FROM CBB NEWS SOURCE
LYNN – After 42 regular season games and an additional nine playoff contests, the North Shore Navigators battled their way to a second place finish in the division, defeated the defending champion Newport Gulls in the playoffs, and in the end won their first ever NECBL championship after they prevailed in an unforgettable 5-4 win in the NECBL finals last night at Fraser Field.
After the Danbury Westerners scored twice in the top half of the seventh to take a 4-3 lead, a resilient Navigators lineup retook control in the bottom half of the frame. Anthony Melchionda (Boston College) got things started with a single and Jack Mayfield (Oklahoma) was hit by a pitch to follow. After both runners moved up on a wild pitch to put two in scoring position with two outs, Bryce Tafelski (UC-Santa Barbara) filled the void at first after he too was hit with a pitch to bring Garret Smith (Boston College) to the plate.
Danbury brought in reliever Michael Anderson (East Carolina) to try and get the final out, but Smith answered by lining a double down the right field line to score Melchionda and Mayfield as the Navigators retook the lead at 5-4.
After that, it was just a matter of shutting the door on the Westerners, who had slugged their way to nine runs on 16 hits in Monday’s Game 2. Lynn’s own Bryant Gauthier (Southern NH) allowed a double to Jim Brennan (St. John’s) in the eighth, but he stranded him there by getting the next two on a fly out and a strikeout.
Closer Hunter Rivers (Jacksonville State) was called upon once again in the ninth – marking his fifth appearance in six days – and the flamethrower retired the first two Danbury hitters on just seven pitches to bring Brandon Boudreaux (Tulane) to the plate. Rivers, who nailed down his fourth save of the playoffs and second the series in last night’s win, got Boudreaux to hit a lazy fly ball to Jason Banos (Columbia) in left, who squeezed it for the final out to give the Navigators their first NECBL championship.
Navigators’ starter Nolan Corr (Wheaton) owned a 3-2 lead entering the top half of the seventh, but Danbury’s Brett Knief (UNC) hit a run-scoring double to left center to tie the game. After loading the bases with one out, Boudreaux singled to score Knief from third, giving Danbury a 4-3 lead.
Corr got the no decision while allowing four runs on nine hits over six plus innings. Reliever Dan Duval (RPI), who entered in the seventh after the first two reached, allowed two inherited runners to score on a pair of hits, but in the end got the victory following the Navigators comeback the following half inning.
Danbury scored once in each of the first two innings, but North Shore tied it at 2-2 in the third on back-to-back RBI singles from Matt Hamlet (Boston College) and Braxton Graven (Bellarmine).
The Navigators took a 3-2 lead on a bases loaded walk by Jack Mayfield in the fifth, but they left the bases loaded to end the frame.
Much of the credit to their run to a title is due to the structure the organization has set in place, as general manager Peter Delani and manager Jeff Waldron followed a specific arrangement all season long.
"Our goal is to give our players the best opportunity to showcase their talent," Delani said after the championship victory. "Obviously, it’s in our best interest to get them their innings and their at-bats, help them make any adjustments along the way, and return them to their college programs with a clean bill of health."
Waldron, who regularly limited his starting pitchers to five innings regardless of pitch count, was humbled to take home the league title in his backyard.
"I grew up in Lynn and graduated from [Lynn] Classical, so to return here and be able to help guide these young guys has been a privilege," said Waldron, who spent six years in the minor leagues. "They worked their tails off for two months and were rewarded with their effort tonight."