Harvard University sophomore Jake Berger hit a towering grand slam through the foggy mist in right field to key a six-run seventh inning as the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks defeated the Ocean State Waves, 8-3, in the New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL) home opener, Tuesday night in front of 1,100 fans at the Shark Tank in Oak Bluffs.
After rain suspended play in the season opener last Friday night in Mystic, Conn., and washed out the next date in Newport, R.I., the following night, the Sharks finally played a complete game, but it wasn’t easy. Dense fog started rolling into the Tank during the sixth inning, caused a short delay in the seventh, and passed through the outfield for the duration.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom half of the seventh, MV loaded the bases. Alabama Crimson Tider Tommy Seidl put the Sharks in front the hard way, getting hit by a pitch for the second time in the game, to score Kentucky Wildcat Drew Grace. Berger then cleared the bases, and UConn’s Matt Donlan crushed a ball to deep center field for another round-tripper to give the Sharks an 8-2 lead heading into the eighth.
The Waves, from South Kingstown, R.I., added a run in the eighth, and threatened in the ninth, but Berger stepped up again, this time with his glove, to make a leaping grab at shortstop and a laser throw to first for the double play. The next ball went to Seidl in centerfield, and the Sharks had a winning start to their second season in the NECBL, and 10th overall since starting in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League in 2011.
The teams were scoreless through three innings, but the Sharks got on the board in the fourth. Tommy Seidl ripped a leadoff double to left-center, advanced to third on a sac fly to right by Anthony Shaver, and scored with an aggressive charge to the plate following Jake Berger’s fly to center.
The Sharks doubled their lead in the bottom of the fifth after third baseman Will Duff (Vanderbilt) hit an RBI single to left, scoring Drew Grace. The Waves fought back to tie the game on singles by Griffin Merritt in the sixth and Alex Ramirez in the seventh.
Five pitchers took the hill for the Sharks on the night. Daniel Hegarty (University of Kansas) got the start, and threw three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and striking out two. Matt McMillan (University of Texas, Tyler) struck out four in two innings of work, Chase Nowak (East Stroudsburg University) worked the sixth and seventh innings, and picked up the win, Will Jacobsen (Harvard) pitched the eighth, and Bryce Jackson (Lander University) closed out the game in the ninth.
After playing in Bristol, Conn., on Wednesday night, the Sharks are back at the Tank on Thursday to take on the Danbury Westerners, starting at 6:30 pm. The Mystic Schooners visit the Island on Sunday night. The suspended game from June 4 will resume at 6 pm, with the Sharks up 3-0 in the bottom of the seventh inning. The new contest will follow shortly afterward.