Navs Break Out The Bats in Wednesday Win Over Keene

07/20/2022 7:59 PM

LYNN, Mass. -- The North Shore Navigators logged double-digit hits as a team for the second time in three games on their way to an 8-2 win over the Keene SwampBats in Wednesday’s New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) action at Fraser Field.

North Shore broke a four-game skid and improved to 9-27 on the season, while Keene is 14-22 after its second straight loss.

Center fielder Justin Cassella (Elon) logged his third consecutive multi-hit game to lead the North Shore offense, finishing a home run shy of the cycle while going 3-for-4 with a run scored and four RBI. Cassella is 7-for-11 with six RBI over his last three games.

Leadoff-hitting shortstop Jonathan Luders (Seton Hall) went 3-for-5 and scored three times. First baseman Nathan Blasick (West Virginia) rounded out the Navs’ repeat hitters with two RBI.

While totaling 10 hits, the Navs scored once in the first inning before posting a pair of crooked numbers with four runs in the third and three more in the sixth. The offense was more than enough for southpaw Cooper Smith (Stetson), who won for the second time this summer after allowing just two runs (one earned) on five hits and struck out seven across six innings. 

North Shore got the scoring going early as Luders reached base on an error to lead off the game and scored after Cassella crushed a two-out triple into the right-center field gap. 

The SwampBats tied the game on the first of two, two-out RBI doubles by first baseman Jackson Ross (FAU) in the third inning. Ross was the lone repeat hitter for Keene, finishing 3-for-4 with two RBI.

The game didn’t stay tied at 1-1 for long as the Navs responded with four runs on four hits during the bottom half of the same inning in which they sent seven batters to the plate. Luders and second baseman Jake Gustin (Bryant) led off the big inning with back-to-back singles before Cassella ripped a run-scoring single into right.

Blasick kept the line moving and brought home two runs as he lined a double inside the right-field line and advanced to third on a fielding error. Designated hitter Connor Bertsch (Dartmouth) capped off the rally with a sacrifice fly to right.

After Ross brought in Keene’s second run in the fifth, the Navs bounced back for a three-run sixth that began with right fielder Brady O’Brien’s (Colby) one-out walk and a Luders bunt single. Gustin was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and third baseman Jack Penney (Notre Dame) walked to force home a run. Cassella highlighted the inning with a two-run double inside third.

Smith retired the last four batters he faced before turning the game over to the North Shore bullpen. Fellow southpaw Nate Espelin (Dayton) worked two no-hit innings with three strikeouts, while Max Tarlin (Endicott) closed out the win with one strikeout in a scoreless ninth.

Keene starter Michael Ross (Samford) suffered the loss, allowing five runs (three earned) and eight hits over 3.1 innings. 

The Navs make the return trip to Alumni Field in Keene, N.H., as the same two teams will meet at Alumni Field at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.