It was a long morning for the New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 American Legion team, as it suffered a 6-2 loss to Navigant Credit Union Fairmount Post 85 on Sunday at Warwick Vets.
NEFL hasn’t had many tough days this season, as it fell to 11-3 with the loss, but the showdown with Navigant – which improved to 12-4 – was a struggle, especially at the plate in big spots.
“We just couldn’t get the hit,” NEFL manager Dave McGuirl said.
NEFL had the bases loaded in four of the seven innings they batted (the second, third, fifth, and sixth innings, respectively), and failed to register a hit in any of the four crucial chances. And although the team’s only two runs came in bases-loaded situations – one on a walk in the second, another on a passed ball in the fifth – the lack of killer instinct with the bases loaded, combined with an effective fastball/curveball mix by Navigant starter Jon Flynn, doomed NEFL time and time again.
NEFL left 14 runners on base in total during the course of the game, a number McGuirl knew from past experience was in no way going to cut it against a good team. Navigant returned most of a roster that not only won the American Legion state championship last season, but defeated McGuirl’s NEFL team two times in the playoffs en route to the title.
Navigant currently has the third-best record in the state.
“At this level, when you can throw two pitches for a strike, you’re going to get kids out,” McGuirl said of Flynn.
And on a day when the team’s hitters were unable to put up a crooked number despite a plethora of base runners, the team’s pitching staff couldn’t keep it close.
NEFL’s starter, right-hander Branden Hoxsie, labored to record outs, allowing two base runners in the first frame before battling to escape without any damage. Unfortunately for NEFL, it was all downhill from there, as Hoxsie worked into jams in each inning and was unable to get himself out, allowing four runners to cross the plate in his first three innings of the day.
NEFL’s pitching continued to struggle into the later innings, as right-hander Shane Johnson was inserted and surrendered two more runs amid a performance where he threw hard, but struggled to locate.
Trailing in the game, and with Johnson’s pitch count rising, McGuirl actually turned back to Hoxsie, who, in a rarely seen turn of events, continued pitching as if he had never left the lineup, having moved to left field when Johnson relieved him.
Hoxsie returned to the mound for the seventh throwing almost strictly knuckleballs and, ironically, turned in his only clean inning of the day. Hoxsie finished the game in a show of toughness and allowed McGuirl to save his pitching staff for a packed upcoming week of games.
NEFL was scheduled to play Collette Vacations-Post 79 on Monday, with the results unavailable at press time. It is scheduled to host Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 today at 5:30 at Vets, before also playing Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday to finish the regular season.
Though disappointed by the loss, McGuirl pointed to fatigue being a factor, as the game against Navigant was NEFL’s fourth in four days, though he was wary of using the schedule as an excuse for his team’s poor play.
In the end, McGuirl took the long view of his team after the game, and though disappointed by the loss, seemed satisfied with his team thus far.
“We’ve won eleven out of our first fourteen,” McGuirl said. “If we win eleven out of the next fourteen, I’ll be very happy.”