The midseason Blues: New hitting coach hired to spark offense

Michael Nocera hurls a strike during the second game of a double header against the Worcester Bravehearts last week.

Michael Nocera hurls a strike during the second game of a double header against the Worcester Bravehearts last week.

By BRIAN JENNINGS
STAFF WRITER

The Bristol Blues baseball team started the week at 2-1 and headed into the holiday weekend with an overall .500 record, but finished on a downward spiral by Tuesday, dropping five of their last six games.

Whether it’s inconsistent hitting, struggles on the mound, mental errors, or a late sense of urgency, all aspects of the game seemed to have made some kind of contribution to the team’s lackluster performance this past week. And the Blues took note of it.

To help spark some offense, the Blues recently hired a new hitting instructor, Jimmy Deschane. Deschane is originally from Los Angeles and played college baseball for Brandeis University in Massachusetts. He was drafted in the 10th round of the 1999 Major League Baseball draft by the Chicago Cubs, finishing his career in 2005 after seven years of playing AA baseball in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

“Offensively, we have some talent, but we’re not producing consistently,” said Blues manager, Pat Riley. “When you look at the box score, you might see those seven or eight hits, but somehow we’re not plating as many guys as we need to.”

The Blues have officially reached the midpoint of their 56-game season after playing the Bravehearts on Monday night. But even though the Blue have dropped five of their last six games, Riley said that the team is not in panic mode.

“Guys have gotten their repetitions in and have gotten a pretty good sample of what guys can do. Guys are getting opportunities,” the coach said. “Hopefully, we’re going to make a push in the second half and make the adjustments that we need to make.”

Marthas Vineyard Sharks

JUNE 28—The Blues began the week by hosting the Marthas Vineyard Sharks on Tuesday and built a 5-1 lead after the fifth inning en route to earning their 12th win on the year with a 7-3 victory.

Bristol out hit Martha’s Vineyard, 11-5. Lorenzo Arcuri went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, two triples, and an RBI. Austin Chauvin went 2-for-4 with an RBI, a run scored, and a walk. Andrew Kendrick contributed with a pair of RBI.

Jared Gallagher picked up the win on the mound after going six innings with five strikeouts, two hits, an earned run, and a walk. Reliever Sebastian DiMauro got the save.

Marthas Vineyard Sharks

JUNE 29—The Blues headed out to the Shark Tank at Vineyard Park in Oaks Bluffs, Mass. the next day where they fell short to the Sharks in eight innings, 8-1.

After five scoreless innings, Brandon Grover gave the Blues a 1-0 advantage by driving in Nick Conti on a base hit. However, Grover’s RBI single woke up the sleeping giant. The Sharks responded by scoring two runs in the sixth and seventh innings, and four in the eighth to cap off the win.

Frankie Gregoire paced the Blues at the plate by going 2-for-4.

Teddy Carey started on the mound and went five and one-third innings with three strikeouts, allowing five hits, three walks, and two earned runs. Michael Nocera relieved Carey to get the next two outs, but received the loss after surrendering an earned run.

Worcester Bravehearts

JUNE 30—Bristol remained out on the road in Massachusetts on Thursday and suffered their 12th loss of the season after falling to the Worcester Bravehearts, 9-3.

The Blues had no trouble at the plate early on, posting all three of their runs in the opening inning. With two outs and a runner on first, Gregoire drove in Chauvin on a double and eventually came around to score off of a base knock by Kendrick. Jimmy Titus wrapped up the inning with a RBI double that brought in Kendrick.

Then it was Worcester’s turn. The Bravehearts answered the Blues with five runs in the bottom of the inning, adding another run in the second and three in the seventh to complete the rally.

The Bravehearts outhit the Blues, 12-7. Gregoire went 2-for-4 with a RBI, a run scored, and a double. Titus went 2-for-4 with a RBI. Zach Scott went 2-for-4 as well.

The Bravehearts rocked JR Hilcher for five runs (3 earned) and four hits. Sam Spadafore relieved Hilcher to go five and one-third innings with four strikeouts, six hits, and two earned runs. Nocera closed.

