Navigant eliminates NEFL from playoffs

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New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 couldn’t find a way to produce runs, as it was swept and eliminated by Woonsocket’s Navigant Post 85 in the Senior American Legion quarterfinals last week.

Navigant right-hander Ben Aleixo tossed a gem in Game 1 of the best-of-3 series at Renaud Field on Thursday evening, with the recent Wheeler graduate firing a complete-game five-hitter with 12 strikeouts in a 4-0 Post 85 win.

NEFL right-hander Dave Simmons opposed Aleixo on the bump and threw well, allowing three earned runs over seven innings pitched.

The series then shifted to Rhode Island College for a win-or-go-home Game 2 for NEFL on Friday evening. Post 43 raced out to an early lead, but a four-run inning for Navigant in the top of the third guided it to a 4-2 victory, clinching a semifinal berth.

NEFL had its opportunities in Game 2, but lacked a game-changing hit. Overall, Post 43 out-hit Navigant, 10-5, but NEFL failed to record an extra-base hit, tallying 10 singles, whereas three of Navigant’s five hits were doubles.

After a scoreless first frame in Game 2, NEFL got on the board first in the bottom of the second, with Marcus Alexander ripping a one-out single off Navigant starter Joey Barter before coming in to score on a base knock by Jacob Paul two batters later, giving Post 43 the early, 1-0 edge. NEFL was threatening to add some more runs in the inning as Kevin Cox followed Paul with a single, but Evan O’Connor ripped a liner right at the shortstop to help Navigant escape the inning without further damage.

Navigant faced its first deficit of the series, but it wasn’t fazed, answering with four runs in the top of the third off NEFL starter Zachary D’Andrea.

Harrison Blais got things started with a leadoff walk. Austin Forget followed with a single, and Bryant University-bound Sam Owens drove Blais and Forget in with a double down the left field line to give Navigant its first lead of the game, 2-1.

Billy Butler followed Owens with another double down the left field line to plate Owens, and shortstop Evan Masse sprayed a double of his own to right field to score Butler and give Post 85 a 4-1 advantage.

D’Andrea would settle in after that third inning, shutting Navigant down over the next three innings while allowing NEFL’s offense a chance to get back in the game.

Post 43 got one back in the bottom of the fourth, when Alexander led off the inning with a single, and eventually came in to score on a sacrifice fly by Cox, making it 4-2.

NEFL put at least one base runner on in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings, but it couldn’t capitalize. It had its best chance to tie the game in the bottom half of the eighth when NEFL had the tying run on base, but Barter was able to work out of the jam, getting Cox to pop out to first base to keep Navigant’s lead at two.

NEFL right-hander Zach Odsen came in to relieve D’Andrea in the seventh, and he shut Navigant down the rest of the way, striking out one and not allowing a hit over those three frames.

Barter came out of the game following eight strong innings, as he allowed just the two earned runs while scattering 10 hits and striking out five. He was relieved by Hezekiah Adeyeye, who worked a perfect bottom of the ninth to secure the victory and the sweep for Navigant.

Post 85 will now move on to play Gershkoff, which upset South Kingstown in another quarterfinal series, in the semifinals at McCarthy Field in West Warwick. Game 1 will be played tonight, with Game 2 to follow tomorrow evening. Upper Deck and Riverside Post 10 will meet in the other semifinal series.

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