Laconia put together a complete performance Thursday night, but it was not enough to turn away the starving Mystic Schooners, who earned just their third victory of the summer overall, and their third against the Muskrats.
The back-and-forth game saw both starting pitchers battle and hang tough, and both offenses respond when needed. The emotional momentum sided with Mystic, who maintained a lead throughout, and showed a confidence they do not yet possess against any other opponent.
Wil Leathers (Spartanburg Methodist) stood out at the plate for the Muskrats, going 2-for-3, with a two-run homer, reaching base four times including two walks. As a team, Laconia stranded 11 runners.
Mystic struck for two runs in their first at-bat, a two-run home run for Ryan Lindemuth (William & Mary) on an elevated fastball from Laconia starter Austin Sullivan (NW Florida St). Spencer Haynes (Central Florida) did the same in the second inning to make it 3-0.
Vince Conde (Vanderbilt) tied Dylan Kelly (Middle Georgia) for second place in all-time team home runs, with his third-inning solo shot that put Laconia on the board. Conde now has six on the season.
The straight fastball got Sullivan in trouble again in the fourth on an RBI double off the fence in center field by Andrew Santamauro (Lafayette), making the score 4-1.
Laconia would score a run in both the fifth and sixth innings, leaving the bases loaded in the sixth. In the fifth, with Corey Stringer (Fort Scott CC) on first from a walk, Leathers’ single to left field and Eric Yavarone’s (UConn) errant throw back to the infield put both Muskrats in scoring position, as Mystic threw it around. Stringer would score on a wild pitch by AJ Rataic (St. Edwards).
In the sixth, Laconia got three-straight hits with one out, as Joe Torres (Iona) scored Connor Castellano (Vanderbilt) on a double. After Stringer was hit to load the bases, Conde grounded up the middle on the first pitch he saw from Rataic, and the inning was squandered on a double play.
The home half of the frame also ended with a double play, as Regan Flaherty (Seminole CC) caught a fly out to right field and gunned Lindemuth out at home plate trying to score. Protesting home plate umpire Vincent Zibelli’s call, Lindemuth slammed his helmet to the ground, and was immediately ejected. Mystic could have folded with the loss of their Designated Hitter, but the moment galvanized them.
Back on the mound in the seventh, Sullivan gave Laconia the strong start they needed. With two outs, Anthony Turgeon (CCSU) coming up, and a runner on second, Manager Matt Alison came out to address his infield. Sullivan was left in the game, perhaps one batter too long, as Turgeon went deep to give Mystic a 6-3 edge.
Sullivan was balanced and composed throughout the game, giving Laconia just their seventh quality start in 23 games. He walked only two batters, and his mistakes could be counted on one hand: fastballs that were handled on the Schooners’ four scoring hits.
Leathers powered Laconia right back in the game in the top of the eighth with an impressive, two-run homer to straightaway centerfield. But the game would end by that 6-5 score, in favor of Mystic.
Laconia remains the only team in the NECBL to have fallen to Mystic, now suffering its second loss in Connecticut. Last-place Mystic will play fourth-place Sanford for the first time tomorrow in a double-header, as weather has prevented them from matching up. The eight game July series between the two will surely decide the fourth-and-final playoff spot in the East.
Laconia will look to avoid the season sweep from Western opponent North Adams Friday night at Robbie Mills Field at 6:30 PM.