After a dominating 8-0 victory for the North Shore Navigators on Wednesday night in Lynn, the Sanford Mainers evened up their best-of-three NECBL playoff series with the North Shore Navigators at a game apiece with a 6-0 shut out of their own on Thursday at Goodall Park.
As a result, both the Mainers and Navigators will go head-to-head on Friday at Fraser Field (6:15 p.m.) for the decisive third game of the series.
Starter Michael Johnson (Dartmouth) was touched for four runs on six hits and five walks over five innings. Johnson did manage to settle down and make it through five, but the lefthander allowed all four of his runs over the course of the first three innings.
Meanwhile, Sanford starter Tommy Lawrence threw a complete game five-hit shutout for Sanford. Lawrence allowed just five hits and no Navigators base runner managed to reach third while only one reached second.
Johnson ran into trouble almost immediately in a 30-pitch first inning. Sanford’s Brett Mollenhauer, who had three hits and three RBI, walked and took second a wild pitch before Mike Montville hit an RBI double down the first base line that was just out of the reach of a diving Eric Williams (Columbia).
Johnson again did not do himself any favors in a 36-pitch second inning, as he walked two more to set up RBI singles by Marlon Calbi and Mollenhauer to make it a 3-0 game. The Mainers got to the lefthander again in the third on an RBI single by Tim Panetta.
Peabody native Joe Gruntkosky (St. Joseph’s) came on in relief of Johnson in the bottom half of the sixth. After a leadoff single to Panetta, a sacrifice bunt attempt was beat out at first before a successful sacrifice put two in scoring position. Mollenhauer then knocked in both runs on a bloop single with the infield in to extend the lead to 6-0.
If we can take any good news from Thursday, the rival Newport Gulls lost 8-7 in walk-off fashion to the Laconia Muskrats on Thursday. The No. 4 seed upset the top-seeded Gulls to cement its spot the Eastern Division Finals, which will begin on Saturday. As a result, Games 1 and 3 (if necessary) of that series will be hosted by the winner of Friday’s do-or-die Sanford-North Shore game at Fraser.