09/03/2019 8:06 AM
By Joshua Kummins
The North Shore Navigators enjoyed one of their finest seasons as a Futures Collegiate Baseball League franchise in 2019, posting a 30-25 record and breaking a two-season playoff drought after spending the majority of the summer as one of the top two teams in the standings.
FCBL Manager of the Year Mike Odenwaelder (Amherst) led the team with great consistency throughout the 55-game schedule as it started the season with three consecutive wins and the best 10-game record (7-3) since 2013, posted two winning streaks of at least four games, and never lost more than three straight contests at any point. At the end of the regular season, the Navs were just 1.5 games out of first place and earned the No. 3 seed.
After winning 30 games for the first time since 2015, the Navs opened the playoffs with an 8-7 win over Nashua at Fraser Field. It was Logan Bravo’s (Harvard) three-run, seventh-inning home run that propelled North Shore to a dramatic win in the single-elimination contest, but it fell short against second-place Bristol in the three-game semifinal series that followed.
A rarity in summer collegiate ball, North Shore developed a core of position players that lasted from season’s beginning to end; five of the nine season-opening starters were also in the lineup when the schedule ended on August 4, helping to lead an offense that was one of the most potent in the FCBL. The Navs ranked second in the circuit with a .274 average, while franchise records were also set in runs scored (341), doubles (107), and slugging percentage (.411).
The All-FCBL postseason squads included four Navigator position players, but none were more valuable than outfielder Sean Lawlor (Flagler). North Shore’s first-ever MVP honoree, Lawlor hit .351 with a franchise-record 15 doubles and 111 total bases in 50 games, matched Bravo’s team record-tying eight homers, and finished one shy of the team RBI standard with 40. The rising senior led the Navs with 20 multi-hit games and 14 multi-RBI games while hitting in seven straight contests to end the year.
Joining Lawlor on the All-FCBL First Team was Marblehead native relief pitching linchpin Beau Dana (Dickinson). Dana matched the franchise record of 13 saves set by two-time former Division 3 All-American Speros Varinos (Tufts) in 2015. He led the league by four saves and struck out 31 batters over his 19.1 innings of work, becoming the first Navigator to earn FCBL Relief Pitcher of the Year honors since Varinos. The team was 16-2 in Dana’s 18 outings.
Two All-FCBL Second Team picks — Kade Kretzschmar (Dartmouth) and Ben Malgeri (Holy Cross) — regularly roamed the Fraser outfield with Lawlor and were also among the league’s batting leaders. The recipient of the FCBL’s Adam Keenan Sportsmanship and Scholarship Award and another Second Team All-Star, Danvers native Andrew Olszak (Southern Maine) was outstanding while playing four different defensive positions during his second year as a Navigator.
In total, a franchise record seven players represented the Navs in the All-Star Game at Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park. Odenwaelder managed the victorious Hillies, with Dana, Olszak, and Cam Seguin (UMass Lowell) on his side. All-Star rosters also included Lawlor, Malgeri, and the versatile duo of Colin Wetterau (St. John’s) and Tyler MacGregor (Columbia).
Following a 6-for-28 start, Kretzschmar hit safely in 26 of his last 30 games to reach third in the league in average (.348) and fourth in on-base percentage (.440). Malgeri hit .333 with 42 runs scored before going 6-for-16 in the playoffs. Olszak rounded out the team’s All-FCBL representation after recording 59 hits, including 13 doubles, in his league-high 209 at-bats.
Seguin recorded two strikeouts during his appearance en route to becoming the Most Outstanding Pitcher. He finished as North Shore’s leader in that category for the year, punching out 41 batters in 32.1 innings after graduating from Austin Prep. Another one of the team’s five rising UMass Lowell freshmen held down a regular infield spot in Keagan Calero, a .263 hitter who recorded 12 extra-base knocks and 21 RBI.
Injury cut MacGregor’s season to 23 games, but the St. John’s Prep product hit above .400 for half of June before finishing with a .384 clip and 22 RBI. Wetterau was a steady presence while either catching or playing first base or the outfield as he made just one error all season, caught seven attempted base stealers, and was fourth on the team with 33 runs scored.
Dominic Freeberger (UNC Asheville) also slotted into several different positions in addition to pitching three innings, posting a .291 average and 26 RBI before driving in a team-high five runs in the playoffs. He reached base in the first 23 games of the season and finished one stolen base shy of catcher/outfielder Nolan Watson’s (Dayton) team-leading 15. Freeberger also delivered the defensive highlight of the summer, using an outfield assist to turn a seventh-inning double play in the Bristol series opener.
Despite having to overcome numerous losses on the pitching staff due to injuries and pitch counts, North Shore held strong and allowed the third-fewest runs (295) in the FCBL during the regular season. The Navs pitched just one shutout during the summer, as Trystan Sarcone (Dartmouth) and Jake Gigliotti (Northeastern) combined on a July 4 six-hitter in Pittsfield, but 17 of their wins came in games decided by three runs or fewer.
While Seguin and Dana were All-Star representatives on the mound, Sebastian Keane (Northeastern) entered the summer as the most touted pitcher after the Boston Red Sox drafted him in the 11th round in June. After leading North Andover to the Super 8 championship and deciding to forgo professional opportunities for now, Keane struck out 14 batters in 9.2 innings for the Navs and was named the FCBL’s No. 3 prospect by Perfect Game after his five starts.
Ten different pitchers made double-digit appearances throughout the summer, but only Gavin Sullivan (Stetson) and James Flood (Siena) were exclusive starters in that group. The two right-handers tied for the team lead with five wins apiece in their 10 starts, with all of Flood’s triumphs coming in consecutive starts through mid-July. On July 25, Sullivan had a 10-strikeout performance over eight innings against Brockton.
Hunter Wilichoski (Northern Essex CC) earned a temporary contract after an early-season tryout and would ultimately be used more often than any other pitcher on the team, making 19 appearances out of the bullpen. He struck out 25 batters in 29.1 innings and finished the regular season with a 4-0 record, earning the win in his first three appearances during May and June.
Off the field, general manager Bill Terlecky announced his retirement at the end of the season. The 41-year baseball executive had led the Navs since 2012 and watched attendance grow each season during his tenure. In 2019, the Navs ranked 30th nationally in attendance among summer collegiate teams after 32,997 fans came through the gates at Fraser.
This past summer's players have returned to their respective colleges to begin another academic year. Preparations for another season of Navigators baseball in 2020 are now underway.