Martha’s Vineyard Sharks are champs

The jubilant Sharks pile on one another after the final out. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, 26-27 just one year ago, capped off a magical third season Thursday night, in front of 861 fans at the Tank in Oak Bluffs, by winning the Futures Collegiate Baseball League championship with a 6-3 victory over the two-time defending champion Nashua Silver Knights. The Sharks swept the best of three series 2-0.

The local franchise in the wooden bat summer collegiate league finished the regular season in first place at 35-18, to earn a first ever playoff berth and followed up that success by winning all four post-season games en route to the title.

League MVP Dylan Tice knocked in three runs for the champs, while Nik Campero added two more RBIs. As they have so often this season, the Sharks got excellent pitching. Starter Matt Timoney of Harvard earned the win, striking out five in six innings. Jon Dunn and Kyle Brenner pitched an inning each, before Matt Calamoneri closed the game and picked up the biggest save of the season.

“It got kind of wild with the fans getting into it but everything worked out perfect,” Calamoneri said after the win. Indeed it did.

For Vineyarder Tad Gold, a Shark for all three seasons, winning the title at home with a close knit group was particularly special.

“It feels unbelievable,” the Sharks center fielder said. “This was the best group of guys by far in the past three years that I’ve had the pleasure to play with and it’s really something special that we could finish it out this way.”

Fellow Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduate Jack Roberts, school valedictorian just two months ago and headed for Williams this fall, had a memorable rookie season, to say the least.

“It feels awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s my first time around, first time being a part of the team that wins it. Everybody played great tonight and through the whole playoffs.”

Sharks general manager Jerry Murphy summed up the night succinctly.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said with a big smile after the Sharks lifted the FCBL championship trophy.

The Silver Knights did not go down easily. The Sharks jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings but Nashua consistently threatened, chipping away at the lead to make it an uncomfortable 4-3 game by the seventh inning stretch.

The Sharks got a crucial insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. Tad Gold led off with a single. League batting champ Ryan Siegel then placed a perfect bunt down the first base line for another hit. Nick Sanford executed a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners and Nik Campero hit a long sac fly to center, scoring Gold to make it 5-3.

The Sharks scored again in the bottom of the eighth when Chris Miller came home following an errant throw on a Brett Holmgren single.

With a 6-3 lead, reliever Matt Calamoneri came on to pitch the ninth. The right-hander from the University of Scranton struck out Johnny Adams, gave up a single on the ninth pitch to Ryan Sullivan, walked Jimmy Recoy, struck out former Shark Karl Kapinos, and set the celebration in motion after a Sean Lyons put-out to first.

Following the final out, the Sharks ran to the mound, piling on one another as the large crowd roared its approval. The Vineyard faithful also gave a hearty cheer for the dethroned two-time champs from Nashua.

After shortstop Dylan Tice added a playoff MVP award to his regular season counterpart, the Sharks held the championship trophy aloft and posed for team photos. The memorable evening ended with dozens of fans, young and old, coming to the dugout to salute their new champions, take pictures and get autographs.