host the Colorado Rockies (40-55). He'll be opposed by Tyler Matzek (1-4. 4.97 ERA).
The Pittsburgh Post Gazette and Pittsburgh Tribune Review contributed to this story.
By Lloyd Jones
FRYEBURG — The Fryeburg Aademy softball has found its groove at just the right time — in the post-season. The Raiders recorded their second straight playoff upset of this post-season on Thursday when the 10th ranked girls from Fryeburg topped topped No. 2 seed Lincoln Academy 9-1 in the Western Class B quarterfinals at Newcastle.
Coach Steve Woodcock's troops (9-9) will now play Wells (14-3) in the Western Maine Class B semifinals this Saturday at 12 noon in Wells.
The third ranked Warriors bested No. 6 Gray-New Gloucester 6-0 in their quarterfinal contest. Wells scored twice in the third inning and tacked on four insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Fryeburg and Wells met during the regular season with the Raiders winning 14-0 in Wells on April 30. In the win Kylie Locke hit for the cycle, including a three-run homer, and also walked en route to accumulating six RBI and scoring three runs.
On Thursday Jeannette White allowed four hits, walked three and struck out five in the upset of Lincoln Academy (14-3). Fryeburg pounded out 15 hits as they cruised to the Final Four.
Fryeburg scored six runs in the fifth inning to make it 7-0, including Michaela Cooper's two-run double. Cooper finished with three RBI on two doubles and a single.
Lincoln, trailing 9-0 in the top of the seventh, scored their lone run in the bottom off the frame when Jen Genthner singled and scored on a triple by Alyx York.
CONWAY — Cranmore will host a very special evening to raise money toward the Damon O'Neal Scholarship Fund, awarded annually to a Kennett High School graduate who displays excellence in skiing, civics and academics on Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. in Zip's Pub & Grille.
The evening will be full of events, auctions, and cameos, with current and former winter Olympians in attendance including many from the Mt. Washington Valley. Attendees will have the privilege of meeting New Hampshire's greatest winter athletes, former Olympic medalists, and area treasures, and will be witness to the contributors who helped North Conway become the "Best Ski Town in the East."
Vintage ski and regional items will be available for a silent auction throughout the evening. Unique regional artifacts will be auctioned leading up to the Ultimate Grand Prize: an authentic Skimobile. This historical treasure, circa 1938, was the first of its kind and led to the development and success of Cranmore.
One of the items sure to attract interest in the auction are a pair of 1950's vintage Northland skis featuring a Marker toe release.
Author Tom Eastman will be at the event signing copies of "The History of Cranmore Mountain."
Cash bar and appetizers will be available in Zip's 4-7 p.m. Advanced ticket purchases can be made at Café Noche, Stan & Dan's Sports, and other local establishments.
Advanced bids for the Skimobile will be accepted, the current bid is at $1,500 and will close around 5:30 p.m. Friday. Bids can be made at any time by logging on to the Cranmore website at http://www.cranmore.com or contacting Kramer at 367-8459.