The energy was electric on Tuesday night as fans poured into the Shark Tank to watch their team take on the Danbury Westerners for the southern division championship. The series was tied 1-1 and the outcome would decide who would earn the right to play against the Northshore Navigators for the league championship.

The hard fought game showcased two evenly matched teams but in the end the Westerners prevailed 7-5. Westerners firepower at the plate combined with critical errors by the Sharks in the late innings proved fatal for the Island team.

Starting Sharks pitcher Will Greer looked good under pressure, racking up seven strikeouts in his five innings on the mound. But Nicholas Lorusso of the Westerners drew first blood, hitting his first of his two home runs at the top of the 2nd inning. The Sharks responded with an RBI single from Antony Shaver in the bottom half of the inning.

Lorusso’s second home run came at the top of the 4th, and at the top of the 5th fellow Westerner Jack Payton connected for a home run.

Big bats from the Westerners proved to be too much. — Mark Alan Lovewell

At the end of the 4th inning, the Westerners led 3-2, but the Sharks came alive in the bottom of the 5th. Anthony Shaver scored on an RBI single from Jaydn Jackson who then scored himself when Mike Brown hit a two-out double to put the Sharks in the lead with a score of 4-3. Will Duff continued the momentum with an RBI single to right field, and the crowd erupted, chanting, “Let’s go Sharks!” as the loudspeaker played the Jaws theme.

The Sharks maintained their 5-3 lead for the next few innings, but then the Westerners slowly started to gain ground in the 8th. With relief pitcher Riley Phillips on the mound for the Sharks, the Westerners put down two perfectly executed bunts from Jake Roper and Matt Zaffino after a lead-off single from Lorusso. Stepping up to the plate with the bases loaded and no outs, Henry Strmecki’s single scored a run, putting the Westerners within reach. Strmecki was a force during the series, having hit a grand slam and a home run in game one. A single from Sebastian Murillo tied the game 5-5.

The Sharks were shut down in the 8th by Noah Jensen who notched three strikeouts for the Westerners. Alex Galvan took the mound for the Sharks in the 9th inning. An infield error and two passed balls let the Westerners coast to a 7-5 lead. Despite the encouraging cheers from the hometown crowd, the Sharks were not able to battle back in the bottom of the 9th.

Stands have been packed all summer long. — Mark Alan Lovewell

As per tradition all summer long, the field did not only belong to the players. In between innings, younger fans ran around the baseball diamond, playing games like the “Sharky Scramble” and racing to put on a full Sharks uniform as fast as possible. In the stands, die-hard fans and host families cheered their boys on, having fueled them all sumer long with Island hospitality and home-cooked meals.

After the game, the Sharks huddled for one last time as the fog rolled in from the outfield. After the coaching staff addressed the team, the players lined up to greet fans and sign autographs— just like they have been doing all summer long. And despite the loss, everyone was smiling.