NEFL sprinting to the finish line
In the hottest week of the year, New England Frozen Lemonade/Shields Post 43 was on the field nearly every day as it finishes out the American Legion regular season with 11 games in 11 days.
“Everybody’s tired and it’s been so hot,” said manager Dave McGuirl.
But NEFL sure doesn’t look worn out.
After a loss to Navigant Credit Union last Sunday, NEFL reeled off seven straight victories. It was set to close out the season on Monday against Providence, with results unavailable at press time, but that game won’t have an impact on the standings. At 18-3, NEFL has already clinched the top seed for the playoffs.
“The kids have played really well,” McGuirl said. “They’re a good group of kids and they show up ready to play every game. They really like each other and have a good time together. It was a good week.”
NEFL’s week began with the loss to Navigant, the defending state champions. The 7-2 margin was also the biggest of NEFL’s three losses, but there was little cause for concern.
NEFL knew it had a big stretch ahead – and it was ready.
The team shut-out both Collette Vacations and Gershkoff Auto Body/Auburn Post 20 to get things started. On Thursday and Friday, NEFL posted blowout wins over Providence Post 56. Then over the weekend, NEFL won a pair of one-run games and a 6-1 game on its way to a sweep over East Bay/Riverside Post 10.
“We’ve been playing pretty much every day but the kids stayed up for every game,” McGuirl said.
Ryan Charette continued his dominant summer on the mound with the shutout of Collette. He allowed just two hits in seven innings.
“He’s been great the whole season,” McGuirl said. “He throws strikes and we made all the plays behind him.”
Nick McGuirl and Ryan Rotondo backed Charette with an RBI single each.
NEFL returned to the field the next day to take on rival Gershkoff. The week before, things got chippy between the teams in a Gershkoff victory. This time, NEFL rolled, winning 10-0. T.J. Boyajian went 2-for-3 with three RBI, Branden Hoxsie went 2-for-3 with two RBI and Nick McGuirl went 2-for-4 with two RBI. Danny Greaves also had two hits. On the mound, Andrew Bracken went 4.1 strong innings before James Meizoso finished it off. The game ended after five innings due to the mercy rule.
“That was a good win,” Dave McGuirl said. “Our team was so fired up after the loss to them. They came out swinging the bats.”
NEFL followed up the shutouts with easy wins over a struggling Providence Post 56 team. In an 11-1 victory on Thursday, NEFL got four RBI from Rotondo and two from Meizoso. Greaves pitched five strong innings, striking out eight and walking only one.
On Friday, NEFL beat Providence 9-1. Rotondo had three more hits and two RBI, while Boyajian had two hits and two RBI. Mike Mallozzi also drove in two runs. On the mound, Steve Noti have up one run in 3.2 innings. Branden Hoxsie and Rotondo finished it off.
Over the weekend, NEFL swept its series with division rival East Bay/Riverside Post 10, starting with a 2-1 win on Saturday. James Meizoso scattered six hits and gave up just one run to pick up the victory. Shawn Clayton led the offense with an RBI.
It was more of the same Sunday. Charette cruised again in the first game, and NEFL’s offense delivered its best showing of the three-game set with six runs on eight hits.
In game two, Hoxsie – who was pitching on three days’ rest – gutted out a solid performance in a 5-4 NEFL victory.
“He’s such a competitor,” McGuirl said. “He got us through it.”
NEFL’s big week has earned the team some much-needed rest. While most of the teams in the league will battle through a three-game series at the end of this week, NEFL will have a bye to the double-elimination final eight at McCarthy Field.
Despite the hot streak, NEFL won’t get ahead of itself. Last year, it was the top seed but lost its playoff opener and couldn’t get all the way back.
“We were here last year and we ended up losing,” McGuirl said. “We don’t want to let that happen again.”
Three other teams will receive byes. Northern division leader Upper Deck has the inside track at one, as does Southern division leader R&R Construction. The fourth bye goes to the non-division leader with the next-best record. Navigant Credit Union and Senerchia Post 74 are fighting for that spot.