08/11/2021 9:00 PM
By Joshua Kummins
DANBURY, Conn. -- The North Shore Navigators fell in Wednesday night's opening game of the best-of-three New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) Championship Series as the Danbury Westerners scored seven runs in the fourth inning en route to a 13-5 win at Rogers Park.
The loss was only North Shore’s second in seven postseason games and its first on the road, while Danbury improved to 6-1 to move within one game winning the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup for the first time in franchise history.
Four of North Shore’s seven hits were home runs, with first baseman Logan Bravo (Harvard) and right fielder Dylan Brazil (Stetson) both leaving the yard as part of 2-for-4 nights. Center fielder Joe Lomuscio (Stanford) was the only Navigator with multiple RBI in the game, while Bravo crossed the plate twice.
The early innings of the game turned into a “home run derby” for both teams, but it was the Navs setting the tone early with three long balls over the first three innings against Westerner starter Angelo Tonas (Georgetown) to take leads of 4-0 and 5-2.
The North Shore offense got started with two outs in the opening frame as Bravo grounded a single through the middle for the first hit and crossed the plate on Lomuscio’s two-run shot to right, which was his team-leading third of the postseason.
After Tonas struck out two of the three batters he faced in a 1-2-3 second, the Navs doubled their lead with their second and third homers. Brazil started the inning with his first shot of the summer out to left-center field before Bravo sent a two-out job of his own -- his 16th between the regular season and playoffs -- over the left-field fence three batters later.
Navs starter Aaron Groller (Seton Hall) stranded three baserunners over the first two innings of his four-inning start, striking out the side in the second. Danbury cut its lead in half on catcher Jack Payton’s (Louisville) two-run homer down the line in left after center fielder Justin Jordan (Sacred Heart) beat out an infield single.
Groller escaped the third without any further damage before designated hitter Ryan Marra (Brown) stroked a solo bomb to center with two outs in the fourth. The Westerners broke the game wide open during the bottom half of the inning, scoring seven runs on four hits while sending 11 batters to the plate.
The home team’s offensive explosion featured a pair of two-run home runs by right fielder Henry Strmecki (Dayton) and left fielder Cameron Masterman (Louisville), as well as Payton’s third RBI in two innings on a base hit.
Danbury capped off the scoring with a four-run seventh inning that first baseman Andrew Jenkins (Georgia Tech) punctuated with another two-run homer. The hosts loaded the bases an inning earlier, but Navs reliever Michael Wlllis (Georgetown) retired three straight batters to post a zero that capped his two-inning relief outing with just one hit allowed.
Eight of Danbury’s nine starters recorded hits and all of them reached base. Jordan went 3-for-6 with three runs scored out of the leadoff spot, while three different players had three RBI. Jimmy Fahey (Trinity) logged his second playoff win after striking out three over four innings of two-hit, one-run ball.
The Navs return to Fraser Field for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch on Thursday and will look to force Friday’s “if necessary” game, which would be played back in Danbury at 6:30 p.m.