By KEN MORSE
The weather has created a much needed break for the (13-8) Bristol Blues as they prepare to wrap up the month of June in hot pursuit of the first place (14-5) Martha’s Vineyard Sharks. The pitching, which carried the team to its fast start, has been getting a workout lately having played 21 games in a span of 25 days and it’s beginning to show signs of wear.
Over the past seven games, the batting is beginning to make consistent contact showing an uptick in runs scored boosting the team average from .218 to .242 and runs per game has increased from 3.6 over the first 14 games to 6 runs per game over the past seven contests.
The schedule called for an off day on Friday June 22 and then the rain came in postponing Saturday and Sunday games with the Worchester Bravehearts. Having three days off in a row for the first time since the season started has really helped the team, according to head coach Ronnie Palmer.
“It’s really kind of a blessing to have these three days off like that,” said Palmer. “The guys should be rested and when we get back on the field we should be ready to make a go of it.”
“We’ve added a few pieces offensively in Pat Winkel and Justyn Malloy and that has helped some of our other guys to get back on track and given us some depth allowing us to move guys up and down the batting order. We plan on adding a few more arms as well and hopefully that will assist us to making a run at the playoffs and capturing the first FCBL title for Bristol.”
The offense began to come on in a 6-4 win over Brockton on June 15 when Peyton Stephen belted the first Blues homer of the season a grand slam to carry Bristol to victory.
The Blues followed that up with a 13-6 win over the first place Sharks last Monday putting up the most runs and hits (13) in a game this season. Matt Bonvicini made the most of his two hits driving in four runs and Malloy had two hits and three runs scored.
“Peyton really broke out of his slump and has been hitting the ball real well over the past week,” said Palmer. “He got a huge hit for us in the win over Brockton. He was down in the count and fouled one off then came back and drove it a long way.”
Emmet Sheehan got his first start of the season and surrendered just five hits over five and one-third innings against the Bravehearts last Tuesday in a 4-2 win. But with the league down to seven teams in the circuit it seems gaining a little momentum is a tough go as the Blues dropped back-to-back games 9-7 to Pittsfield last Wednesday and 6-4 to Brockton on Thursday.
Bristol in their 21 games has faced the Bravehearts six times and the Pittsfield Sun seven times while facing the rest of the league in just eight games. Familiarity with your opponent can be a double-edged sword.
“Now that the league is down to seven teams all the league is in the same situation,” said Blues General Manager Brian Rooney. “You end up playing a lot of the teams back-to-back.”
The Blues had the Bravehearts on the schedule four times over an eight game span. It may prove to be nothing at all but trying to gain some momentum with a team that is well adjusted to your team could be an issue.
“I’m sure every team over the course of the season is going to be able to read you and what you are trying to do,” added Rooney. “I know the league commissioner Chris Hall is looking to add a few teams and the teams that did drop out this year have field issues that should be resolved next year.”
The FCBL lost the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs and the Seacoast Mavericks from last year bringing the circuit from nine teams down to seven. In 2016, the Torrington Twisters made up the 10th team in the league before they departed after the season.
“I guess you could look at it as an advantage in some instances and a disadvantage in others,” said Palmer. “While they are making adjustments to prepare for us, we also have to make adjustments to combat with them.”
The Blues will be back in action this week as they will be away on Monday to take on the Sharks and on Tuesday against Brockton. Bristol returns for a home stand beginning Wednesday against the Bravehearts and again on Friday hosting the Nashua Silver Knights and finish out the week on Saturday in Nashua.