The Bristol Blues mustered just four hits in their regular season finale, but it was enough to capture the West Division title for the first time in the franchise history. With a 3-1 victory over the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs on Sunday, the post-game fireworks kicked off the celebration.
“It’s exciting,” said Blues manager Ronnie Palmer. “We got off to a slow start at the beginning of the summer, but they just believed in one another and played the game the right way.”
How far they’ve come. After a 0-6 start, the Blues climbed their way out of the cellar to get back into the race. Bristol entered the finale just one game behind the Dirt Dawgs. After limping to the end of July, the team flipped the switch in August to end the regular season with four-straight victories.
“Part of it was the fact that we had a couple off days because of weather,” the team manager said. “We have been very good after off days. It gives the guys a chance to sit, relax, and come back refreshed with recharged batteries. And coming off of last week, the guys never got down on what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Blues finished the regular season at 28-22 overall and earned a bye in the first round of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League playoffs. Palmer said that if he didn’t feel confident about the team heading into the postseason, he would be lying.
“We play good baseball,” Palmer said. “We have home-field advantage for the first series here at Muzzy, which is exciting. If our arms throw strikes, the defense makes plays, and the offense takes advantage of opportunities, we’ll be okay. The guys are feeling pretty good, and the confidence is there.”
Wachusett Dirt Dawgs
JULY 31—The Blues began the week with their worst loss of the regular season, falling, 16-2, at the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs on Monday. The Dirt Dawgs held a 3-1 advantage after the third inning until they broke open the game by combining for 10 runs in the fifth and sixth innings, adding three more runs in the eighth.
The Dirt Dawgs outhit the Blues, 17-5. Max Goione went 2-for-4 at the plate with a RBI, a run scored, and a home run.
Jake Frasca (0-1) started on the mound and was credited with the loss after going four innings with five strikeouts, allowing seven hits, five earned runs, and a walk. Anthony Morrone (6-2) and Tucker Lord (1-0) each threw a pair of innings.
AUG. 1—The Blues mustered just four hits the next day, but managed to end their two-game losing streak and jump two games above .500 with a 4-2 win at the Pittsfield Suns. The Suns held a 1-0 advantage with a run in the opening inning until the Blues took the lead for good with a pair of runs in the third.
Following three-straight walks to load the bases, Jayson Gonzalez drew a walk to knot the score and give the Blues their first run of the game, forcing the Suns to make a pitching change by replacing Brian Rodriguez with Brandon Shileikis. An out later, Max Goione capped off the inning by giving the Blues a one-run advantage that they wouldn’t surrender with a RBI single.
Logan Green and Chris Davis added insurance by scoring runs on a RBI triple and fielder’s choice in the fourth and fifth innings. The suns came up short with a run in the ninth.
Malachi Edmond (1-2) started on the mound and picked up the win after going eight innings with six strikeouts, allowing just two hits and a walk. Lizandro Cruz relieved Edmond to go two-thirds of an inning, and Tommy Curtin (1-1) closed to get his 11th save of the season.
AUG. 3—After Bristol’s having Wednesday’s home game cancelled due to rain, the Blues picked up where they left off with a 10-2 victory over the Pittsfield Suns at home on Thursday.
The Blues combined for seven runs in the second and third innings and capped off the win with three runs in the seventh, finishing with 14 hits. The Suns scored their lone two runs in the seventh.
Jayson Gonzalez was flawless at the plate after going 4-for-4, pacing the offense with three runs scored, two RBI, two doubles, a home run, and a walk. Max Goione backed Gonzalez by going 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored. Nick Roy went 2-for-4 as well with three runs scored, a double, and a walk.
The Blues used several pitchers in the game. Michael Genaro (2-0) started on the mound and went three innings with a pair of strikeouts, allowing just two hits and a walk. Tyler Kovalewich (1-1) picked up his first win of the season after relieving Genaro to go an inning. Tommy Curtin (1-1) pitched the ninth inning to close.
AUG. 5—Following a day’s rest, the Blues earned their third-straight win by blanking the Worcester Bravehearts, 7-0, in seven innings on the road. The Saturday victory was the Blues’ first shutout of the season.
The Blues held a 2-0 advantage after the third inning off a pair of errors and scored three of their four runs in the sixth off two more errors, adding another run in the seventh off an error by the pitcher. The Bravehearts finished with six errors.
Josh Zbierski went 3-for-4 at the plate with a RBI, a run scored, and a double. In his Bristol Blue debut, Alex Loparco went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and a RBI.
Tucker Lord (2-0) started on the mound and picked up the win after five innings with four strikeouts, allowing five hits and three walks. John Natoli (3-0) and Keith Grant (0-2) each threw an inning as well.
Wachusett Dirt Dawgs
AUG. 6—Jack Gethings stole home in the opening inning to give the Dirt Dawgs the early lead, but with two outs and runners on first and second in the fifth, Logan Green put the Blues up for good. Green’s RBI double in left center field drove in Alex Loparco and Max Goione.
Greene’s hit forced a Dirt Dawg to lay out for the catch, but Palmer sent Goione home when the player misjudged the fly ball.
“Logan had some quality at-bats and barreled some balls up earlier in the game,” said Palmer. “But that was just the best at-bat of the game.”
Jayson Gonzalez (2-for-4) capped off the win with a RBI double that scored Cooper Mrowka in the sixth.
Brandon Fox (0-1) started on the mound and went two and one-third innings with a strikeout, allowing a hit and a walk. Tyler Kovalewich (2-1) picked up the win after relieving Fox to go two and two-thirds innings with two hits and a walk. Tommy Curtin (2-1) closed with three strikeouts and a hit to get his 12th save of the season. Kyle Haag (0-1) and Jacob Wallace (0-3) saw some action on the mound as well.
“When we limit walks, throw strikes, and give our defense the opportunity to make plays, it keeps our pitchers in a rhythm, which in turn, has kept our defense in a rhythm,” said Palmer. “There’s no doubt that pitching and defense has been our strong suit.”
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/08/08/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-aug-11-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.