Despite jumping out to an early lead – and holding it until the eighth inning – the Newport Gulls dropped Game One of the NECBL Southern Division Championship Series to the Mystic Schooners last night, 7-5 the final at Fitch Field in Groton, Connecticut.
The Gulls, who appeared to be cruising to a Game One victory for much of the contest, now look to force Game Three with a win tonight at 6:35 p.m. vs. Mystic at Cardines Field in Newport.
The Schooners, who managed a league-high seven runs per game during the regular season, came to the life against the Gulls in the later innings last night, taking advantage of defensive miscues and picking up clutch two-out hits.
Newport’s Stephen Scott got the scoring going in the top of the first inning, when he hit a solo homer to right field to give the Gulls and starting pitcher Adam Wolf a 1-0 lead. But Mystic responded quickly in the second, when Martin Figeuroa would lead-off the inning with a bomb of his own to straight-away center, evening the score at 1-1.
The Gulls capitalized on a Schooners error in the third that allowed Cole Fabio to reach. Following a Mark Powell walk issued by starter Kyle Dube, Scott was the difference maker again, sending a single to the outfield to score Fabio and give Newport a 2-1 lead.
Newport added a run in the fourth on a Travis Young sacrifice fly that scored Trey Harris, but Mystic responded in the fifth thanks to a two-out walk and a trio of wild pitches from Wolf, closing the score to 3-2. Newport’s Connor Kaiser added a pair to Newport’s total with a monster two-run homer to left field in the seventh.
But the Gulls 5-2 lead wouldn’t hold. In the seventh, Mystic loaded the bases off of Newport reliever Matt Murphy on two singles and a walk, before Ryan Ramiz hit a two-run single to make the score 5-4. In the eighth, with Kris Bubic on the bump, a Harris throwing error allowed Chase Lunceford to reach second. Both he and Aaron Hill came around to score the tying and go-ahead runs on a Brett Bond two-run double that was crushed to center, hitting inches from the top of the fence.
Mystic tacked on insurance thanks to a Casey Baker RBI-double, taking a 7-5 lead into the ninth for closerMason Kukowski, who sat the Gulls down in order.
Tonight, the Gulls take on the Schooners in Game Two at Cardines Field in Newport at 6:35 p.m. Gates open at 5 as the Gulls look to force Game Three, which would be played back in Mystic on Monday.
Newport will send right-hander Paul Campbell to the mound, a junior from Clemson and Revere, Massachusetts, who owns a 1.50 ERA and no record in two games (one start) in the regular season for Newport. Campbell was picked up by the Gulls after being released in July by the Winnipesaukee Muskrats, where he was 0-1 with a 2.84 ERA in six games, two of them starts. In the playoffs, he earned the save in Game Three on Friday night in Newport against the Danbury Westerners.
The Schooners will counter with righty Justin Cashman, who owns a 1-2 record on a 4.15 ERA in 11 games, three of them starts. The sophomore out of Hartford and Rowley, Massachusetts is making his postseason debut, and has a 16/13 strikeout to walk ratio.
The Schooners last made it to the NECBL Championship Series in 2015, sweeping the Gulls in the division finals before falling in three games to the Vermont Mountaineers. Newport swept the league finals in 2012 against Danbury and in 2014 versus the Sanford Mainers; they were defeated in three games by the Keene Swampbats in 2013.
The Mainers and the Valley Blue Sox open up their Northern Division Championship Series tonight, the winner of which will play either Newport or Mystic later this week for the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup.
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