by Joshua Kummins
LYNN, Mass. — Eastern Division starter Justin Wiley of Laconia (Iona College) retired the side in the top of the first inning on just seven pitches and the mound staff never looked back as part of a 3-1 win over the Western Division squad in the annual New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game, held this year for the first time at Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass.
The defending NECBL champion North Shore Navigators played host this year and drew 2,112 out to the ballpark to see the league’s best right in their own backyards.
Wiley was starting in place of Navs righty Hunter Rivers (Jacksonville State), who was injured and could not participate in the game. The New York native is tied for the Muskrats team lead with three wins and his 2.43 ERA is third on the team over 37 innings this summer.
Despite the loss of Rivers, the Navs were well represented in Wednesday night’s event as five players made an appearance in front of the hometown crowd that wished them a warm greeting.
Pitchers Miles Landry (Baylor) and Matt Alvarez (Boston College) each tossed an inning and escaped unscathed, despite allowing one hit.
Landry, a 6’5″ Texan right-hander, allowed a walk and hit with two outs before the inning ended on a groundball out. Alvarez, the Cranbury, N.J. native, recorded his first two outs by way of the strikeout before inducing a flyball.
The East side took the lead against Danbury’s Nick Williams (Tennessee) as he allowed back-to-back, one out hits to Old Orchard Beach catcher Tim Quinn (Assumption) and Newport shortstop Jack Reinheimer (East Carolina).
Quinn came around to score three pitches later when Gulls center fielder Kyle Johnson came home on an error by Holyoke second baseman Paul McConkey (Kentucky), giving the East a 1-0 lead. Sanford Mainer Brett Mollenhauer (Radford) laced an RBI single on the second pitch he saw to double the lead.
The teams traded runs in the fifth inning as the West side got on the board for the first and only time of the game.
Against New Bedford pitcher Stephen Janas (Kennesaw State), McConkey redeemed himself as he lined an RBI double into center field to plate his Blue Sox teammate and first baseman Trey Mancini (Notre Dame) and cut the deficit to 2-1.
In the next half-inning, Navigator left fielder Eric Jagielo hit a ground out on the infield that scored Johnson to bring the East lead back up to two runs — a point it would stay for the entirety of the rest of the contest.
Other North Shore teammates that made appearances in the contest included right fielder and NECBL batting leader Dario Pizzano (Columbia), who went hitless in two at-bats.
Reserve infielder Clinton Harwick (Point Loma Nazarene) went 0-for-1 with a walk, while Jagielo finished the contest with that RBI despite an 0-for-3 showing in the final box score.
Sanford’s A.J. Bazdanes (Maine) earned the win as he pitched a 1-2-3 third inning, which included two strikeouts. The Nashua, N.H. native retired the side on just ten pitches and eight of the ten were within the strike zone.
Williams suffered the loss as he allowed the winning runs to the East team in the third inning. The Knoxville, Tenn. native has earned four wins in five decisions this season for the Westerners, which is tied with two other pitchers for the staff lead in Danbury.
In the top of the ninth inning, New Bedford closer Sam Dodge (Harvard) came in and pitched a 1-2-3 frame, which finished with Vermont first baseman Rob Griffith (Sacred Heart) grounding out to third baseman Harwick to close the book.
Dodge has had a very strong season for the Bay Sox, posting nine saves which is one behind Vermont’s Kyle Grana (Bellarmine) for the league lead in that category. The Rumford, R.I. native just completed his freshman season with the Crimson.
A bottom half of the inning was played, but did not make a difference in the final score with the home-standing East side in the lead. Grana finished off the game by striking out three over two innings of relief, while allowing two hits and a walk.
The league’s comissioner, Mario Tiani, presented Newport’s Jack Reinheimer with the Most Valuable Player award for the game as he scored a run while going 1-for-2 at the plate.
The NECBL heads down to the final five games of the regular season beginning on Thursday night. Holyoke and Newport each sport 24-13 records to lead their respective divisions, while Danbury is on their toes with a single less win to just as many losses.
North Shore stands firmly in the playoff picture as the second-place team at 20-18, despite trailing the Gulls by 4.5 games in the division. They would face archrival Sanford in a best-of-three playoff series if the season ended today in which the Navs would own home field advantage.