The reigning NECBL champion North Shore Navigators were in the same spot exactly 12 months ago. Last August, the Navs hosted Game 1 of the Eastern semifinals against the Sanford Mainers before playing the maximum nine postseason games en route to the organization’s first title since moving to Lynn.
Tonight will call for the exact same scenario with Sanford in town once again for the playoffs. The second-seeded Navigators will battle the No. 3 Mainers at Fraser Field (6:15 p.m.) in the first contest of a best-of-three series. Game 2 will be at Sanford tomorrow night and the decisive third game (if necessary) will be on Thursday back in Lynn.
Lefthander Crayton Bare (Baylor) will start tonight in Game 1 at Fraser. He also started last year’s initial postseason contest, throwing a complete game five-hit shutout in a 1-0 win.
The Navigators will also boast an offense that is arguably more deadly than last year’s championship lineup. This year’s team hit .269 – up 11 points from the .258 average last year’s club produced.
The spike was due in large part to the play of All-Star outfielders Dario Pizzano (Columbia) and Eric Jagielo (Notre Dame). Pizzano figures to be in play for a potential league MVP bid as a result of his .365 (54-for-148) average, which was good for fourth in the entire NECBL. The sophomore and Saugus native also had four homers and 27 RBI, led the league in doubles (12), and was second in on-base percentage (.447). Pizzano also hit .390 over an 18-game hitting streak from July 11 through Sunday, marking the longest streak in the NECBL this season.
Meanwhile, no player in the NECBL came to the plate more than Jagielo, as the freshman played in all but one game for North Shore and hit .313 in a league-high 163 at-bats. The freshman started alongside Pizzano in the All-Star Game, was fourth in the league in hits (51), at one point had a 16-game hitting streak, and also added three homers and 28 RBI.
Three other Navigators also had averages above the .300 mark, as All-Star Clinton Harwick (Point Loma Nazarene) had a torrid July to finish at .319, while Saulyer Saxon (Oklahoma State) also finished strong get his final average up to .308. Third baseman Conner Mach (Missouri) also joined the team shortly before midseason and hit .301 out of the No. 5 hole in 23 games.
The bullpen has also been a dominant force all summer, anchored by a pair of sophomores in Miles Landry (Baylor) and Matt Alvarez (Boston College). Landry posted a perfect 0.00 ERA in 22 innings and had five saves and was the only pitcher in the league not to allow an earned run. That came after making just one – only one – appearance in two years at Baylor. Alvarez was just as dominant all season long, striking out 25 in 19 innings while pitching to the tune of a 2.37 ERA. Both also represented the North Shore in this year’s All-Star Game last week at Fraser Field.
Playoff tickets are available now and fans can purchase by calling the team box office at (781) 595-9400 or by going online at www.nsnavs.com…To view the final statistics for the regular season, click HERE.