Sharks fall to Mavericks 1-4

Sharks right-fielder Jon Testani broke his bat while swinging. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks lost to The Seacoast Mavericks of Portsmouth, N.H.,e Tuesday night in a strongly pitched game by both sides. It was “Kids Night” and children 12-and-under were admitted free.

Prior to the first pitch, Maverick’s head coach Tommy Chase told The Times he expected a tight game. “We’ve played The Sharks once and we lost 7-6,” he said. “Martha’s Vineyard has a good offensive team. We have a pretty good pitcher on the mound tonight, though, and it should be a battle.”

Maverick’s starting pitcher Austin French told The Times pre-game, “I know they’re a good team and I’m pretty excited.”

Maverick Martin Tavares added, “We need to get the team together and start winning games.”

The ballgame was scoreless until the 4th inning when a huge hit to center field by Martha’s Vineyard High School alumnus and current Williams College student Jack Roberts brought home one Sharks runner. The Mavericks tied it up, 1-1, in the 5th inning with a homer by catcher Tyler Fortanascio. The Mavericks later pulled ahead in the 6th inning, 2-1.

French was tough, striking out six Sharks in six innings and allowing only one run. Fortanascio explained his success by pointing out, “He’s smarter than us: he goes to Brown!”

Matt Quintana was almost as strong for the Sharks, only permitting two runs during his six innings. “Quintana keeps hitters off balance,” Shark relief pitcher Patrick Nicholson told The Times.

Both teams brought in new pitchers in the 7th inning, a turning point for The Mavericks. Max Slade of UConn took the mound for The Sharks, and The Mavericks scored two runs for a 4-1 lead  which they maintained for the remainder of the game. Slade was replaced by Colby College relief pitcher Soren Hanson, who deftly held off any further Maverick runs in the 8th and 9th innings.

The Sharks certainly had their chances and they displayed some awesome defense, but they just could not get the big hits. In the bottom of the 9th inning Shark Will Toffey, brother of coach John Toffey, had a solid hit and former Edgartown resident Matt Pierce yelled out, “Nice piece, let’s get this rally going!”

But it was not meant to be. “That’s how baseball goes sometimes,” coach Toffey said. “Their guys really threw the ball well tonight. It was a well-pitched game by both teams. Quintana threw the ball really well, really solid. Six strong innings (of pitching) certainly gave us the chance to win it. Our batters have been swinging really well: we’ve been scoring 10, 11 runs in lots of games. We ran into some pretty good arms today and the bats just went a little silent.”

The two ball clubs went into Tuesday’s game with mirror opposite records — The Sharks at 10-6, the Mavericks at 6-10. After the Shark loss, the teams remain in second and third place, respectively, behind the first place Brockton Rox (13-5). These are the top three of five teams in the Eastern Division of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL), which has 10 teams overall. The FCBL is comprised of elite college athletes and games are played in a minor league format.

“You come to summer ball to get better, to prepare for your upcoming college season, and to get a chance for a scout to look at you,” Maverick Martin Tavares told The Times. “The league is awesome, the team is great, the people are great. It’s a good organization, and it’s fun to play for them.”

Shark relief pitcher Patrick Nicholson of Stonehill College added, “It’s a great experience. The FCBL is a pretty competitive baseball league and Martha’s Vineyard is probably one of the greatest spots in New England to play at.”

Fan and former Edgartown resident Matt Pierce comes to Sharks games because “it’s exciting to see the up-and-comers, someone that might be playing pro someday.” The Buchwald family, Tate, 9, Corbin, 11, and dad Joel, formerly of Vineyard Haven and now of Washington, D.C.,  really enjoyed themselves as well.

Joel said, “We’re having a great time and have spent a lot of money on food!” Son Corbin then proudly displayed the ball that was just autographed by many Sharks players.

“We are having a lovely evening,” said Lyra Paciello of Edgartown, who is host mom to Shark Kyle Brenner.

The younger fan set remains steadfast in the goal of pursuing foul balls. Six-year-old Isaac Lefebere of West Tisbury held two baseballs and declared the best part of Sharks games was “catching foul balls.” The Lefeberes are also a host family, to Sharks infielder Ross Danzig. Included on this foul ball bandwagon was Maggie Best, a third grader at The Oak Bluffs School who reported, “I like watching everybody chase foul balls.” She added that her favorite Sharks player is Tad Gold, but that “he will never be here again.” Gold was recently drafted by The Baltimore Orioles.

Next home game is Friday, June 27 at 7 pm versus The Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide. It is “Hot Dog Night” with a Buy-1-Get-1-Free promotion. Saturday, June 28, is another home game — and rematch versus The Mavericks — when mascot Sharkey will celebrate his birthday. Kids can run around the bases with Sharkey as a special birthday treat.