By KEN MORSE
The Bristol Blues were a bit drenched on Wednesday June 27 as they battled the Worcester Bravehearts and Mother Nature. A persistent rain fell on Muzzy Field in the first game of a short home stand marking the beginning of a sizzling stretch for the Blues.
The Bravehearts withstood the rain and the Blues— using a five run first inning outburst to pull out a rain shortened five inning 8-5 win over Bristol.
“Pitching is going to be the key,” said Blues head coach Ronnie Palmer. “We have 10 games in an 11 day span leading up to the All-Star break and on top of that we will be entering a heat wave.”
“We will need to monitor our starting pitchers and this will be a big test as to where we stand heading into the second half of the season.”
The starting pitching has been ruffled up a bit over past several games but the bullpen has shown signs of being able to hold down the fort until the offense gets on track.
After having a weekend series with the Bravehearts washed out by the weather, the Blues got back at it facing the first place (16-6) Martha’s Vineyard Sharks on Monday June 25.
Kevin Sosa (3 innings, 5 hits, 4 runs) struck out the side in the first inning but by the time he left after the third inning the Blues trailed 4-0. Conor Nolan belted a seventh inning home run for the only Bristol offense as the Sharks prevailed 6-1.
On Tuesday, the Blues got out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning against the Brockton Rox but needed a three run outburst in the eighth to pull out an 8-5 win. Jared Kollar went four innings allowed six hits and three runs striking out five and by the time he left the 4-0 advantage was down to a 4-3 lead.
Kyle Haag went two and two-thirds on the hill throwing hitless relief striking out five allowing the Blues enough time to strike again. Alex Loparco slammed his second home run of the season a two run blast scoring Cooper Mrowka as Bristol hung three runs on the board in the eighth.
Coach Palmer turned the game over to the FCBL’s best closer in the league, Neal McDermott, and the Seton Hall right-hander rang up his eighth save of the season for the 14-9 Blues.
Justin Rouse took the mound to face the Bravehearts on Wednesday under threatening skies but not a raindrop had fallen. Worcester loaded the bases with no outs on a single, a hit batter and a walk.
Brett Coffel singled to left and an error allowed all three runs to cross the plate. Two more hits and another miscue in the outfield had the Bravehearts out in front by a 5-0 count.
The rain began to fall on Muzzy Field as the Blues tried to get back in the ballgame. Jason Hebner came on in relief and struck out the first two batters he faced. The Bravehearts managed to capitalize again when Hebner walked the bases loaded in the third with the rain falling heavier.
Joe Pesce and Mariano Ricciardi followed with back-to-back doubles to hand Worcester an 8-0 advantage. Mark Silvestri came on to throw two innings of hitless relief as the Blues began to battle back.
Ian Ostberg (3 for 3, 1 run, 2 BI) singled leading off the bottom of the third and came around to score on a double from Alex Loparco (2 for 2, 2 runs, 1 BI). Patrick Winkel singled in the second run before a strikeout to Justyn-Henry Malloy and a groundout by Richard Brereton ended to uprising.
Bristol plated two more tallies in the fourth when Matthew Bonvicini reached on an error and Alex Baumann drew a walk. Both runners crossed the dish on a two out two run single from Ostberg to make it an 8-4 game.
The grounds crew came out to tend to the field as the umpires and both head coaches were trying to get the game into the fifth inning to make it an official game. Silvestri worked a perfect top of the fifth getting a strikeout and two ground outs setting up the Blues for their final turn at the plate.
Loparco singled to lead things off and Malloy worked out a walk. Brereton hit a run scoring single bringing the tying run to the plate as the Bravehearts summoned Rob Cerulle from the bullpen.
Bonvicini hit one towards the hole that ended in a second-to shortstop-to first double play to put an end to the Blues comeback attempt as the Bravehearts escaped with an 8-5 win.
“I like the way we competed,” said Palmer. “We just got off to a slow start but Mother Nature kind of did us in this evening. I think four more innings of baseball it would have been interesting to see how it turned out.”
Bristol will be home on Friday, June 29 against the Nashua Silver Knights and that will begin a 10-game stretch in a row leading up to the All-Star break. Next week, the Blues will be at home on Sunday, July 1 against the Bravehearts; Tuesday taking on Pittsfield; and the 4th of July hosting the North Shore Navigators; and will finish out the week with a Friday double header starting at 3:30 p.m. with the Bravehearts and a 7 p.m. contest on Saturday July 7 against the Silver Knights.