By BRIAN JENNINGS
After coming off of their longest winning streak on the season thus far, the Bristol Blues (16-10) kept up their hot play with four more wins and only two losses this past week, remaining in first place of the West Division by going 8-2 in their last 10 games.
The Blues’ four-game winning streak from the week before was snapped on Tuesday, June 30 at Muzzy Field when they hosted the first-place Marthas Vineyard Sharks (16-8) of the East Division in a 6-2 loss.
The Sharks drew blood first with a run in the opening inning and wouldn’t surrender the lead or be tied for the rest of the game. The Blues’ only two runs came in the fourth and eighth inning.
Gerrad Rohan scored Davis Strong on a base hit in the fourth and Zach Scott scored Griffin Garabedian on a double in the eighth. Garabedian led the Blues at the plate with two of the team’s seven hits.
George Lund was given the loss going six innings with six strikeouts, allowing seven hits and five runs (two earned).
The next morning, the Blues hosted the Sharks again, but this time the contest would be much closer.
Again, the Sharks scored first with two runs in the opening inning to take a 2-0 lead. The Blues were able to go ahead 4-2 by putting up a run from the second to the fifth inning. The Sharks would answer back though with three runs in the sixth, but the Blues would close out the game with a double by Scott that scored Christian Budzik and Tyler Roberts.
Scott finished with two of the Blues’ seven hits and two RBIs.
Dominic LoBrutto started the game on the mound and went five and a third innings with four strikeouts, allowing six hits, five runs (two earned), but it was Riley Streit that would get the win. Streit went two thirds of an inning with a strikeout, allowing a hit. Robert Paccione closed the game out and got the save with two strikeouts and no hit or runs allowed.
On Thursday, the Blues headed up to Leary Field in Portsmouth, NH to take on the Seacoast Mavericks (9-15).
The Mavericks jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first inning, but the Blues answer back with a run in the second and a run in the fifth to tie the game at 2-2. In the eighth with runners on second and third and two outs, Strong delivered for the Blues by scoring Scott from third base for the go-ahead winning run on an error made by the third baseman.
Strong went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, two runs, and a walk as a part of the Blues’ six hits. Kyle Dube picked up the win on the mound by going seven innings with four strikeouts, allowing five hits, three walks, and two earned runs.
Ty Robinson was credited with the save going two innings with four strikeouts and allowing one walk and no hits.
The next night, the Blues returned to Muzzy Field and were shut out for the third time this season in a 3-0 loss to the Pittsfield Suns (13-10).
The Suns scored runs in the second, eighth, and ninth inning. Rohan, Austin Chauvin, and Ryan Rinsky had the only three hits for the Blues. Troy Terzi was given the loss, going six innings with four strikeouts and allowing five hits, a run, and a walk.
The Blues returned with a bang on the Fourth of July by recording their first winning shutout of the season in a 7-0 home victory over the North Shore Navigators (16-10).
The Blues started the damage with two runs in the third and scored a run in every inning after that, but the last. Chauvin sparked the offense by going 3-for-3 at the plate with two runs and a walk. Strong followed by going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run.
Tim Cate pitched the win for the Blues and threw eight strikeouts, allowing just two walks and a hit in front of the Blues’ biggest crowd (2,224).
On Sunday, the Blues maintained control of the West Division with a 4-1 home win against the Suns.
With a 2-1 lead after the fourth inning, the Blues put the game out of reach with a RBI single from Chauvin that scored Jamie Timothy in the seventh and a RBI single from Roberts that scored Liam Scafariello in the eighth.
Ryan Lauria started the game on the mound and went four innings with five strikeouts. Coming into the game, Lauria had only pitched one inning for the Blues on the season back on June 23 at North Shore. Lauria underwent Tommy John surgery in May of last year, but has been making some big strides to recovery.
“I thought he did an exceptionally good job,” said Blues coach Barry Lyons. “We knew when he came here that he’s working his way back from Tommy John surgery. We have been working with him on the side. Patrick Riley our pitching coach has been working with him. He’s gotten better each time he’s had the chance to throw on the mound. He did a great job today.”
Rayne Supple picked up the win, going three innings with a strikeout and allowing two hits and two walks. Paccione earned his fifth save on the season, going two innings with a strikeout and allowing no hits or runs.
With catcher Bryan Dromerhauser currently out with an injury, Stephen Octave started in his first home game at Muzzy Field behind the plate for the Blues. Octave went 2-for-4 in the game and Lyons said that Octave has bided his time and has continued to work hard.
“He’s gotten better every time that he’s caught,” said Lyons. “Today was his best game all around. He played solid defense behind the plate and he’s getting quicker in his release when he throws. It’s by design, not by accident. He’s working hard and we’re giving him the information and a chance to play. That’s what this league is all about.”
The Blues currently sit atop the West Division a game and a half in front of the Suns and four games ahead of the Torrington Titans (11-13).
Chauvin leads the Blues with a batting average of .333, and Strong leads with with four homeruns and 15 RBIs. Cate leads the Blues and the league with four wins as a pitcher. Cate also leads the Blues with 28 strikeouts. Lund leads the Blues with an ERA of 1.64 in 22 innings pitched.
“I told them when we were 8-8 that spring training was over,” said Lyons. “It’s time to start performing. We’re getting better at every aspect of our team and every component of winning baseball. That’s why you see the W’s in the win column. Our guys have played better and worked harder. They’re getting in a groove. Pitching has been pretty solid all year, our hitting has been sporadic, and our defense has been good for the most part. Our hitting is coming together now as we’re collecting more hits and getting more runners on base. We’re still not getting that two-out hit with men on base as often as I would like, but we’re getting better in all areas of the game.”
Sage honored by Blues on July 4
The newest member of the Blues’ roster, three-year-old Arley Sage, was honored before the Fourth of July baseball game. Arley was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer of the muscles, on April 25, 2014. Arley was officially named a Blue on Saturday and will be a member of the team for the remainder of the season.
Lyons said that he is very proud of his players for reaching out to the community and also was happy to have the opportunity to meet Arley at the game on Saturday.
“Having Arley as a member of our team is a great tribute to her,” said Lyons. “Certainly our prayers, hopes, and good wishes are with her. She’s an inspiration. She’s a strong little girl. We’re thankful and happy that we can offer encouragement and have her be involved with us.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.