08/06/2021 9:09 PM
By Joshua Kummins
LYNN, Mass. -- The top-seeded Keene SwampBats scored seven of their eight runs in just two innings and forced a deciding third game in the NECBL Northern Divisional Semifinals with Friday night’s 8-3 win over the fifth-seeded North Shore Navigators at Fraser Field.
The two teams will play the winner-take-all game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday from Keene’s Alumni Field, where the Navs opened the series and their quest to bring the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup championship back to Lynn with a 2-1 Wednesday win.
Left fielder Jake McElroy (Holy Cross) had North Shore’s first two of four hits on the night out of the leadoff spot, while center fielder-turned-relief pitcher Joe Lomuscio (Stanford) drove home all three runs on one swing of the bat -- an inside-the-park home run in the eighth inning.
North Shore starter Jackson Emus (Princeton) benefited from double plays turned by middle infielders Alex Lemery (Marymount) and Jonathan Luders (Seton Hall) to post zeroes in each of the first two innings. Thereafter, the visitors took the lead with three runs on two hits -- including left fielder Tommy Joseph’s (Jacksonville) two-out single -- in the third.
In Keene’s first run-scoring frame, a single and two free passes started the inning, and shortstop Zach Bushling (UConn) drew a bases-loaded walk to get the scoring started.
Despite allowing four runs on four hits and suffering the loss, Emus worked through 6.2 innings to conclude his All-Star summer. His 2.27 ERA was enough to claim the NECBL’s ERA title during the regular season.
McElroy hit a one-out infield single in the third and a leadoff knock up the middle in the sixth, but he was stranded in scoring position on both occasions against Keene starter Cole Stallings (Stetson) and left-handed reliever Jake Neuman (Central Connecticut). The Navs were also unable to score in the second after Lomuscio drew a leadoff walk and designated hitter Ryan Marra (Brown) was issued one of his own two batters later.
The Bats crossed the plate four more times in the seventh. Right fielder Michael Nyisztor (Rutgers) delivered the highlight hit of the frame with a two-run single before Joseph added another of his own and first baseman Drake Westcott (Louisville) drew a bases-loaded walk.
North Shore made things interesting in the eighth after Luders was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game and first baseman Logan Bravo (Harvard) lined a single to left. Lomuscio erased his hitless night by rounding the bases on a hit that dropped inside the right-field line and rolled into the bullpen corner.
Center fielder Troy Schreffler (Maryland) hit a run-scoring double two batters into the ninth, but Lomuscio recorded two of his three strikeouts with the runner on second base to end the inning and his second pitching appearance of the week.
Joel Rodriguez (Florida Southwestern State) struck out two of the three North Shore batters he faced in the ninth to preserve the win for Stallings, who allowed a single hit and struck out nine over the first five innings.