By BRIAN JENNINGS
Davis Strong, Davis Strong, Davis Strong. Although the Bristol Blues (25-18) struggled to build on their lead atop the West Division after going 2-2 on the week, Davis Strong made the week interesting for Blues fans and proved why he is one of the best players in the Futures Collegiate League.
Strong’s memorable week started at the 2015 Futures Collegiate League All-Star Game in Lynn, Mass. on Tuesday, July 21 in front of baseball scouts and 2,342 people in attendance, where the East All-Stars defeated the West All-Stars, 4-3.
Both teams scattered runs throughout the first five innings of the game and the East came out ahead of the West with a 3-2 lead. In the sixth, Davis Strong tied the game up at 3-3 with a solo home run off of Mike Parmentier (Marthas Vineyard Sharks), which was his only hit of the game.
“I was just looking for a good pitch.” said Strong. “I got it and was able to put a swing on it. The first pitch was a fastball that was called for a strike. I thought it was a bad call. The next pitch was a slider and a good one. I was able to hit it well.”
Gerrad Rohan’s only at-bat of the game went for a walk that would eventually gave the West their first run of the game in the first inning, scoring Jon Kristoffersen (Wachusett Dirt Dawgs) on a wild pitch ball four.
With two outs and one man on in the ninth, Richie Fecteau (North Shore Navigators) won the game for the East by driving in Brian Campbell (Marthas Vineyard Sharks) from third on a walk-off single. Strong and Cody Doyle (Torrington Titans) had the West’s only RBIs. Tyler Schwanz (Nashua Silver Knights), Tommy Marcinczyk (Brockton Rox), and Fecteau had the East’s only RBIs. Each team had 10 pitchers take the mound in the game. Troy Terzi started the game for the West, throwing a strikeout and allowing two hits. Tim Cate pitched the third inning, throwing two strikeouts, and allowing two walks and an earned run. Robert Paccione and Ty Robinson both pitched two outs starting in the seventh, allowing no hits or runs. George Lund came in right after to strikeout the only two batters he faced.
“I just went in there and hit my spots,” said Lund. “That’s really all it was. I mostly threw four-seam fastballs. I think I only threw one changeup. I got in on the hitters, then expanded away later in the at-bats and it worked out.”
Before the all-star game earlier that day, the top hitters of the FCBL squared off in a home run derby. Giovanni Dingcong (North Shore Navigators) defeated Zack Tower (Worcester Bravehearts) by hitting five homeruns in the final round. Dingcong hit nine homeruns in the first round to finish the derby with 14.
Fresh off of the three-day, all-star break, the Blues sprung back into regular season action on Thursday, July 23 with a 6-4 win over the Seacoast Mavericks (12-30) at Muzzy Field.
The Blues fell behind 4-1 after the third inning, but came back to light up the fifth inning with five runs.
With two men on and no outs, Griffin Garabedian scored from third on a wild pitch that lead to a Strong walk. Right after the Mavericks made a pitching change, Ryan Costello drove in Christian Whigham and Strong on a base hit. With two outs and the bases loaded, Tyler Packanik gave the Blues a 6-4 lead that would eventually seal the deal by scoring Robert Schryver and the newly acquired Dylan Morris.
Garabedian went 3-for-4 with two runs and Costello went 3-for-4 with two RBIs, as a part of the Blues’ eleven hits. Although he didn’t make the all-star game, Costello saw the break from the regular season as a good thing, which helped him to turn his season around and get the win for the Blues.
“I thought I played really well,” said Costello. There are alot of games and we had three days off. So, you get a couple days to go home and relax. I’m from around here. I went home, hung out, and got away from baseball. I came back and was refreshed. It was just coming out to the yard and having some fun. I feel like that just brought a new energy to us. We went down early, but felt like we were never really out of the game. We said, ‘Alright, we got this.’ We’re very confident in each other. I think having the confidence of my team behind me and having my team believe in me definitely helped in that effort.”