Seacoast Mavericks

JULY 2—Bristol dropped their third-straight game when they traveled to Leary Field in Portsmouth, N.H. on Saturday, falling to the Seacoast Mavericks, 11-1, after letting the four inning slip away from them.

The Mavericks took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning, but then put the game out of reach with nine runs in the fourth on four singles and three homeruns.

Logan Greene scored the Blues’ lone run by stealing home on a wild pitch in the ninth.

Seacoast outhit Bristol, 12-4, and the Blues committed four errors in the game.

Paul Versteeg started on the mound and went three and two thirds innings, but was pulled from the game after capitulating 11 runs (6 earned) and 10 hits. Artavious Marsh replaced Versteeg to go three and a third innings, and Mike Munson closed.

Torrington Titans

JULY 3—The next night, the Blues returned home and ended their three-game skid with an 8-3 triumph over the Torrington Titans.

Bristol jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first inning off of and error and RBI doubles by Gregoire and Kendrick. The Blues rounded out the victory by scattering runs in the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings.

Gregoire marshalled the Bristol by going 2-for-3 at the plate with two RBI, two runs scored, and a walk. Conti contributed with a pair of RBI and a run scored.

Izzy Fuentes captured the win on the mound after going five innings with five strikeouts, five hits, three walks, and two earned runs. DiMauro closed and got the save with three strikeouts, four hits, and an earned run.

Worcester Bravehearts

JULY 4 (Double header)—The Blues wrapped up the week by hosting the Worcester Bravehearts in a seven-inning doubleheader on the Fourth of July, but fell short in both contests after a pair of late-inning rallies were halted.

In game one, the Bravehearts took a 1-0 lead with a run in the fifth inning, extending their lead to two with a run in the seventh. Titus cut the deficit to a run by driving in Chauvin in the bottom of the inning, but the Blues comeback would fall short, 2-1. Bristol mustered just five hits and committed three errors in the game.

Gallagher started on the mound and went six innings with four strikeouts and six hits, allowing a run. Munson and Adam Goss threw the last inning.

Game two was not much different than game one. The Bravehearts found themselves ahead by three runs by the fifth inning after posting a run in the third and a couple in the fourth. Two runs in the sixth kept the Blues in the game and down by just a run, but the seventh made all the difference.

The Bravehearts widened the gap to five runs after producing four runs off of three errors, two base hits, and a double in the top of the inning. With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the inning, Gregoire drove in Munson on a fielder’s choice. Grover stole home on a wild pitch, and Kendrick brought the Blues to within two runs after driving in Gregoire on a sacrifice fly. However, the run ended when Conti struck out looking, as the Bravehearts defeated the Blues, 7-5.

Tyler Roberts went 2-for-3 with a RBI. Chauvin went 2-for-4.

Mike Kreiger started on the mound and went three and two thirds innings with three strikeouts, eight hits, and three earned runs. Nocera relieved Kreiger to go two and a third innings, allowing three runs, and two hits. Goss threw two outs, and Titus came in to close from the infield, pitching for the first time this season.

The Blues are now 1-7 against the Bravehearts this year, and Riley stated that they just have their number.

“It’s plain and simple,” the coach said. “They play the game harder. I was hoping that guys would be really fired up to get after them today, but it really didn’t seem to matter much. They’ve beaten us quite a bit in a row here.”

After two failed attempts at late rallies against the Bravehearts, Riley said that the urgency of the team is way too late.

“All of a sudden we get to the last inning and we realize that we have to score some runs,” said Riley. “It’s great to see because guys are battling, but when you put up crooked numbers in the late innings like that and zeros for the first three quarters of the games, that’s a little discouraging. It’s been way too much of a trend lately.”

Next week’s lineup for the Blues includes games against the Sharks (13-15), the North Shore Navigators (12-16), the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs (10-17), and the Pittsfield Suns (12-15).

To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at bjennings@southingtonobserver.com.

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