08/08/2021 7:43 PM
By Joshua Kummins
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. -- The fifth-seeded North Shore Navigators scored a first-inning run and never looked back as they cruised to a 5-0 win over the second-seeded Upper Valley Nighthawks in Sunday night’s opener of the best-of-three New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) Northern Division Finals at Maxfield Sports Complex.
After earning its fourth road win in five total postseason games, North Shore can clinch a berth in its first NECBL Championship Series since the 2010 Fay Vincent Sr. Cup title-winning season when the series shifts to Fraser Field for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch on Monday.
Third baseman Matthias Haas (Cal Poly) was the Navs’ offensive star of the night as he went 3-for-5 with a run scored and five RBI including three on a seventh-inning home run. Right fielder Dylan Brazil (Stetson) went 2-for-4 with hits in his first two at-bats, while first baseman Logan Bravo (Harvard) and center fielder Joe Lomuscio (Stanford) each scored a pair of runs.
A late addition to the North Shore pitching staff during the stretch run of the regular season, right-hander Graham Jeffries (Salve Regina) spun six innings of three-hit, scoreless ball with four strikeouts to earn his first win in three appearances.
North Shore started the scoring with offense in the first inning for the second straight night after Bravo and Lomuscio worked consecutive two-out walks. Haas drove home the opening run by lining a single into right-center on the first pitch he saw from Upper Valley left-hander Cade Lommel (Creighton).
After Haas put North Shore ahead early, the game turned into a pitcher’s duel for five straight innings. Lommel, who worked around one-out hits by Brazil and left fielder Jake McElroy (Holy Cross) in the second, was relieved after 3.1 innings as he allowed four hits and five walks. From there, former Navigator Jake Gigliotti (Northeastern) worked out of a two-on jam to escape the fourth inning as the second of Upper Valley’s four relief arms.
Continuing North Shore’s theme of strong starting pitching performances throughout the playoffs, the Chelmsford native Jeffries benefited from two double plays in the first two innings, worked around a pair of two-out baserunners in the third and faced just one over the minimum across his final three frames. Nighthawks left fielder Jordy Allard (Northeastern) drew a one-out walk in the fifth before Jeffries struck out back-to-back batters to keep a zero on the scoreboard.
The visitors put the game out of reach in the seventh as a streak of three consecutive one-out baserunners against Upper Valley reliever Alex Theis (Wright State) ended with Haas crushing a three-run homer out to left. Bravo started the stretch with a one-out walk, and Lomuscio added a single up the middle to set up Haas for the long ball.
North Shore’s fifth and final run also came home with two outs in the ninth. Lomuscio walked and scored all the way from first as Haas hit a high fly ball that dropped into right for a double.
Jeffries finished his outing with a 1-2-3 sixth inning before the relief duo of James Sashin (San Diego) and Justin Butera (Merrimack) pitched scoreless and hitless ball for the rest of the night. Butera stranded a pair of ninth-inning baserunners with two strikeouts to seal the first shutout of the postseason after leading the league with five during the regular year.
First baseman Kyle Novak (James Madison) had two of Upper Valley’s three hits. Lommel suffered the loss.