Laconia returned to Cardines Field Monday night, attempting to erase last Monday’s 16-3 defeat from their minds. The Muskrats competed with Newport pitch by pitch for the second consecutive game, but in the end, squandered a chance at victory and fell 3-2.
Peter Kelich (Bryant) was tough in relief for the Gulls. But with one out in the top of the ninth and Newport leading 3-2, a single and a hit batter had the Muskrats’ comeback hopes swelling. After a swinging second out, pinch runner Joe Torres (Iona) broke for third on what looked to be a passed ball. But Gulls backstop Alex DeLeon (Kansas) recovered and threw to third, catching Torres in a rundown. Ethan Bennett (Vanderbilt) also took off from first, and both Muskrats runners ended up at second. Bennett was tagged out to end the game.
It was a bizarre and frustrating end to another well-played game between two Eastern powers. Matthew Aldrich (Darton) was masterful in defeat Laconia. He set a new season-high in the NECBL for strikeouts in an outing, fanning 12 Gulls in 6.2 innings pitched. His lone missteps came on early-game home runs.
As they did last week, Newport opened the scoring in the first inning, with an opposite-field, solo shot down the right field line by DeLeon. But it would not be a repeat of last Monday, as Aldrich yielded nothing more in the first.
Newport came back for more in the fourth. Rob Ort (Indiana St) launched a two-run home run over the high right center field fence, following a leadoff double by Conor Keniry (Wake Forrest).
The Muskrats grabbed two runs in the top of the seventh with some timely offensive moves. Back-to-back singles by Danny Collins (Troy) and Tyler Jackson (Charleston), only the second and third hits of the game for Laconia, gave them their first runner in scoring position.
Bennett then came through with an RBI double, his team-leading fifth of the season. Manager Matt Alison followed with great timing, inserting Donny Duschinsky (Southern Illinois) as a pinch-hitter. On the first pitch, Duschinsky knocked a ball deep into the right field corner, bringing a run in on the sacrifice fly.
Gulls starter Daniel Wright (Arkansas St) recovered to escape the inning. He mostly matched Aldrich’s effort, striking out 11 Muskrats in seven innings, walking only one and scattering four hits to get the win. Kelich added five K’s in two innings, as the Muskrats struck out an astounding 16 times.
The Gulls’ offense struck out 13 times themselves, as Ort and Blake Butera (Boston College) were the only players in the game that did not strike out. Ort was 2-for-2, and his homer proved to be the game-winner. Jackson was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run to lead Laconia.
The Muskrats drop to 1-2 against Newport, and 0-2 at Cardines Field. With an even record of 4-4, they sit in the middle of the Eastern standings. Laconia returns home Tuesday for a Tuesday-Thursday, two-game series with the last place Mystic Schooners, whose only win came against the Muskrats. Game time for both nights is 6:30 PM.