Martha’s Vineyard Snatches Series Split in Fog-Shortened Shootout

The past two NECBL champions, both first-time winners, combined for five runs in less than 150 minutes at the Roadhouse at Rogers Park on June 22. A little over 24 hours later, the two clubs dueled for almost three hours and brought 15 runners in, but in the clash of champions, Mother Nature got the last word. Even though they had runners on the corners and nobody out in the eighth inning, fog stopped the Danbury Westerners in their tracks, resulting in an 8-7 loss against the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks at the Shark Tank.

Danbury falls to 5-9 with the defeat, their fifth on the road and sixth in their last seven games, finishing 1-1 in the season series against the 2022 NECBL champions. Martha’s Vineyard picks up their second win in three contests and improves to 5-8 in the first leg of their three-game homestand.

Opening the bottom of the first with a single a day earlier, Javon Hernandez hammered a 1-0 pitch beyond the left field wall for his first homer since Opening Day to begin the game. Max Kaufer immediately tied the contest by hitting a shot that just beat Harrison Feinberg’s reach at the left field wall, but like the Westerners in the top half, the Sharks failed to add more runs with two aboard and two away.

Hernandez brought offense back into the fold with a first-pitch double that landed close to the same area where he homered in the third. Joey Rubin and Feinberg both walked to load the bases, and Luke Boynton, celebrating his 23rd birthday, smacked a 1-1 count close to the warning track for a three-run double.

Bradley Gagen relieved Martha’s Vineyard starter Jack Owens following that bases-clearing hit, leaving the Georgia State senior stranded on second with two groundouts and a strikeout. Matthew Semon ended up in the same boat in the bottom half as the Sharks loaded the bases with two walks and a single. Michael Snyder gave Martha’s Vineyard a run back with his single, and after Ryan McCoy tied the contest at four with a two-run double, manager Conor Farrell took Semon out of the game. Like Gagen did a frame earlier, Curtis Clark got out of the jam with three big outs.

Danbury got all of those runs back in the fourth, a complete 180 from the nightmares the team has experienced defensively in that inning in their previous two road contests. Hayden Miller walked on a full count and advanced to second on a sacrifice groundout, and with Rubin at the plate, the Charleston second baseman took home while Hernandez stole second base. Rubin joined Hernandez in scoring position with a steal of his own, and Feinberg immediately followed suit with a two-run single for another three-run lead.

Following two 1-2-3 frames, the Sharks wasted no time cutting into the deficit in the bottom of the fifth as the fog gradually started to roll into the Shark Tank. Clark struck McCoy out swinging, but Snyder doubled on the next pitch as the struggles to find the ball in the outfield began. Jayden Hylton singled the Louisville first baseman home not long after he stole third, subsequently swiping two bags with Caden Shapiro at the dish before he walked to take Clark out of the game.

Striking out five Westerners on the mound the day before, Demitri Diamant singled in Hylton on an 0-2 count against George Viebrock III to cut the deficit to one, advancing to third as two walks loaded the bases. Martha’s Vineyard had a prime chance to tie the game again facing a full count, but joyful cheers turned to frustrated boos after Kaufer struck out on a swing checked by the first base umpire.

Incensed about not scoring the tying run and keeping the Danbury offense scoreless in the top of the sixth, the Sharks did not wait long to score their seventh run. Snyder doubled again as the fog got denser in the outfield, and facing an 0-2 count, Hylton hit the game-tying single. The Stetson right fielder stole two more bases but remained stranded at third when Gio Colasante struck out swinging.

Roman DiGiacomo remained on first the following half-inning, and John Rizzo came out of the bullpen for the first time, trying to keep the contest deadlocked at seven in the seventh. The Adelphi righty got off to a rocky start when Shapiro walked on four straight and Kaden Martin singled when Feinberg could not see the ball amidst the fog to put runners on the corners with one down. Nathan Hall capitalized on the opportunity two batters later with an RBI single to put Martha’s Vineyard ahead for the first time all evening.

Billy Gerlott reached in the eighth after getting hit by a pitch, going from first to third when multiple fielders lost Miller’s fly ball in the dense fog and bright lights. After that crazy play, the umpires and both managers met close to home plate and called a 14-minute fog delay. Before that delay concluded, however, the umpires and coaches reconvened, ultimately deciding to call the game early in the Sharks’ favor, much to the dismay of the visiting Westerners.

Rizzo picked up his third loss after surrendering what ultimately became the game-winning run in the seventh. Jack Beauchesne earned his first win of the summer as the last Martha’s Vineyard pitcher on the mound in the fog-shortened game.

Despite the tough and earlier-than-expected finish, Danbury has a short turnaround from the Vineyard as they host the Upper Valley Nighthawks (7-4) on June 24 at Rogers Park. The Nighthawks swept the Westerners in their head-to-head matchups in 2022, and they currently possess one of the NECBL’s top records a quarter into the 2023 season. Ryan Delorbe, a southpaw from the University of New Orleans, makes his season debut on the hill with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m.


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