Dominic LoBrutto (4-1) started the game on the mound and was credited with the win, going five innings with two strikeouts and allowing seven hits, four earned runs, and one walk. Robert Paccione (S, 8) closed the game by pitching the last three outs, not allowing anything.
The next night’s home game would read a different story for the Blues, as they went scoreless, 3-0, against the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs (17-23). However, Strong was still strong. With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Wachusett’s Chris Stanford hit a fly ball in between center and right field. Strong chased the ball down and made a diving, sliding catch that seemed to be out of reach.
“Before the pitch, I was actually thinking that it was a big situation,” said Davis. “There was a runner on third, so I knew that I had to be ready for anything. When I saw the ball in the air, I knew that I had to run as fast as I could to get there. Once I was getting close, I had to dive and was able to scoop it off of the ground.”
After the catch was made, the Blues’ media staff cut the play from their live game feed and sent it to ESPN. Strong’s catch made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the night at number seven.
“It feels great,” said Strong. “Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be on there. Now that I’m finding out that my catch will be on there tonight is a really great feeling.”
Ryan Rinsky and Tyler Roberts had the only two hits for the Blues in the game. Terzi (3-3) was given the loss after going six and two thirds innings with five strikeouts, allowing five hits and two earned runs. The Dirt Dawgs put up two runs in the sixth inning and a run in the seventh. Wachusett’s PJ Browne pitched a complete game shutout, throwing three strikeouts and allowing two hits.
“The guy [Browne] pitched a great game tonight,” said Blues manager Barry Lyons. “We hit some balls good, but they were right at them. Tonight, we looked a little lethargic. There are no excuses. We got beat tonight, bottom line.”
The Blues were shutout for a second straight time on Saturday night by a score of 4-0 when they traveled up to Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Mass. to take on the Suns (21-21). The Suns put up runs in the fourth and sixth inning, including two in the seventh.
Jamie Timothy (triple) and Rinsky had two hits, and Ryan Costello’s only hit of the game went for a double. Cate (4-1) was given the loss after starting the game on the mound, going four innings with five strikeouts and allowing four hits, four walks, and an earned run.
The Blues got back on track the next night and wrapped up the week with a 5-2 win at Doyle Field in Leominster, Mass. over the Dirt Dawgs (17-23).
Garabedian started the Blues off with a double in the first inning and would eventually score on an error by the pitcher. Later that inning, Strong put the Blues up 2-0 with a solo homerun. The Blues did more damage with runs in the third, fourth, and seventh inning on RBIs by Costello (single scored Garabedian) and Budzik (single scored Whigham). Strong wasn’t done though. In the seventh, Strong rocketed another ball over the fence for a solo homerun, making it two in the game and his sixth of the season. Strong ended the week with three homeruns.
“A lot of the time I just stay calm and don’t try to think about too much,” said Strong. “I really just focus on trying to get a good pitch to hit. When I see a pitch that I know I can hit, I don’t wait around and put a swing on it.”
Lund picked up the win on the mound after going six innings with three strikeouts, allowing four hits and a walk. Paccione got the save after pitching the last four outs of the game, not allowing anything.
The Blues are still in first place of the West Division, up three and a half games on the Suns. This past week, the Blues not only dealt with some time away from the regular season, but some changes to the team roster as well. The Blues have lost Austin Chauvin and Zack Scott for the season, due to preexisting injuries. Gerrad Rohan and Liam Scafariello have spent time away from the team for personal reasons.
“Our lineup is not the same lineup we’ve had,” said Lyons. “We’re going to take it one day at a time. We have a lot to play for with a lot of games still yet to play. I was hoping that the break would give some guys a chance to recharge their batteries. We don’t have the same team we had a week ago, but that’s baseball. Some changes occur over the course of the season, injuries happen, and moves are made.”
PHOTOS by TAMMI NAUDUS