Joseph Gravellese, North Shore Navigators Sports Information Department
St. Mary’s survived a 5-run 7th inning rally to squeeze by North Reading, 9-8, and take home the title in the 28th annual “Nipper” Clancy Memorial Tournament at Fraser Field. Ryan Beliveau starred for the Spartans on the hill and at the plate, pitching 6 innings to earn the victory and stroking a 2-run double in the top of the 7th to provide St. Mary’s with crucial insurance runs.
Beliveau’s double was part of a 3-run 7th inning for St. Mary’s, which at the time extended their lead to a seemingly insurmountable 9-3. But in the home half of the 7th, North Reading strung together four consecutive base hits to make it 9-5 and chase Beliveau from the game.
Relief pitcher Nick Conti struggled to close out the game, giving up two more hits to cut the lead to 9-8. But with the bases loaded and 1 out, Conti got Michael Enright and Brian O’Neil to fly out, nailing down the victory for St. Mary’s.
“[Beliveau]’s done it all year for us,” said St. Mary’s coach Derek Dana after the game. “He’s gotten better and better. He battles. He doesn’t give in, he never gives up, and he held them down for as long as he could. I’m very proud of him.”
Joe Kasabuski earned tournament MVP honors, reaching base 8 times, driving in 5 runs, and scoring 4 times on the weekend. “He’s struggled at the plate all year, but he knows that hard work will get him through it, and that’s exactly what got him through it and led to his success,” said Dana.
Dana also reflected upon the importance of winning the historic Clancy Tournament. “Fraser Field and Nipper Clancy mean a great deal to me. I’d love to win this tournament every single year.”
The event is a yearly tradition at Lynn’s Fraser Field. The venerable ballpark is currently undergoing a facelift in preparation for the upcoming inaugural season of the North Shore Navigators, which begins on June 7. The Navigators are the newest member of the 12-team New England Collegiate Baseball League, an elite, wood-bat summer league featuring some of the best college players from around the country.
Evidence of the Navigators’ presence exists all around the historic ballpark. A brand new ‘Home of the North Shore Navigators’ sign hangs behind section G. The new electronic scoreboard is up and operating in right centerfield. Team staff members were visible during the tournament in their blue Navigators polo shirts, hawking concessions, selling tickets, and manning the press box. And the outfield fence, bare since the departure of the North Shore Spirit in September, is now adorned with the logos of three principle sponsors of the Navigators: Willow Labs, Old Neighborhood Foods, and Equitable Bank.
Navigators owner Phil Rosenfield called the Clancy Tournament his “shakedown cruise,” using the day as a dry run for his game day operations staff. “We got to see how things are going to operate in a game environment… we’ll learn from what we did today and make adjustments where necessary. Overall, things went very well. I feel very comfortable about the results of this tournament from our perspective.”
Frank Carey, the Navigators’ director of baseball operations and coach of runner-up North Reading, is excited about the future for Fraser Field’s newest tenant. “I think it’s going to be a good summer… It seems like today was a good test run for the organization, getting all of the pieces in place.”
St. Mary’s victory in the title game capped a doubleheader at Fraser, as Lynn Classical topped Lynn English 11-6 in the consolation game. The Rams were fueled by second baseman Dan Richard, who went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles, 2 runs scored, and a run batted in.
Classical set the tone by batting around and scoring seven runs in the first inning. The Bulldogs fought back with two runs in the first and four runs in the third, but the Rams put it away with a four-run fourth inning.
“I talked to the seniors yesterday and told them that this is our last game together and they had to leave everything on the field,” said Classical coach Mike Zukowski, whose Rams failed to qualify for the state tournament. “They did just that. They hit the ball well, they fielded well. The seniors picked everything up and ended their season on a high note.”
Zukowski also spoke highly about the value of Fraser Field to the local baseball scene. “I played at Fraser Field in high school. All three of my coaches played at Fraser. The history is unbelievable – Harry Agganis, Tony Conigliaro, Ted Williams. The field itself is a legacy. These kids should be honored to play here every time they step on the field.”
Fraser Field now awaits the Navigators’ opener, scheduled for June 7 when North Shore will take on the defending NECBL champion Vermont Mountaineers. The game will be followed by a fireworks display. Fans will have the opportunity to “Meet the Navigators” on June 4, when the players will appear at Chick-Fil-A in the North Shore Mall.
Fans can access more details about the team and upcoming events at the Navigators’ official website, www.nsnavs.com.