08/02/2021 8:22 PM
By Joshua Kummins
LYNN, Mass. -- The North Shore Navigators concluded their New England Collegiate Baseball League regular season on Monday night, trimming two separate deficits in the early innings before dropping a 9-6 decision to the Northern Division’s top-seeded Keene SwampBats at Alumni Field.
The Navs enter the postseason as the No. 5 seed in the North after finishing the 42-game slate with a 20-20-2 record, falling to defending champion Keene in five of the seven head-to-head meetings. The SwampBats hit five home runs in the win and will now have a bye from Tuesday’s one-game Divisional Wild Card Round with their 26-15 mark.
Third baseman Jake McElroy (Holy Cross) had three of North Shore’s six hits, going 3-for-5 with a run scored and three RBI. The North Andover native finished the regular year on a five-game hitting streak, recording multiple hits in three of those contests.
Like in previous meetings at Alumni, the SwampBats wasted little time getting on the board as three straight reached base against North Shore starter Graham Jeffries (Salve Regina) and came around to score with two outs in the first inning. Following a walk and a base hit, first baseman Noah Martinez (Central Connecticut) belted a three-run home run to right to put Keene out in front early.
Jeffries bounced back to post a 1-2-3 first before his offense tied the game again in the top of the third. To get the inning started, right fielder Hunter Baldwin (Harvard) hit a leadoff single off the diving Martinez’s glove and moved across the diamond on a throwing error that followed a sacrifice bunt by shortstop Jonathan Luders (Seton Hall).
McElroy lined a base hit up the middle to put the Navs on the board before second baseman Jake Gustin’s (Bryant) grounder to second plated Luders with the team’s second run. First baseman Logan Bravo (Harvard) continued his hot hitting with a line-drive double to left that evened the score.
The home team quickly jumped back in front with three runs during ts half of the third as center fielder Troy Schreffler (Maryland) and right fielder Matt Almonte (Pace) hit solo home runs within a span of three batters and second baseman Omar Daniels (Dayton) lined a two-out single up the middle.
North Shore cut its 6-3 deficit to just one run with two more runs in the fourth that began with left fielder David Kale (Fordham) hitting a leadoff single and designated hitter Ryan Marra (Brown), After Luders reached on a two-out error that brought home a run, McElroy sent a single through the left side to make the score 6-5 and end the night for Keene starter Taylor Lepard (SNHU).
The momentum was short-lived as designated hitter Drake Westcott (Louisville) hit a two-run homer to start the fifth. The Keene lead ballooned to 9-5 when shortstop Zach Bushling (UConn) left the yard two innings later.
Four North Shore position players saw action on the mound behind Jeffries. Outfielder Dylan Brazil (Stetson) held the bases loaded and put up a zero in the sixth inning, while Matthias Haas (Cal Poly) closed out the game in emphatic fashion, striking out the side in the eighth.
The Navs made things interesting as Brazil and catcher Tristan Latham (Pomona-Pitzer) drew back-to-back walks and McElroy hit a two-out RBI single over the first baseman’s head. Lucas Rich (Lehigh) finished off the three-inning save to get a win for Keene reliever Adam Grintz (Tulane), who dealt 2.1 innings of scoreless relief with three strikeouts.
North Shore begins its path to the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup on Tuesday night when it travels to Montpelier Recreation Field to take on the fourth-seeded Vermont Mountaineers in the one-game Divisional Wild Card Round. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.