Eighth-Inning Surge, Strong Defense Push Navs Past Westerners

06/28/2024 6:57 PM

LYNN, Mass — Fueled by timely hitting and excellent pitching and defense, the North Shore Navigators edged the Danbury Westerners 3-0 in Friday’s New England Collegiate Baseball League action at Fraser Field.

North Shore won its second straight game to move to 8-9. Danbury is 4-14.

After seven hitless innings, the Navigators exploded in the eighth to produce the three game-winning runs. Pat D’Amico (Seton Hall) started the inning off with a double off the left field fence for the Navigators’ first hit, ending the night for Danbury starter Matthew Wootton (Eastern Connecticut State). 

After Reece Moroney (Rhode Island) laid down a sacrifice bunt, Andrew Bianco (Seton Hall) ripped an RBI base hit up the middle, scoring pinch runner Alex Luccini (UMass Lowell) with the game’s first run. Danny MacDougall (Endicott) then followed up by lacing a double into the left-field corner, scoring Bianco and doubling the Navigators’ lead. 

“It's not how many hits you get, it’s when you get them,” North Shore manager Bob Macaluso said. 

MacDougall capped the eighth inning by scoring on a wild pitch, providing a 3-0 lead entering the final frame that Peabody native Joe Castrichini (Stonehill) let stand up with a stress-free, 1-2-3 inning.

On the mound, the Navigators started returning pitcher Will Jones (Northeastern). The left-hander from Hamilton entered his fourth start coming off a five-inning complete game in his prior outing and boasting the NECBL’s fourth-best ERA at 1.20.

Jones continued to lower those statistics by throwing five scoreless frames, allowing just two hits and striking out four. He was in command all game, consistently working ahead in counts, allowing him to routinely include weak contact while striking out three batters.

“I’ve been doing a good job mixing my stuff really well and have been able to throw a lot of strikes,” Jones said on the keys to his success. “I've been throwing four pitches … (and) have been able to land them all for strikes and keep them competitive, so it's been keeping hitters on their back foot, not sure what's coming.”

Working behind Jones, North Shore’s defense was on full display in the fifth. 

With one out and runners on second and third, the Westerners seemed likely to break the scoreless tie, but the defense held strong. A spectacular diving grab by third baseman MacDougall caught Jaden Sheffield (Georgetown) in the baseline, allowing the Navigators to catch him in a rundown in between third base and home. 

Runners were left runners on the corners, and the Westerners attempted to utilize a double steal to get on the board. But the Navigators sniffed that out, too, as second baseman Brendan Jones (Holy Cross) fired a laser to catcher Matt Chatelle (Rutgers) to catch Hayden Miller (Charlestown) stealing home and ending the frame.

When Jones was relieved, the combination of Jack Bello (Air Force), Sachem Ramos (Michigan), Pierce Friedman (Stonehill) and Castrichini retired the last 10 batters they faced to keep the Navigators within striking distance. 

Friedman struck out the side in the eighth to post his first win of the summer. The Swampscott native maintained his strong season to date, having pitched five shutout innings across as many appearances. 

Wootton was a tough-luck loser on the Westerners’ side, facing just two batters over the minimum across seven-plus innings of one-hit ball. He struck out four and set the Navigators aside in three batters in six of his complete frames.

The Navigators will continue their three-game weekend homestand on Saturday and Sunday as they take on two Coastal Division opponents. First pitch on Saturday is set for 5:05 p.m. against the Newport Gulls.