Spirit win another thriller, earn playoff spot

LYNN – In a series that had walk-off wins, solid starting pitching, shoddy relieving, and controversy, among others, it was another unexpected occurrence that saw the North Shore Spirit pull out another victory in their last at-bats.North Shore player-manager Vic Davilla’s steal of third and subsequent score on the throwing error by New Jersey catcher Clay Kuklick capped off a two-run rally, as the Spirit (31-13, 56-34) gave the club its third straight come-from-behind win over the Jackals, 3-2, at Fraser Field.The win, combined with second-place Atlantic City’s loss to the Grays, gave the Spirit the second half title. Their reward will be taking on the Surf in the best-of-five semifinals series beginning on Wednesday night. The first two contests will be at Fraser Wednesday and Thursday (7:05) before shifting to Atlantic City for the weekend.Trailing 2-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, centerfielder B.J. Weed drew a walk off reliever Joe Hunton, who was into his first inning of work. Right fielder Mike Torres then put down a bunt, situated between third, home, and the mound. Kuklick picked up the ball and threw to first, but Torres beat it out. Davilla then grounded towards center, but second baseman Joe Mihalics saved a run by diving towards his right, and scooping the ball over to shortstop Guillermo Reyes, who stepped on the bag to get Torres. Weed took third on the play. First baseman Luis Lopez tied the game by singling to left-center, and Davilla went to second.Shortstop Jerson Perez worked the count to 1-1 against Hunton, then Davilla set off for third. Kuklick got the ball (after the pitch, which was called a strike), and fired in the direction of third. The ball sailed into left, and Davilla got up and crossed the plate for the winning run.”I was eying that (taking off for third) as soon as I got to second and with the two outs,” said Davilla, who was responsible for the second late-inning win by the Spirit in the four-game set. “When J.P. (Perez) was up, the second baseman was playing off the bag, smacking his glove, thinking he was near me. I was looking towards the plate, reading the play. He (Mihalics) looked at me to see that I was near the base, and with the pitcher going into his high kick, I took off for third. As long as I stepped in front of Wilton (third baseman Veras), I knew that I had it beat.”Closer Derek Drage hurled the ninth inning, fanning right fielder Curt Miaso to pick up his 12th save.The game started with Spirit aces past and present taking the mound. John Kelly, who was reacquired by New Jersey two weeks ago, entered the contest leading the CanAm League in ERA, innings, and strikeouts, while righty Ryan Bicondoa brought his team-high ten victories to his start.Both pitchers worked scoreless baseball for the first few innings, though North Shore made some noise in the third. Designated hitter Josue Lopez blooped a single, then went to second on a bunt. Weed flied out to deep center, with Lopez taking third on the play. Torres walked, but Davilla bounced out to second to end the threat.New Jersey (18-26, 49-41) opened up the scoring in the fourth. First baseman Marcos Rodriguez doubled on Bicondoa’s first pitch, then advanced to third on a groundout. Reyes’ single to left brought in Rodriguez with the game’s first run. Catcher Matt Lauderdale then grounded to Perez, who threw to Davilla at second (where he originally began the evening), yet in his attempt to complete the double play, threw wild off first. Designated hitter Jud Thigpen blooped a single to right, and Lauderdale went to third, but was replaced by Kuklick (Lauderdale tripped and landed on his shoulder while reaching first on the error). New Jersey increased the lead to 2-0 on a single by Miaso.The Spirit responded in their half. Luis Lopez led with a line single to center, then, after a strikeout, reached second on a single by Perez. A walk to Alex Trezza loaded the bases, and a sacrifice fly by Josue Lopez brought in Luis L

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