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Sloppy first inning key in Curve loss to Navigators

The Norwich Navigators scored three runs in the first inning off Curve starter Tom Gorzelanny and never trailed in defeating Altoona, 7-4, Thursday afternoon in the second of back-to-back School Kids Day games at Blair County Ballpark.
With the win, Norwich (20-25) earned split in the four-game series with the Curve. Altoona (22-21) lost for just the fifth time in its last 18 home games.
Pitching with flu-like symptoms, Gorzelanny (2-1) worked a season-low four innings and gave up three runs on four hits to suffer his first Double-A loss in his fifth start with the Curve. In the first inning, the left-hander walked two batters, hit one and watched the first run of the game score on an errant throw from right-fielder Jorge Cortes on a ball that should have been caught, but fell in between Cortes, Craig Stansberry and Josh Bonifay. Third baseman Julio Cordido capped the Norwich scoring in the first with a two-run single, another blooper that just managed to find a place to fall.
“The first inning was ugly,” was the way Curve manager Tony Beasley described it. “We had a chance to catch a popup and not only did we not catch it, we threw it away. Before that Gorzo (Curve starter Tom Gorzalanny) was sharp and after that he wasn’t. You can’t point fingers at the defense or the pitching, but you hope, as a manager, you don’t like to have the game start off with anything negative.”
Meanwhile, Navigators starter Brian Burres (2-1) cruised throughout his six innings of work, allowing just one run on three hits to earn his second win of the season. He allowed his only run in the fourth inning when Ronnie Paulino singled home Jorge Cortes.
Cortes, who doubled in the first, but was stranded walked to open the fourth and moved to second on a walk to Tom Evans. The Curve right fielder went to third when shortstop Tim Hutting made a great play on a ball that appeared to be a base hit up the middle by Bonifay. Hutting turned it into a short-to-second base man A. J. Labarbara-to first baseman Tyler Von Schell for a double play. Paulino, the Altoona catcher, singled to right to get the Curve on the scoreboard.
Trailing 7-1 into the eighth inning the Curve did make things interesting when Tom Evans belted a three-run homer off reliever Anthony Moreno to cut the Norwich lead in half at 7-4. Later that inning, Altoona brought the tying run to the plate, but closer Alfredo Simon got pinch-hitter Jose Bautista to ground out to end the frame.
“The key was to come out and get three outs and go to hitting,” said Beasley. “We just weren’t able to do that today at the beginning of the game. We got down 3-0 early and we just couldn’t get any offense going. By the time we did, it was 7-1. I didn’t think their lefty was that tough, nothing overpowering, just a typical lefty. We didn’t play the type of baseball we are capable of playing.”
With one out in the eighth, Rich Thompson beat out an infield single and with two outs, Cortes walked for the second time and Evans unloaded a three-run home run to draw the Curve to within 7-4. Evans had a big series, going .500 (seven-for-14) with a homer, two doubles, two walks and five RBI. Bonifay and Paulino followed the Evan dinger with singles to bring the potential tying run to the plate, but Navigators’ reliever Anthony Moreno, who had given up the home run, retired Craig Stansberry on a fly ball to end the inning.
“It was late,” said Evans. “At the end, we were feeling like we were back in it. It’s nicer to get it going a little earlier and put a little pressure on them. We did get it going a little bit, but it was too late.”
In the ninth, the Curve once again had the tying run at the plate, after Thompson and Rajai Davis walked, with two outs, but Cortes popped out to second to end the game and earn Simon his third save of the season and second of the series.
Cortes and Paulino each posted two of the Curve\’s seven hits in the contest. Cordido led Norwich\’s 10-hit attack by going 3-for-5–including his two-run single in the first and a solo homer in the seventh–and knocked in four runs.
Altoona will continue its season-long eight-game homestand Friday night as the Reading Phillies come to Blair County Ballpark to open a four-game series. In Friday\’s 7:05 PM series opener, Curve left-hander Mike Connolly (3-3, 3.33) will square off against Reading right-hander Mike Smith (1-5, 3.56).