Peter Kelich struck out 10 during six shutout innings and the Newport Gulls scored a season-high 18 runs in an 18-1 victory over the Sanford Mainers in Game Three of the New England Collegiate Baseball League Eastern Division Semi-Finals at Cardines Field on Sunday, Aug. 5.
With the victory, the Gulls, the top seed in the Eastern Division, advance to face the New Bedford Bay Sox in the NECBL Eastern Division Championship Series. The three-game series will begin with the Gulls hosting the Bay Sox at Cardines Field on Monday, August 6. For the fourth-seeded Mainers, their season comes to an end with the loss.
Newport will send southpaw Michael Johnson (1-0, 3.79 ERA) to the mound for Game One. New Bedford, which swept the third-seeded Laconia Muskrats in the opening round, will counter with left-hander Brian Derner (3-1, 1.91 ERA).
Kelich was dominant in the series-clinching victory for the Gulls, surrendering just three hits while striking out a season-high 10 batters over six innings of work. Kelich retired 15 of the last 16 batters he has faced.
“I try to come out and do the same thing every time I throw,” said Kelich to Gulls broadcaster Nick Lima in a post-game interview. “I throw a lot of strikes, get ahead of batters, and if you do that you're going to be successful anywhere.”
The Gulls offense provided more than enough run support for Kelich, pounding out 18 runs on 22 hits – both numbers season-highs. Every Gull in the lineup except for one had a hit and seven players turned in multiple-hit efforts.
Second baseman Conor Keniry got the offense going by delivering an RBI sacrifice fly to centerfield with the bases loaded to give the Gulls the early lead in the bottom of the second inning.
The Newport Gulls tacked on a pair of runs in the third inning to extend their lead over Sanford to 3-0 on an RBI single by outfielder Kasey Coffman and an RBI double off the centerfield wall by designated hitter Brett Winger.
The turning point in the game came in the fourth inning on Coffman’s RBI single when outfielder Charlie White collided with Sanford catcher Nate LaPointe, who delivered the game-winning hit for the Mainers in Game Two. LaPointe finished the inning, but left with an apparent injury the following inning. Outfielder Will Cooper replaced LaPointe behind the plate, but struggled over the remainder of the contest.
Newport added two more runs in the fourth inning on RBI singles by catcher Jeff Melillo, the NECBL batting champion during the regular season, and Coffman to extend the lead to 5-0.
Third baseman Austin Slater blasted a two-run homer, his first of the postseason, in the fifth inning to give the Gulls a 7-0 lead. Slater’s blast chased Sanford starting pitcher Tripp Davis from the game. Davis took the loss after allowing seven runs, all earned, on 11 hits with a pair of walks and five strikeouts.
First baseman Steve Anderson launched a two-run homer to deep right off Sanford reliever Al Zeiher after a 14-pitch at bat in the bottom of the sixth inning to extend the Gulls lead to 9-0.
“The credit goes to our lineup and how hard these guys work for what happened tonight,” said Anderson. “We had a lot of good swings tonight, were seeing pitches well and we are going to try and keep it rolling tomorrow.”
Sanford finally got on the board in the seventh inning, plating a run on a two-out single by second baseman Jose Torralba, but it was too little to late to mount a rally.
The Gulls expanded their lead in the seventh inning when Slater launched his second homer of the contest, a solo shot to deep left. Slater had only one home run during the regular season. White added an RBI single back up the middle later in the inning before a two-run shot by pinch hitter, catcher Matt Pare, gave the Gulls a 13-1 lead and effectively ended any hope of a Mainer comeback. Newport tacked on five runs off a pair of Sanford relievers in the eighth inning.
Newport reliever Tanner Chleborad worked the final three innings, allowing just one run on three hits with four strikeouts, to pick up the save.
Newport will be back in action taking on the New Bedford Bay Sox in Game One of the NECBL Eastern Division Championship Series at Cardines Field on Monday, August 6. First pitch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
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