OAK BLUFFS — The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks scored three runs in the eighth inning and held off a late rally from the visiting North Shore Navigators to earn a 4-3 win in Futures Collegiate Baseball League action Wednesday night from The Shark Tank at Vineyard Baseball Park.
The Navs slipped to 13-21 on the summer with just their third loss in the last eight games, while the first-place Sharks improve to 22-9.
Second baseman Joey Murphy (Saint Joseph’s of Maine) went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and one RBI to lead the North Shore offense. Catcher Harrison Engstrom (Cochise) crossed the plate with the Navs’ third run during a two-run ninth inning, while center fielder George Sutherland (Cochise) and left fielder Michael Wynne (Wofford) drove in runs.
The Navs strung together three consecutive hits to take a 1-0 lead in the second. After Sharks starter Dalton Ponce (St. Mary’s) induced a ground ball for the first out of the inning, Murphy and Sutherland sent back-to-back singles through the right side, and Wynne dropped a double inside the left field line.
Malden native veteran Matt O’Connor (UMass Lowell) dealt the longest start of the summer by a North Shore pitcher, striking out five while allowing just one run on five hits and one walk over seven innings. In the third, Vineyard left fielder Collin Shapiro (UMass) drew a leadoff walk, stole second, and advanced home to score the tying run on a throwing error and a wild pitch.
Ponce scattered five hits over his six innings of work, though just two of them came after the Navs’ run-scoring second frame. After Murphy doubled to left to lead off the fourth, the Sharks starter faced just one batter over the minimum until he exited the game in favor of Connor Hall (Marymount) and the bullpen.
Designated hitter Sal Frelick (Boston College) beat out a ground ball to the right side to lead off the eighth and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt, but Sharks right fielder Matt Hogan (Vanderbilt) spoiled the visitors’ chance to take a one-run lead by turning the Navs’ JP Knight (Tufts) fly ball to right into an inning-ending, 9-5 double play.
The Sharks used the momentum created on the defensive end to score three times on just one hit in the bottom of the eighth. After Danny Ryan (Northeastern) issued walks to three of the first four batters he faced, catcher Nick Raposo (Wheaton) hit a two-run single to right field to punctuate the frame and put the hosts in front for good. Raposo had three of the Sharks’ six total hits, while Shapiro scored twice.
Engstrom caught his second runner of the game stealing and reliever Devin O’Donovan (Austin Peay) dealt a strikeout to end the Vineyard threat before Navs scored twice in the top of the ninth. The Navs’ catcher and second baseman drew back-to-back walks to open the frame before Engstrom scored on a wild pitch and Sutherland drove home the third run on a grounder to second.
Despite the late scare, Lisinicchia settled down and saved the victory for Chance Huff (Vanderbilt) who pitched a scoreless eighth. Ryan was charged with his second loss of the summer for North Shore.
The Navs have five games remaining before the FCBL breaks for its annual All-Star Game next Tuesday at Historic Holman Stadium in Nashua, N.H. Four of those games will be played at Fraser Field beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday against the Worcester Bravehearts.