NORTH ADAMS -- For the first inning, Brian Hunter didn't have his good stuff. He threw 33 pitches. He walked the first two batters, and allowed the first three to score. He struck out the side to stop the bleeding.
The damage had been done. Another run in the second and Holyoke fought off a late rally to beat the North Adams SteepleCats, 4-2 on Sunday.
"Probably a little too amped up," manager Bryan Adamski said of Hunter's early struggles. "I thought his tempo was very inconsistent. He threw  pitches in the first inning, which also didn't help him. Those were  high-stress pitches."
Hunter was brought out of the bullpen for his first start. He found his rhythm in the latter half of the first inning and carried it through six full innings. He finished with eight strikeouts.
"Luckily he was able to settle down and go a little deeper in the ballgame," Adamski said.
But it was the walks that killed him and the SteepleCats. The first two runs were by virtue of the walk, as was the run in the second inning. He finished with five walks.
The SteepleCats hitters, however, had more than a difficult time putting runners on base through the first seven innings against southpaw Scott Squier. They had just five hits, only once did they have multiple hits in the same inning. But Hunter kept Holyoke at bay, as did the bullpen in the final three innings to give the offense a chance.
It nearly capitalized on that
In the ninth, the SteepleCats had the Blue Sox on the ropes. After a leadoff strikeout, Sheehan Planas-Arteaga hit an infield single. Will Klausing followed it up with a pinch-hit walk to put the tying run on first. A slow grounder to shortstop moved the runners up, but the SteepleCats' 15th strikeout ended the game.
"We allowed their starter to go deep into the game," Adamski said. "To his credit, I thought that was the best starter we've seen all year.
"Certainly didn't do ourselves any favor with the strikeouts, didn't put it in play. And a lot of our outs were lazy fly balls or weak ground balls."