07/19/2021 8:50 PM
By Joshua Kummins
KEENE, N.H. -- The North Shore Navigators broke through for four of the final five runs in Monday night’s New England Collegiate Baseball League game, but the host Keene Swamp Bats held on for a 7-4 win in the first post-All-Star action for both teams at Alumni Field.
The loss was the Navs’ fourth consecutive as they slipped back to the .500 mark at 13-13-2 on the season. The Northern Division-leading Bats improved to 19-11, maintaining a half-game lead over the second-place Upper Valley Nighthawks.
Center fielder Joe Lomuscio (Stanford) accounted for half of the North Shore offense as he put together the fifth five-hit game in franchise history with five singles (three of the infield variety), a run scored and another driven home. First baseman Logan Bravo’s (Harvard) 2-for-5 night included his franchise record-tying eighth home run and third in as many games.
The Swamp Bats marked the scoreboard in three of the first four innings to take a commanding 6-0 lead. Right fielder Troy Schreffler (Maryland) got the scoring going in the first inning as he lined a two-out single into right to score shortstop Zach Bushling (UConn), who was hit by Navs starter Aaron Groller’s (Seton Hall) first pitch of the game.
A pair of one-out homers extended Keene’s lead in the third. After center fielder Michael Nyisztor (Rutgers) hit a one-out infield single to start the offense, left fielder Tommy Joseph (Jacksonville) cleared the fences in center for a two-run homer. Schreffler made it consecutive long balls and a 4-0 lead on a shot to left-center in the next at-bat.
The hosts loaded the bases with one out in the fourth and added a fifth run on Joseph’s single into center. Schreffler recorded his third RBI in as many plate appearances as he beat out a double play ball to third base for a fielder’s choice.
North Shore broke up the shutout after four consecutive batters reached base to begin the fifth, chasing Keene starter Taylor Lepard (Southern New Hampshire) from the game. After right fielder Dylan Brazil (Stetson) drew a leadoff walk, third baseman Matthias Haas (Cal Poly) dropped a single over third base and Bravo added a knock of his own to load the bases.
Lomuscio followed with the team’s third straight hit, bringing Brazil home on a ground ball single through the left side. Catcher Cal Christofori (Santa Clara) scored Haas with the second run on a sacrifice fly to right, but Keene reliever Joel Rodriguez (Florida Southwestern State) retired back-to-back batters to end the Navs’ threat.
The North Shore scoring run continued in the seventh thanks to Bravo’s solo shot off the scoreboard in right-center field. His 18th career homer as a Navigator was his eighth of the summer, allowing him to match his own 2019 total and two others in the single-season record books.
Evan Christopulos (Bentley) was a key reason why the visitors were able to remain in the game as he pitched three innings of scoreless relief before Keene concluded its scoring on a bases-loaded hit batter in the eighth.
The righty allowed a single hit and struck out a pair before the eighth inning, but Michael Willis (Georgetown) plunked Nyisztor with his first pitch to force in a run that was charged to his predecessor. Willis bounced back to strand two runners on base by recording a strikeout and a ground ball.
North Shore didn’t go quietly in the ninth as Lomuscio lined a one-out single inside the third base bag, advanced to third on a failed pickoff and crossed the plate on designated hitter Ryan Marra’s (Brown) sacrifice fly to right. Keene reliever Lenny Washington (Gardner-Webb) then struck out pinch-hitting first baseman Max Zajec (Dartmouth) in an 11-pitch at-bat to end the game and his 2.2 innings of one-hit, one-run (unearned) relief with four strikeouts.
Washington earned his second win of the season out of the bullpen with the support of 2-for-5, three-RBI performances from both Joseph and Schreffler. On the North Shore side, Groller was charged with the loss after allowing six runs on seven hits across the first four innings.
The Navs will play their second consecutive home doubleheader on Tuesday as they host the North Adams SteepleCats for a pair of seven-inning games. First pitch at Fraser Field is set for 4:05 p.m.