The North Shore Navigators held on for a 3-2 win on Saturday night over the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide at The Ball Park. They are now in a tie for first-place in the Eastern Division with the New Bedford Bay Sox, who will be at Fraser Field tonight for a 6:15 p.m. slated matchup.
As recently as Friday, the Navigators narrowly trailed two teams in the standings and sat in third place, but their magical 6-5 walk-off win on Friday night enabled them to overtake the Newport Gulls and also even things up with the Sanford Mainers. To boot, both Newport and Sanford lost Saturday night, meaning both teams are now in fact a game back of the Navs, who are currently riding a three-game win streak.
New Bedford (7-5) has played six less games on the season than the Navigators, whose record stands at 10-8.
On Saturday night in Old Orchard, catcher Blake Berger (Tennessee) put the Navs up 2-0 on a two-run double in the second inning. The Raging Tide got one back in the third against starter Hunter Rivers (Jacksonville State), but Dario Pizzano (Columbia) hit a solo shot – his first of the season – in the fourth to make it 3-1. Pizzano extended his hitting streak to seven games with the homer and is now hitting an even .500 (12-for-24) over that span. The sophomore is hitting .412 on the year – good for third in the NECBL – and also leads the league in hits (21). He is also second in the league in on-base percentage (.516) and fourth in slugging (.608).
All-Star rosters are not announced for another few weeks, but it is hard to imagine Pizzano not getting the nod for this year’s annual event at Fraser Field on July 27.
Old Orchard cut the lead to 3-2 with a run in the sixth off reliever Ryan Grant, but that is as close as it would get. Navs lefty Brad Schnitzer tossed an easy eighth before Miles Landry managed to escape trouble in the ninth, leaving the bases loaded, for his third save of the season.
Rivers, meanwhile, is an All-Star selection candidate if there ever was one as well. He allowed just one run on three hits over five innings to move to 3-0 on the season, as his three victories are now tied for first in the league. He is currently tied for ninth in the league in innings pitched (19.0) and currently has the lowest ERA (0.95) in the league among pitchers who have made at least four starts.
In those four starts, he has twice allowed just one run over five innings, and in his two other starts he has not given up a run at all. Rivers was the closer on last year’s NECBL championship team, leading the staff with four saves during the 2010 regular season before saving four of the six wins the Navs needed to take home the title last summer. Nonetheless, his transition into the starting rotation has been a seemless one at that this summer.
Second baseman Michael Dunster (Clemson), who in Friday’s walk-off win had a two-run single in the ninth and then scored the tying run before driving in the game-winner with an RBI single in the 10th, went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a run scored in the victory over Old Orchard on Saturday – the only Nav with a multi-hit game against the Tide. Dunster had just six hits in 12 games prior to Friday’s walk-off, but now has four hits in his last eight at-bats with three RBI and two runs scored over his last two games.