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LYNN — Gavin Sullivan was around last season when the North Shore Navigators failed to meet their expectations.
But this summer has been a much different story as the Navigators right the ship.
“I think it was all about confidence,” Sullivan, a right-handed starting pitcher from Swampscott, said. “We kind of went into the season not knowing what to expect. We went out on the field not playing our best. It kind of snowballed that way. This year things are going better for us. We’re playing with more confidence. We’ve already clinched a playoff spot and that’s where we want to be.”
North Shore’s confidence has the Navigators on the doorstep of a postseason push. The Navigators are 30-22 on the season, 1 1/2 games ahead of Brockton for first place in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League standings entering the weekend. North Shore has already punched its ticket to the FCBL playoffs, the team’s first postseason bid since 2016.
A 3-year varsity starter at Swampscott High, Sullivan has made the most of the innings he has seen on the mound this summer. In 10 games, all starts, Sullivan’s 5-2 with a 4.26 ERA. He has fanned 37 while allowing just nine walks over 50 2/3 innings. Sullivan’s best start of the summer was an 8-inning, 10-strikeout effort last week in a 3-1 loss to Brockton.
He hopes to bring a sense of confidence back to Division I Stetson, his college team.
“This summer, getting as many innings as I’ve gotten is huge,” Sullivan said. “Getting all those reps, practicing, working on my craft, that’s huge. Going into the upcoming season I want to make as big an impact as I can. Hopefully I can help us reach the College World Series. This summer has been big.”
Sullivan’s 5-pitch array includes a 2-seam fastball, 4-seam fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. Keeping command of all five pitches has been key to his success throughout the summer.
“I’ve had a big summer because I’ve been able to control all my pitches. I like to mix it up and keep hitters off balance,” Sullivan said.
The development of his slider has also helped Sullivan’s cause.
“The slider was a pitch that I just started developing at school toward the end of the season,” Sullivan said. “I’m starting to feel really confident with it. It’s good to have that pitch in my repertoire now.”
Sullivan enjoys being able to spend his summer working on his craft in his own backyard. With the Navigators, Sullivan has also had the opportunity to reconnect with his former Big Blue catcher, Louis Olivieiri. The two have formed a solid battery as pitcher and catcher since their days playing youth baseball.
“It’s pretty cool, especially having family and friends be able to come to games,” Sullivan said. “Some of them haven’t seen me play in a while. I’m playing with some of my friends. Louis Olivieri and I grew up together and he’s catching me again now. It’s a really cool experience and I’m really appreciative of the Navigators for letting me play.
“It’s kind of like Louis doesn’t even need to put a sign down,” Sullivan said. “We kind of know what I’m going to throw. It’s cool that we’re playing together again. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Sullivan and the Navigators close the regular season Sunday (6) when they visit the Bristol Blues. The Navigators welcome the Nashua Silver Knights to Fraser Field Saturday (6) for their final home game of the regular season.
North Shore, 5-5 over its last 10 games, is looking to hit the postseason on a high note.
“That’s super important, we want to go into the playoffs playing well,” Sullivan said. “It’s really important to be at your best when the playoffs come around. We want to make a really good run at this thing. It would be a really cool way to finish the summer. I think we’re at a really good point right now.”