By BRIAN JENNINGS
The No. 2 seeded Bristol Blues (36-25) capped their inaugural season with a run throughout the 2015 FCBL Playoffs that reached all the way to the final game of the championship series. The Blues took the No.6-seed Worcester Bravehearts (30-31) to a third game on Sunday, Aug. 16 at Muzzy Field in Bristol but were defeated, 6-4, in an extra inning contest that decided the league title.
In the first inning, Davis Strong doubled and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Willy Yahn gave the Blues a 1-0 lead after hitting into a fielder’s choice that scored Strong, but the Bravehearts responded with two run rallies in the fourth and seventh to take a 4-1 lead into the eighth inning.
That’s when the rally started.
With no outs and Strong (walked) on first, Yahn drove him in with a double to the centerfield wall for his second RBI of the game. Two outs later, Tyler Packanik scored Yahn with a first-pitch double that scooted by the right fielder.
Dylan Morris substituted Griffin Garabedian and came in to score Packanik on base hit, tying the score at 4-4 and eventually sending the game into extra innings.
All the Bravehearts needed was one inning, though. In the top of the 10th with one out, Worcester’s Zack Tower hit a line drive triple to the center field wall that scored Ian Strom (singled) and Alex Sanchez (hit by pitch).
In the bottom of the inning, the Blues’ season would come to a close after a leadoff single by Gerrad Rohan.
The Blues totaled for nine hits, while the Bravehearts totaled for 10. Tower received the Most Valuable Player Award.
In the clubhouse after the game, Blues’ manager, Pat Riley, called his team’s performance “gutsy.”
“They showed a lot of courage and battled all the way to the end,” said Riley. “They were down by three runs in the late innings, but they never quit. I’m extremely proud of them. Everyone wanted a different outcome, but unfortunately, you can’t win them all, and that’s the game of baseball. Congratulations to Worcester and their organization. They have a great team over there, and were playing great baseball at the end of the year.”
Braveheart pitcher Logan Fullmer (1-0) was credited with the win after going the last three innings of the game with four strikeouts, allowing four hits, three earned runs, and two walks.
Tim Cate started the game on the mound for the Blues, going six and a third innings with six strikeouts, and allowing five hits, three earned runs, and three walks. Robert Paccione (0-1) was given the loss after going the last two innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs, and a walk.
“Paccione’s our guy, and he deserved to be out there,” said Riley. “He battled all the way to the end. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way, but Paccione is our guy. He has been all summer. He’s a great guy, pitcher, and competitor.”
Sunday’s game was the first time in the FCBL history that the championship series was forced to go to a third game, since the league’s inception in 2011. For Worcester, the win was their second FCBL title, after they swept the Marthas Vineyard Sharks in last year’s championship series to claim their first title.
This year’s FCBL Playoffs was the first time the postseason was expanded from six to eight teams.
“I want to thank the city of Bristol for everything they’ve done,” said Riley. “It’s been a great summer, and I’m happy I could be a part of it. We’ll be back.”
Game one of the championship series started at Fitton Field in Worcester, where the Bravehearts defeated the Blues, 2-1.
The Bravehearts took a 2-0 lead after scoring runs in the first and fifth innings and wouldn’t look back. The Blues only run of the game came in the seventh from a triple by Costello (2-for-3) that scored Rohan (doubled).
Steve Wallace was given the loss after staring the game on the mound, going four and a third innings with three strikeouts, and allowing four hits, three walks, and two earned runs.
The Blues were able to hang on the next night by taking game two at home in a 1-0 shutout.
With one out in the first, Strong got on base with a single. During Yahn’s at-bat, Strong stole second and got to third on an error made by the catcher. Strong would eventually score on a wild pitch that resulted with a dropped third strike by the catcher.
Dominic LoBrutto (1-0) started the game on the mound and went eight innings with nine strikeouts, allowing two hits and two walks. Paccione (S, 2) got the save by getting the last three outs of the game, allowing just two hits.
The Blues’ postseason journey began on Wednesday night at home with a 3-1 win over the No.7-seed Torrington Titans (24-29) in the quarterfinals.
Rohan scored Strong on a base hit in the third. Yahn scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Costello in the sixth. Strong scored Garabedian on a base hit in the seventh.
The Titans only run of the game came in the first inning. Rohan went 3-for-4 with a RBI. George Lund (1-0) picked up the win on the mound by going seven innings with four strikeouts, allowing three walks, two hits, and an earned run.
Paccione earned the save after getting the last three outs of the game with a strikeout, allowing a hit and a walk.
The next night in the semifinals, the Blues blanked the No.5-seed Nashua Silver Knights (29-29) at home by a score of 7-0.
The Blues put up four runs in the fourth and three runs in the eighth off of RBI’s by Rohan, Scafariello, Morris, and Ryan Rinsky. Yahn went 2-for-4 with a run, and Rohan went 2-for-4 with two runs and a RBI. Kyle Dube (1-0) picked up the win after starting the game on the mound, going seven innings with four strikeouts, and allowing just a walk.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.