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 got things started with a single and Jack Mayfield 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 filled the void at first after he too was hit with a pitch to bring Garret Smith to the plate.
Danbury brought in reliever Michael Anderson to try to 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 allowed a double to Jim Brennan in the eighth, but he stranded him there by getting the next two on a flyout and a strikeout.
Closer Hunter Rivers 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 to the plate. Rivers, who nailed down his fourth save of the playoffs and second in the series in last night’s win, got Boudreaux to hit a lazy fly ball to Jason Banos in left, who squeezed it for the final out to give the Navigators their first NECBL championship.
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