New Hampshire Hardball

Swamp Bats claim NECBL title

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – For the fifth time in the 25-year history of the New England Collegiate Baseball League, the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup will reside in the Granite State.
The Keene Swamp Bats, who captured the Northern Division’s regular season title by the slimmest of margins just a week prior, concluded their summer with a nearly unblemished postseason run that ended with the organization’s fifth championship.
Keene swept the 2019 NECBL Championship Series over the darling of the tournament — and the season — the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, who proved they belonged among the New England League’s elite in their first season as a member of the NECBL. The Swamp Bats hoisted the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup for the fifth time in league history — the second-highest title total among all organizations, past and present — and took home the title for the first time in six years, with their most recent prior to this summer coming in 2013.
The journey to the title started with a wild divisional championship series against the two-time-defending-champion Valley Blue Sox, who refused to loosen their grip on what potentially could have been the league’s second-ever three-peat. It took a three-run rally in the bottom of the ninth to send Game 1 to extras before a walk-off base knock ended it.
After the Blue Sox forced the series to go the distance with a 1-0 victory in Game 2, Keene needed some more extra-inning magic to reach the championship series. Trailing by a run in the bottom of the 11th, the Swamp Bats strung together back-to-back run-scoring singles to rally back in walk-off fashion, sending the team to its seventh NECBL Championship Series.
There, they were greeted by an upstart Sharks squad that posted the best regular season record (28-16) on the way to winning the Southern Division title in their first NECBL season and, thus, earning home-field advantage for the finals. Martha’s Vineyard also had to grind out a three-game divisional championship series to reach the final round, turning away the Newport Gulls in the process.
The opening bout of the championship series proved to be a slugfest; Keene tacked on four runs in the top of the second before Martha’s Vineyard did likewise in the home half of the fourth. But the biggest blow came from the visitors in the top half of the seventh, as Keene exploded for seven runs to build a lead that proved insurmountable. The Sharks did get within two after scoring six more times thanks to a five-run eighth, but the Swamp Bats added two more insurance tallies on the way to an eventual 14-10 victory in the NECBL Championship opener.
With the win, Keene assured the Fay Vincent Sr. Cup would be at Alumni Field for Game 2, giving the Swamp Bats an opportunity to win the title in front of their faithful fanbase. Unlike Game 1, the offensive fireworks were far more subdued. In fact, all of the scoring in the deciding contest was funneled into the third inning.
Back-to-back bases-loaded walks plated a pair of runs for Martha’s Vineyard in the top half of the frame, giving the Sharks their first — and only — lead of the championship series. But that lead was short-lived; after a solo shot from infielder Kyle Ball (Stetson) brought the hosts within a run, outfielder David Matthews (CCSU) delivered the deciding blow on a three-run homer — his ninth of the summer and first of the postseason — to put Keene back ahead by a 4-2 margin.
That score would go unchanged the rest of the way. While Martha’s Vineyard did threaten often, loading the bases in the fourth and then putting two men on in the fifth, sixth and eighth innings, Keene’s pitching did not yield.
Starter and right-hander Marc Davis (Florida Southwestern State) pitched into the fifth, escaping that aforementioned bases-loaded jam before righty Jonathan Edwards (Georgia Southern) took over. Edwards would wind up as the winning pitcher, going the final 4-1/3 with an incredible 10 strikeouts and no hits yielded while navigating around four walks. Edwards would stay on in the top of the ninth and assured the most appropriate end to a championship season: three straight strikeouts.


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