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By: Caden Charpentier – Media Operations Coordinator
In a battle of two of the three best teams in the NECBL, Newport (20-11) rallied late for a thrilling one-run victory. Down to its final five outs, the Gulls scored four times in the bottom of the eighth to stun Bristol (22-8) at Cardines Field for a quality win over the West Division leaders. With the win, the Gulls extend their lead in the Coastal Division to 1.5 games, and only 2.5 games behind the Blues for the two seed in the NECBL. The league’s top two teams earn a first round bye through the Wild Card Round of the NECBL Playoffs.
Entering play Wednesday, Slate Alford was as hot as any player in the NECBL with 13 hits scattered across an eight-game hitting streak. The Mississippi State third baseman struck for another three-hit performance with his Bulldogs Head Coach, Chris Lemonis in attendance. With NECBL All Star voting on the horizon, Alford is hitting .516 with seven doubles and a home run to go with 13 RBIs over the past nine games. That includes extra-base hits in eight straight games within the nine-game hitting streak.
Alford’s double in the bottom of the eighth inning gave the Gulls the lead for the first time since the third inning, and is his 11 double of the summer, tied for third-best in the NECBL. Two batters later, Noah Martinez blasted a homer for the first time this summer, giving Newport a valuable insurance run to make it 6-3 on the solo home run.
With another two hits on the night, Colton Ledbetter moved just two away from tying for the league lead. The fellow Mississippi State Bulldog got started with an RBI double in the bottom of the first, notching his 30th RBI – a mark also good for second in the NECBL.
On the mound, Josh Grosz made his third bullpen appearance, and second against the Blues this summer. All three outings of relief have been scoreless for the East Carolina Pirate, who kept Newport in the game with 3.2 shutout innings of relief.
Bristol only managed five hits off the reliever, who struck out five batters in the process. Opponents are batting .147 against Grosz this season, as one of Newport’s top relievers with a 0.93 ERA across the summer. Texas Longhorn Daniel Blair finished the job in the top of the ninth, confirming the thrilling comeback win with a game-ending double play.
The 20th win of the season for Newport leads the Gulls into an off day tomorrow before returning to Cardines Field Friday. Newport plays host to the Danbury Westerners at 6:35 pm on Yalanis Health Management American Heroes Night. Newport looks for its third series sweep of the season and for its ninth straight win at home.