02/08/2023 2:33 PM
LYNN, Mass. -- With the start of the college baseball season right around the corner, the North Shore Navigators are already looking forward to taking the field for another summer at Fraser Field.
The construction of the team’s roster for the 2023 season is well underway, and three players have lined up their plans to return to the ballclub for its third New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) campaign.
Following his junior year at Holy Cross, reigning NECBL All-Star Jake McElroy will roam the Fraser outfield again just as he has done each year since 2020. McElroy was a stalwart in the North Shore lineup last summer, driving in 13 runs, scoring 12 more, and reaching base at a .306 clip while playing in 42 of the team’s 44 games. The native of North Andover -- where he was a standout football, basketball and baseball player in high school -- has played in 116 career contests for the Navigators, which puts him 15 shy of setting a new franchise record.
Two key pitchers are also set to be back on the North Shore this summer in Stetson’s Cooper Smith and Dayton’s Nate Espelin, two left-handers who tied for third on the team with 39 strikeouts apiece in 2022.
Smith quickly emerged as one of North Shore’s most reliable arms in 2022, logging two wins and a 3.12 ERA over his nine appearances, five of which were starts. Opponents hit just .188 against the rising Stetson sophomore who threw 40.1 innings during his first stint as a Nav. He finished at least six frames on five different occasions throughout the season.
A senior from nearby Belmont, Espelin will be wearing a Navs uniform for the second straight summer and third time in his college career. Last season, he worked in a team-high 19 games covering 36.2 innings and had a 4.17 ERA almost exclusively out of the bullpen. He also recorded a pair of saves and pitched scoreless ball in 10 of his appearances.
The Navs kick off their 16th summer of collegiate baseball on Wednesday, June 7 and will host their home opener at a renovated Fraser Field on Friday, June 9. The 2023 season includes 22 home games, as well as the return of the NECBL All-Star Game to Lynn on Sunday, July 23.