07/26/2021 8:48 PM
By Joshua Kummins
KEENE, N.H. -- The North Shore Navigators capped off a four-game, three-day road trip with an 8-3 loss to the host Keene SwampBats in Monday night’s New England Collegiate Baseball League action at Alumni Field.
North Shore slipped back to the .500 mark at 17-17-2 on the season following its second consecutive loss and now sits 1.5 games behind the Vermont Mountaineers as the fifth-place team in the Northern Division. First-place Keene moved to 23-14.
Third baseman Matthias Haas (Cal Poly) was responsible for two of North Shore’s four total hits, while second baseman Jake Gustin (Bryant) and first baseman Logan Bravo (Harvard) accounted for the other two and each drove in a run. Bravo drove in the team’s final tally on his 12th home run of the season in the seventh inning.
The hosts got the scoring started without the benefit of a hit against Navs starter Austin Amaral (Stetson) in the first inning. Shortstop Zach Bushling (UConn) drew a leadoff walk, moved into scoring position as left fielder Tommy Joseph (Jacksonville) reached on an error and scored from third on a balk.
After Amaral retired the side in order in the second, Keene doubled its lead to 2-0 an inning later thanks to right fielder Michael Nyisztor’s (Rutgers) double that dropped on the warning track in center and scored Bushling following a one-out base hit.
North Shore got a run back quickly in a fourth inning that began with center fielder David Kale (Fordham) working a leadoff walk, ending Keene starter Gage Bradley’s (Vanderbilt) outing after three-plus frames.
Haas greeted relief arm Bryce Hellgeth (Dayton) with an infield single and moved ahead on the basepaths on designated hitter Max Zajec’s (Dartmouth) sacrifice bunt. Kale then crossed the plate on a wild pitch to cut the Navs’ deficit to 2-1, but a caught stealing prevented any further damage in the inning.
Amaral struck out two while stranding a pair of baserunners in the fourth before the home side broke the game open with runs over the next three consecutive innings. Bushling led off the fifth with a solo home run to right field and drove home two of the team’s three runs on a two-out double into shallow right in the sixth. Two batters later, Joseph sent a single through the right side to extend the Bats’ edge to 6-1.
Bravo continued his recent power display with a two-out homer off Keene’s Joel Rodriguez (Florida Southwestern State) in the seventh. The long ball was the Andover native’s sixth in the last 10 games and 12th of the season, extending his single-season franchise record and tying for the league lead.
Second baseman Omar Daniels (Dayton) hit a sac fly to center to drive home Keene’s first of two runs in the seventh. Bushling brought home the other and finished hitting for the cycle as he dropped a triple on the right-field warning track. The leadoff-hitting shortstop went 4-for-4 with four RBI and four runs scored from the top of the SwampBat order.
The Navs made things interesting in the final frame as catcher Tristan Latham (Pomona-Pitzer) walked, shortstop-turned-pitcher Alex Lemery (Marymount) reached on an error and Gustin sent a one-out double to left-center to drive them both home. Keene closer Kaleb Corbett (Louisville) struck out the side to end the game, setting down back-to-back batters following Gustin’s knock to finalize Hellgeth’s second win.
Despite establishing a new season high with eight strikeouts in his seventh start of the summer for North Shore, Amaral was charged with his third loss after allowing three runs on five hits over the first five innings. Lemery capped off the night with a scoreless first pitching appearance.
In addition to Bushling’s four-hit game, Nyisztor went 2-for-4 and drove home a run for the Bats.
The Navs return home to Fraser Field to host the Sanford Mainers and Winnipesaukee Muskrats at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, before returning to Keene for the final time on Thursday night.