The top-seeded Martha’s Vineyard Sharks and No. 2 Newport Gulls opened up the best-of-three New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) Southern Division finals Sunday night in front of 1,469 fans at the Shark Tank who saw some dandy pitching from both teams.
Sharks starter Bryan Ketchie from Catawba College brought his best stuff, allowing five hits, striking out six, and walking none through eight innings to earn the win, and Thomas Spinelli came on in the ninth and closed the deal as the Sharks took game one, 2-1.
The start of the game was delayed 50 minutes by a heavy shower, but the rest of the evening moved along briskly. Ketchie put the Gulls down 1, 2, 3, in each of the first three innings, and Newport starter Dillon Brown was nearly as tough. Jackson Raper doubled in the first, Brady Slavens singled in the second, and the Sharks threatened with two base runners in the third inning on an error and a walk, but Brown came up with two strikeouts to survive unscathed.
In the top of the fourth, Newport got its first hit and only run, as Scott Holzwasser hit a majestic home run to left center. Greg Cavaliere followed with another long ball, but Sharks left fielder Collin Shapiro made a tremendous catch, falling hard into the wall to keep the score at 1-0.
The Sharks came back quickly, tying the game in the home half of the fourth. Nander De Sedas worked a stellar nine-pitch at-bat to draw a leadoff walk, and Brown’s control began to falter with a pair of wild pitches and another walk to Anthony Videtto. Brady Slavens came to the plate and hit the first pitch to left for an RBI single, scoring De Sedas. That was it for Brown. Newport brought in southpaw Garrett Schmeltz, who did a great job pitching out of the jam without further damage. Over the next five innings, Schmeltz allowed two hits while fanning six and walking two.
The two hits Schmeltz conceded came in the fifth as the Sharks scored what would be the winning run. Jackson Raper reached on a single, Alan Burnsed was hit by a pitch, and Nander De Sedas smacked a standup double to left field, scoring Raper to make it 2-1.
Newport loaded the bases on consecutive singles with one out in the sixth, but De Sedas snared a liner at short and doubled up the runner at second to end the threat.
In the Sharks’ seventh, it was Newport’s turn to flash some glove. With Alan Burnsed and Anthony Videtto on base, Gulls center fielder Greg Cavaliere robbed Brady Slavens of extra bases by sprinting toward the wall and grabbing the ball out of the air on the warning track.
Bryan Ketchie closed out his eight innings in style by setting the Gulls down in order. On his last pitch, he fanned Scott Holzwasser with a nasty yakker, and the slugger reacted by breaking the bat over his knee on the way back to the dugout.
Thomas Spinelli took over in the ninth, and put the Gulls away with a 4-3 grounder and two swinging strikeouts.
The series moves to Newport, R.I., for game two on Monday, with game three, if necessary, back at the Shark Tank on Tuesday at 7 pm.