06/07/2021 8:09 PM
By Joshua Kummins
MONTPELIER, Vt. – The North Shore Navigators continued their strong start to the New England Collegiate Baseball League season on Monday night at Montpelier Recreation Field, scoring two runs in both the first and third innings on the way to a 4-3 win over the Vermont Mountaineers.
North Shore remains unbeaten at 2-0-1 on the young year, while Vermont slides to 1-2 after falling to the Navs for the second time in as many meetings.
Six different Navs recorded hits for the second consecutive game, while left fielder Hunter Baldwin (Harvard) scored two of the team’s four runs and third baseman Jake McElroy (Holy Cross) drove in the game-winning pair on a third-inning single. Designated hitter Ryan Marra (Brown) reached base four times, beginning his night with a run-scoring knock in the first.
The Navs’ five pitchers held Vermont to five hits and struck out 16 in the game. Starter Austin Amaral (Stetson) threw the first four innings, whiffing six while allowing an unearned run on three hits and one walk. Lefty Aaron Groller (Seton Hall) followed with a scoreless frame to earn the win in his North Shore debut.
North Shore got the scoring started in the first inning for the third time in as many games, scoring two runs after center fielder Dylan Brazil (Stetson) hit an infield single and Baldwin walked to begin the game. Peabody native second baseman Jake Gustin (Bryant) brought Brazil home on a grounder to second in his first Navs at-bat of the season before Marra’s single through the middle doubled the lead.
The Navs’ bats rewarded Amaral’s strong work by doubling the lead again in the third. Baldwin’s second straight free pass and a Gustin knock through the right side set up an opportunity for McElroy, who lined a two-run single the opposite way to right to give the visitors a 4-0 lead.
Amaral faced the minimum over the first two innings, ending the second with back-to-back strikeouts. Vermont’s lone run against Amaral came in the fourth as first baseman Zachary Stevens (Navy) drew a leadoff walk, advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt and crossed the plate on left fielder Jack Frank’s (Michigan State) run-scoring grounder to first.
The Mountaineers had a golden opportunity to cut deeper into their deficit an inning later. Designated hitter Matt Oldham (Elon) hit a leadoff single and was moved along following a walk and a fielder’s choice, but Groller induced a 3-6-3 double play ball to escape the threat and earn credit for the victory.
North Shore was unable to take advantage of its own big chance to start the sixth as Vermont reliever Josh O’Neill (Stony Brook) struck out the side while working around three straight one-out singles by catcher Cal Christofori (Santa Clara), right fielder Jack Whorf (UMass) and shortstop Alex Lemery (Marymount).
Amaral’s six strikeouts stand as the most by a North Shore pitcher this season, but reliever Jackson Emus (Princeton) nearly matched that mark as he fanned five of the six batters he faced across two perfect innings. Following Groller, Emus struck out the side in the seventh to complete his second outing in a three-game span.
Vermont cut its deficit to just one run in an eighth inning that started with shortstop Keagan Calero (UMass Lowell) walking to reach base for the third time. After center fielder Tommy Courtney (Penn) reached on an error, second baseman Anthony D’Onofrio (Hofstra) drove home a run on a ground ball to third and right fielder Casey Mayes (Michigan State) made it a 4-3 game on a single past the diving Lemery at short.
Winthrop native Jack Wallace (Franklin Pierce) fanned back-to-back batters to end the eighth and strand the tying run in scoring position in the form of Mayes. Justin Butera (Merrimack) struck out the side in the ninth to post the team’s first save of the season.
The Navs return home to Fraser Field on Wednesday night to take on the Upper Valley Nighthawks for the first time in franchise history. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.