Sharks chew up Navs in opener

Pitching, power, and defense bode well for eighth FCBL season.

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The stars were out early in the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks season opener Thursday night as Matt Mikulski threw six shutout innings with nine Ks, backed by two home runs and stellar defense, en route to a convincing 8-1 win over the North Shore Navigators at the Shark Tank in Oak Bluffs.

Yale’s own Brian Ronai got the Sharks’ first hit of the season, a blast over the left-field fence in the second inning, to give the home team a 1-0 lead. The Sharks would add three runs in the second and one in the fourth before Vanderbilt-bound Tate Kolwyck put it away in the sixth inning with a three-run shot to left that left the park in a nanosecond for an 8-0 lead.

The Navs would manufacture a run on a walk, a nice hit-and-run single, and groundout in the seventh. Hometown boy James Sashin pitched a scoreless ninth with a K in his Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) debut. Sashin is headed for the University of San Diego in September.

Wheaton College all-star catcher Nick Raposo threw out two would-be base stealers, and the outfield trio of Ronai, Kai Nelson, and Luke Hartman each had highlight-reel catches. We’re going to like Raposo, who stood by home plate before the game and low-fived more than 100 Island Little Leaguers as they began their trek around the bases accompanied by Shark players.

Jay Mendes, a third-year FCBL manager in his first season with the Sharks, liked what he saw. “I’ve been in the league three years, and honestly, this is the best team I’ve seen in the FCBL,” he said.

Brown’s fastball registered consistently in the low 90s, according to a radar gun held by a fan behind home plate, topping out at 92. He struck out the side in the first, and five of the first six Nav outs came via the K, interspersed with two second-inning singles.

The Navs began to time the heater, and a clutch catch by a sprawling Hartman in right snuffed a Navs rally in the third. Brown surrendered four hits and two walks in his six innings of work. Sharks relievers Brandon Erent, Bryan Braga (who has Island roots), and Sashin combined for two hits, a walk, and five Ks over the final three innings.

The patient Sharks had only six hits, but worked nine walks to offset five Ks.

Mendes said he is emphasizing speed from his quick bunch, and the Sharks were running, grabbing four bags and taking the extra base aggressively.

The Sharks are on the road Friday at the Brockton Rox, and return to the Tank on Saturday night at 6:30 against the Rox on First Responders Night. The Saturday game will also be a fundraiser for the family of Sean Gannon, the Yarmouth police sergeant who was killed in the line of duty in April.