By KEVIN ROBERTS
The Bristol Blues returned to the FCBL championship series for the first time since 2015, but it wasn’t a pleasant trip.
The Worcester Bravehearts won the first game 2-1 at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field in Worcester, Mass. Worcester claimed the second game, 12-2, at Muzzy Field in Bristol to wrap up its fourth FCBL championship. The Blues finished with an overall record of 33-26.
“At the end of the day, regardless of what league you coach in, most teams end with a bad taste in their mouth, and this stinks,” manager Ronnie Palmer said. “I feel like I let the organization down and the team and the city of Bristol. I certainly wanted to bring them their first championship in the FCBL, but it just didn’t happen today.”
What did work for the Blues was seeing players progress and improve throughout the summer. One of those players was catcher Jordan Laske, a Wethersfield native who went 2-for-4 with two singles in the Game 2 loss. Laske is a catcher for the University of Rhode Island.
“This was definitely huge for me. I was a redshirt freshman at school, I didn’t get many at bats or a lot of playing time until the second half of the season,” Laske said. “Getting a lot of reps and getting all my bats playing once every three days here was awesome. That was just what I needed, and I definitely feel like I got better, catching wise, hitting wise, everything, so it was good. It was a lot of fun.”
After the game, the Blues players shook hands, hugged and promised to keep in touch.
“It’s tough to end it like this, but making it here in the first place is an accomplishment in itself,” Laske said. “I’m proud of the guys I played with, they’re all a bunch of great guys. I love them, it was great meeting them.”
Here’s what happened last week:
AUG. 10—Bristol managed just four hits and one unearned run in a 2-1 loss to Worcester in Worcester, Mass.
Reed Pegram started and threw a solid seven innings in defeat. He gave up two runs on five hits, struck out five, walked three and hit a batter. Tommy Hughes pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
Buddy Dewaine doubled while Austin White and Dylan Reynolds each logged a single. Kyle Maves singled and walked, and Brandon Miller drew two walks and drove in the lone Blues run. Sam Loda walked and scored a run.
AUG. 11—Worcester erupted for five runs in the top of the sixth inning and four more in the eighth to blow open the game and win 12-2 at Muzzy.
“Those kids were just hitting everything and anything we threw their way. Credit to them, they did a great job,” Laske said.
The game was marred somewhat by a 20-minute delay following two visits to the mound in the fourth inning by a Worcester coach. The second mound visit followed a balk called against Worcester starter Angelo Baez. Both managers made their feelings well-known, and there were umpire conferences abound during the delay. When it finally ended, Baez, who was the FCBL Pitcher of the Year, was allowed to finish the batter he was on, then was pulled from the game because of the two visits in the same inning. During the delay, Worcester had reliever Jack Moynihan warming up in case Baez had to be removed. Bristol starter Garrett Coe went down to the Blues bullpen to get some warmups in as well.
“The rules are the rules. I’m sorry that we’re trying to win a championship, and I think we have a better shot when not facing the pitcher of the year,” Palmer said. “Unfortunately, the umpires and the league got it wrong. It should have taken 30 seconds. They saw it, but they debated over it, and I think that’s unacceptable.”
Most of the players who were on the field chatted and even laughed with each other. Bristol was down 3-2 in the fourth inning, but had the tying run on second base. Unfortunately for the Blues, that run didn’t cross the plate. The Bravehearts began to pull away in the sixth inning, then blew the game wide open in the eighth.
“They beat us and they got the championship. That’s all it comes down to, they just beat us today and yesterday,” Laske said. “Congrats to them, and it was an awesome summer. I had a blast.”
AUG. 6—Bristol managed just three hits, all off of North Shore starter James Flood, in a 3-1 loss.
Reynolds doubled and later scored on a wild pitch in the second inning. Bristol had five walks and one hit batter, and North Shore committed three errors, but the Blues wound up leaving seven men on base.
Mark Faello started for Bristol and suffered his first loss of the season (6-1 overall). Faello gave up just two runs on four hits, struck out five and walked one over five innings.
AUG. 7—The offense that was non-existent for Bristol in Game 1 came alive on the road in a 12-7 victory at Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass.
Three players tallied three hits while three more added two hits apiece in a 15-hit barrage. Dewaine, Maves and Kasey Bass all went 3-for-5. Dewaine had a triple, run scored and three RBI; Maves added a walk, two runs scored and two RBI; and Bass scored two runs.
Miller was 2-for-5 with a hit by pitch, stolen base, two runs scored and run batted in. Zeke Diamond and John Orzechowski were each 2-for-4. Diamond doubled, walked, scored a run and drove in another while Orzechowski walked, stole a base, scored three times and drove in a run.
Bristol trailed 6-0 and 7-2, but erupted for six runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a stunning 8-7 lead. The Blues added three more runs in the eighth and one in the ninth.
“It was a nice surprise,” Palmer said of the offensive outburst. “The kids stayed true to what they’ve been doing for the latter part of the season when it comes to the offensive approach.”
Tyler Boisvert picked up the win in relief of starter Matt Shane. Boisvert pitched 5.1 innings and gave up an unearned run on three hits to go along with five strikeouts and three walks. Andrew Marrero struck out four and walked one over the final 1.2 innings to seal the win.
AUG. 8—Bristol overcame a slow start and a three-run deficit to beat North Shore 8-5 at Muzzy and win the series, 2-1.
The Navigators scored a single run in the first, second and third innings to claim a 3-0 lead. Throw in an hour and 45-minute rain delay in the bottom of the first inning, and it added up to a slow start for the Blues. Bristol’s offense woke up in a big way in the bottom of the third inning, scoring five runs.
“In the inning where we put up the five runs, everything just started clicking and all of a sudden, everybody was engaged,” Palmer said.
Bristol later expanded its lead to three runs on two different occasions, 7-4 and 8-5. It came down to the top of the ninth inning, where North Shore got two runners on base and the tying run at the plate in the person of Ben Malgeri against Bristol closer James Judenis. League MVP Sean Lawlor was on deck.
“If anybody tells you they’re not thinking about that, I think they’re full of you-know-what,” Palmer said. “You’re sitting there, you see him on deck with how the ball travels to right field at Muzzy, I’m like ‘man, we really need to go after it and get [Malgeri].’”
Judenis went to 3-2 on Ben Malgeri, then snapped off a nasty breaking ball. Malgeri swung at the pitch in the dirt, and Loda threw to Reynolds at first for the final out of the game and the semifinal series.
“For [Judenis] to make a pitch like that and him to chase,” Palmer said. “We don’t want to face [Lawlor]. We don’t to face the league MVP with a chance to tie the ballgame or take the lead, so I’m glad we got that out.”
Not to be lost in the shuffle was the relief effort of Brendan Kirck, who was the winning pitcher. He threw four innings and gave up two runs on six hits. Kirck struck out two and walked two.
“We picked him up after we were depleted on the staff. He’s been out there a couple times, and each time he’s delivered,” Palmer said.
Spencer Fox also pitched well in relief. On offense, Miller (run scored, 2 RBI) and Dewaine (double, RBI) each had two hits. White doubled, walked three times, scored two runs and stole a base while Reynolds, Maves and Bass each had an RBI.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com