By KEN MORSE
Comebacks are hard to come by when the offense is struggling, the pitching is not as strong as it once was and you are riding the bumps of a three-game skid. The Bristol Blues treated the hometown crowd on Saturday night, July 7 with not one but two comebacks to pull out a 9-6 win over the Nashua Silver Knights.
“We really need a game like this,” said Bristol head coach Ronnie Palmer. “It hasn’t been the best of weeks for us. The boys showed up to the yard today with the right attitude and they went about their business in the right way. I just knew we were going to play the game the right way tonight.”
Bristol entered the contest with a 2-5 record in the month of July, having dropped three straight including the last four games against Worchester as the Blues (18-16) dipped to third place in the FCBL while the Bravehearts (17-14) moved into second place.
The Blues needed to make something happen especially since it would be the final home game until the All-Star Break July 17 and Bristol will not play in front of their fans again until Thursday, July 19 against the North Shore Navigators.
“These fans appreciate good baseball,” said Palmer. “We were able to come through in two big innings and both times there were two outs. It was fun for the fans and it was fun for the guys, that’s for sure.”
Left hander Michael Genaro wasn’t perfect but didn’t need to be as his teammates swung the bat freely bashing 15 hits and erupting for two big comeback innings. Genaro surrendered a pair of first inning runs aided by an infield throwing error to the first batter who came around to score on a groundout.
The Silver Knights added to the lead when Jake Lebel belted his third home run of the season as his blast left the yard well over the right centerfield fence staking Nashua to a 2-0 advantage.
Genaro went on to throw three shutout innings while Bristol battled back to take the lead. In the bottom of the third, Jeremy Sagun drew a leadoff walk; Ian Ostberg beat out a bunt for a base hit; and Alex Loparco reached on a fielder’s choice to third.
Teddy Hague (3 for 4, 3 RBI) hit a run scoring single to center; Richard Brereton (2 for 4, 3 RBI) drove in a run on a sacrifice fly to right; and Dylan Reynolds completed the uprising with a double off the wall in right to stake the Blues to a 3-2 lead.
A single by Andrew Hague in the fourth followed by a run scoring double from Sagun made it a 4-2 advantage for Bristol heading into the top of the fifth. After a leadoff strikeout, Genaro ran into trouble.
An infield throwing error opened the door to disaster and Austin White parked one well over the right field fence for his third home run of the season tying the game at 4-4.
Bristol head coach Ronnie Palmer got action going in the bullpen but not before Genaro surrendered four more hits, two singles and two doubles giving the Silver Knights a 6-4 advantage.
Peyton Stephens came on and kicked the door closed inducing a foul pop up that catcher Alex Baumann made a sensational play on and then a strikeout ended the frame.
It wasn’t long after that the Blues came calling again erupting for five runs in the sixth much to the delight of the Bristol fans, who were whooping it up in the stands. Just like the Nashua outburst the Blues took advantage of good fortune when Andrew Hague reached on a one out throwing error in the infield.
Those situations almost never end well and Ostberg drew a walk and with two outs Loparco was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The sacks were full without the benefit of a hit but that was coming.
Teddy Hague drilled a two run single to the gap in right center followed by Brereton who belted a two run double down the line in left. Another throwing error in the infield kept the inning going long enough for Ethan Hunt to drill a run scoring single to right to open up a 9-6 lead.
“There have been times this summer we were down two runs and it felt like eight runs with the way we have struggled with guys on base,” said Palmer. “It was nice to see the guys show some composure and have some good offensive at bats. Cash in on some of those opportunities that we’ve missed early on in the season.”
Nashua put two runners on in the seventh and eighth innings before Stephens (2.2 innings, 0 hits, 4 strikeouts) and Zachary Dionne (1 inning, 1 hit, 1 strikeout) set the table for the FCBL premier closer Neal McDermott.
The hard throwing sophomore from Seton Hall with a 1.17 ERA in 13 games has thrown 15 innings striking out 31 and made quick work of Nashua in the ninth. Each pitch got louder and louder pounding into the mitt of Baumann as the fans cheered him on.
Lebel stepped in looking to take another one deep but was completely overmatched as McDermott just dialed it up for swings and misses picking up his 11th save of the season.
The Blues will play six games on the road heading up to the All-Star break with the All-Star game being played on Tuesday July 17 in Nashua. Bristol will be back home on Thursday, July 19 to take on the North Shore Navigators.