Navs Earn Saturday ‘Walk’ Off Against SteepleCats, 2-1

07/10/2021 9:05 PM

By Joshua Kummins

LYNN, Mass. -- After being held scoreless for the first eight innings, the North Shore Navigators came alive in the ninth and drew two bases-loaded walks to edge past the visiting North Adams SteepleCats for a 2-1 win in Saturday night’s New England Collegiate Baseball League action at Fraser Field.

North Shore improved to 12-9-2 on the season and moved into sole possession of third place in the Northern Division following its third win in the last four games. North Adams fell to 11-10-2 after entering the day with a 0-2-2 mark in the head-to-head season series with the Navs.

The hosts recorded just one of their six hits in the final, game-deciding frame as the tying and winning runs scored on bases-loaded walks by catcher Cal Christofori (Santa Clara) and shortstop Jonathan Luders (Seton Hall), respectively. Three of the Navs’ first five hits came off the bat of center fielder Joe Lomuscio (Stanford).

Navs starter Austin Amaral (Stetson) benefited from Lomuscio turning a fly ball double play in the first inning before working around single baserunners in each of the next three frames. After a 1-2-3 fifth, the SteepleCats were finally able to manufacture the game’s first run as designated hitter Jeremy Lea (Pacific) hit a fielder’s choice that scored second baseman Mason Hull (Missouri State), who hit a leadoff triple.

Amaral pitched well enough to win as he struck out seven while scattering five hits across his six innings of work, but his offense managed just three hits and one of three Luders walks over the first five innings against North Adams righty Brian Zeldin (Penn). 

North Shore’s finest opportunity to score came in the very next half-inning as third baseman Matthias Haas (Cal Poly) drew a leadoff walk before being tagged out trying to cross the plate on a wild pitch. Lomuscio followed by legging out his third infield single, but a pop out ended the threat and allowed SteepleCat reliever Luke Benneche (Lafayette) to escape the trouble.

The Navs relief trio of Zach Chappell (North Florida), Aaron Groller (Seton Hall) and James Sashin (San Diego) allowed two combined hits over the final three innings to put the team in position for a walk-off, its fifth win in a one-run game this season. Chappell started the late innings by striking out the side.

Sashin retired the last two batters he faced after a one-out single in the ninth. From there, the Navs went to work and got their reliever his second win of the summer. 

First baseman Logan Bravo (Harvard) started the frame with a swinging bunt single and stole second before designated hitter Ryan Marra (Brown) drew the first of four walks in the inning. Second baseman Jake Gustin (Bryant) was intentionally passed to first base before Christofori’s trip to the plate forced home the tying run.

Benneche, who worked the final 3.2 innings, recorded his second strikeout of the frame to bring Luders to the plate with two outs. The Lynnfield native drew a five-pitch walk that scored pinch-running infielder Alex Lemery (Marymount) to decide the game. 

The Navs have Sunday off before returning to Fraser on Monday night for a 6:35 p.m. scheduled make-up game against the Keene Swamp Bats.