Merchants top Americans in slugfest, 16-9

Jul 13, 2018 by

SCOTT SEARLES drove in three runs in last night’s Intercity League win in Melrose. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Published in the July 13, 2018 edition.

By DAN BYRNE

MELROSE—Thursday was a beautiful night for baseball down at Morelli Field in Melrose for the Intercity League matchup between the Melrose Americans and the Wakefield Merchants.

The fans who turned up got to see a slugfest, as both teams belted out 11 hits, as the Merchants topped the Americans by a 16-9 final score.

Wakefield jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first after the first three batters reached base safely. Bobby Losanno led things off with a double before being balked over to third. Dillon Koster singled him home and it was 1-0 before an out was recorded. Koster then stole 2nd base and moved to 3rd when the Melrose second baseman missed the throw. Ryan Collins worked a walk to make it 1st and 3rd with nobody out, then Anthony Cesere popped to third for the first out of the inning. Designated Hitter Scott Searles followed with a single to score Koster and Collins moved to third. Wakefield native Paul McGunigle poked a 1-out grounder to 2nd to score Collins on the fielder’s choice, before Melrose pitcher and Wakefield High alumni Shawn Smeglin struck out Brendan Barry to retire the side.

“Nothing’s easy over here; it’s a short field, the hitters seem like they have the advantage,” Merchant’s Manager Dave Ellegood said after the game.

“No lead is safe. I told them, we’re just going to have to grind it out. The way we came back and battled tonight, we could have gave up and we didn’t.”

In the bottom of the 1st, Melrose got the three runs back quickly. Dom Nardone was on the hill for the Merchants, and he had a storm of trouble in the first few innings. After allowing back to back singles to lead off the inning, Nardone struck out the number 3 hitter Chris Hopkins, to bring up the catcher John Jennings. The Umass Amherst product connected with a Nardone pitch and sent it sailing over the leftfield fence, tying the game in one swing. Nardone came back and got two of the next three hitters to bounce harmlessly to 2nd, sandwiching a walk between them, and escaping with the score tied at 3 runs each.

Wakefield had a threat in the top of the 2nd when Mike Manoogian ripped a one-out double, but Smeglin got the next two hitters to retire without allowing Manoogian to score.

Nardone got back on the hill and made quick work of Kyle Cortese, getting the first batter to ground out to third. Melrose then had their next three batters reach by way of a single, a walk, and a 2-rbi single by Casey Santos-Ocampo. Nardone then got Hopkins to bounce back to the mound, bringing up Jennings. For the 2nd time in two innings, Jennings got the better of Nardone, this time knocking an rbi single to make it 6-3 Americans. Nardone would retire the next batter to bring the Merchants back up to hit.

Wakefield’s third inning produce a run without virtue of a hit, as Smeglin allowed 4 walks in the inning. The inning was marked with a moment of controversy as Anthony Cesere rocked a 1-0 pitch from Smeglin down the rightfield line. It looked to be a home-run, hooking right well after clearing the wall in fair territory, but after a moments delay the home plate umpire called it a foul ball. Cesere got back up and worked a walk, as did the next batter Searles, as Smeglin, who has been enjoying a great season so far including being named to the Intercity League All-Star team, continued to struggle with command.

Smeglin rebounded in the 3rd, getting McGunigle to strike out and Barry to pop to right, but he wouldn’t be long for the game.

Nardone allowed another run on back to back singles and recorded two outs in the bottom of the third before he was lifted by the manager, Ellegood. Greg Johnson took over with two on and two out, and got the final out of the inning without any additional damage.

Wakefield looked to get back into the game in the top of the 4th with Smeglin still struggling to find his groove for the Americans. Three straight walks and a hit batsman led to the first of 6 Merchants runs and saw the end of the line for Smeglin.

“Melrose is a good team, they can swing it. I knew we needed to get to their bullpen,” Ellegood said after the game.

Brent Greely took over on the hill with a 7-4 lead and struck out the first batter he faced before allowing a single to McGunigle to load the bases. After Brendan Barry made the inning’s 2nd out, Joe Barry cleared the bases with a triple, then scored on a wild pitch to give Wakfield a 10-7 lead. The inning ended, but reset button had been pressed.

In the bottom of the 4th, an error, a double and two walks saw a pair of runs cross the plate and Melrose cut the lead to 10-9. The Americans were in line for more runs, but Johnson got helped by a huge 4-6-3 double play and came back to strike out the final batter.

Bobby Losanno led off the top of the 5th with a home run to extend the lead to 11-9. Dillon Koster followed with a double before Ryan Collins reached on an error and Cesere rocked a double to score Koster and Collins. Searles struck out, but McGunigle and Brendan Barry reached base. Cesere scored on a passed ball, before Joe Barry had another base hit. Manoogian worked a walk and in his 2nd AB in the inning, Losanno lifted a sac fly to centerfield. Koster singled to score a run for his 2nd hit of the inning, before Collins struck out to retire the side. After the 5th, Wakefield led 16-9.

Johnson didn’t allow a run in the 5th or 6th innings, striking out the side in the 5th and two in the 6th. He finished with a line of 3.1 innings pitched allowing 2 runs, 1 earned, on 1 hit, walking two and striking out 6.

“Greg came up huge there and kind of settled down for those three innings, he was a little shaky but he knuckled down and when he needed to throw a shutout he did,” Ellegood said of the winning pitcher, Johnson.

Wakefield High product Andrew Auld, who just returned from six months of training at the National Guard Academy, took the hill for the Merchants in the 7th, working a perfect inning and sealing the victory.

“It’s nice to have Andrew, he’s a big pick up for us,” the manager said.

“It was a big win,” Ellegood said, remarking on the impact in the standings.

Wakefield came in having beat Malden the previous night, and pulled within a point of Melrose in the standings with the win.

They’ll be back in action on Sunday afternoon for a double header at Walsh Field, the first game is a 2 p.m. start against the Somerville Royals before game 2 tentatively penciled in for a 4 p.m. start against the Americans.

“We have a big weekend ahead of us, but nothing is easy,” ended Ellegood.

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