LACONIA — Laconia will be well represented at the NECBL All-Star Game, to be played July 20 in Holyoke, Mass. The Muskrats will be sending five members of this season's squad. Three of the four position players will be in the starting lineup. Matt Byrne (Iona) will start at second along with Braxton Martinez (St. Louis) at third, and Vinny Zarillo (Rutgers) in leftfield. Outfielder Colton Bottomley (Florida Gulf Coast) and pitcher Jack English (Florida Gulf Coast) will also be on the roster. "All five guys were very deserving. I'm excited from them to get the opportunity to play on that stage and be seen by MLB scouts," said Muskrats GM Noah Crane about the selections.
Byrne is hitting .342 with ten stolen basses and 14 runs scored on the year. Martinez has three homeruns; seven runs scored, 13 RBI, and is hitting a team leading .368. Zarillo, the Muskrats leadoff man, has a .333 average with 22 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, and 16 RBI. Bottomley is second on the team in batting average, hitting .342, while driving in a team leading 18 RBI. Closer Jack English has an earned run average of 1.22 with five saves and 27 strikeouts in 29 innings of work.
The Muskrats are in a three way race for the final two playoff spots in the division. Laconia is three and a half games behind the second place Sanford Mainers. The closer race is the third and fourth slots which are currently occupied by Laconia and Keene. Both teams have a 13-14 record and are holding on to the spots by a half a game over North Adams (13-15). "Being healthy is the most important aspect to a successful playoff run. If our roster remains intact we are going to be difficult to beat in a short series," said Crane. "This is the point in the season when teams start to see role players head home and starters getting injured. A team's standing can change wildly in the last two weeks."
The Muskrats had won back to back games before the rain came in this week and cancelled a pair. The first win took a few extra frames against the Valley Blue Sox. Ultimately the Muskrats prevailed with a four run 14th inning and three solid innings of relief from Mariano Rivera, Jr. (Iona). Laconia scored the four runs on six hits and a lot of small ball, starting with a leadoff single by Joey Bielek (Arizona St.). Bielek was driven home on Zarrillo's single to center, which proved to be the game winner.
The next day the Muskrats beat the visiting New Bedford 3-1. All three runs were scored in the third inning, highlighted by the Byrne's single that drove in two men. Shea Spitzbarth (Molloy College) earned the victory for Laconia, pitching seven innings giving up the only run while striking out eight.
Laconia was home last night, hosting Keene. The team will host North Adams tonight before heading out to face off against the Valley Blue Sox. Tuesday will see Laconia in North Adams for the second game out of the last three against a division foe fighting for the last playoff spot. "We play 15 games in 16 days to close the season. If we are going to make a move in the standings now is the time. We still have eight home games left and fans should come out and see this team play. We have a great mix of speed and power and really play quality defense," said Crane.