By KEVIN ROBERTS
The Bristol Blues saw their season come to an end on Aug. 8 with an 11-5 loss to the Worcester Bravehearts in Game 2 of a Futures Collegiate Baseball League semifinal series at Muzzy Field.
The Blues walked off of Muzzy Field for the final time that night, while the Bravehearts made plans for the FCBL’s best-of-three championship series against the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks. After the game, Bristol players said goodbye to coaches, host families and fans. It was a tough way to end the season, but it was a good 2018 campaign for the Blues.
“They showed up for a good portion of the summer and competed their tails off, and I think they represented the Blues in a good fashion,” head coach Ronnie Palmer said. “They did a lot of good things in the community, too, so it was a well-rounded experience for all of our guys.”
Even when Bristol was behind in the final game, the players worked to try to get back into the contest.
“It speaks volumes about the guys,” Palmer said. “We still had chances to win [Game 1 on Aug. 7], and up until the ninth, we had an opportunity to win [Aug. 8],” Palmer said. “They compete, they competed their tails off all summer, and just fell short.”
The Blues were at the disadvantage of having to play a game just to get into the semifinal round. Worcester was playing its best baseball of the season coming into the semifinal series, and it was well-rested. Bristol began the semifinal series the night after winning its play-in game.
“Their arms were rested and ready to roll,” Palmer said. “Our guys, we had an emotional win [in the play-in game against the Pittsfield Suns]. It was hot too, so it took a lot out of them. I thought we played well. We just didn’t make the pitches when we needed to, and we just didn’t swing when we needed to.”
Part of putting together a successful FCBL team is getting players from different programs to come together under a different style of play on a new team during a busy summer season.
“Getting that to mesh together with what you want them to do, it was interesting,” Palmer said. “It was fun.”
There were ups and downs, not surprising in a long summer season. Bristol came roaring out of the gate and won seven of its first eight games. The Blues went 2-4 after the hot start, but came back for four more wins in five games. Bristol had a record of 13-6 after play on June 19.
A 9-7 loss to Pittsfield on June 20 began a tough stretch where the Blues lost seven of nine games. Bristol fell to 15-13 overall after losing both games of a July 1 doubleheader against Worcester.
The Blues won their next two games, then had a three-game losing streak followed by a three-game winning streak. A 5-3 win over Pittsfield on July 12 put Bristol at 20-16 on the season.
The Blues lost their next game, but went on to win four straight contests and improve their record to 24-17.
What followed was the roughest streak of the season, five straight losses including three at home. Bristol was struggling and just two games over .500 at 24-22.
The Blues showed their resiliency after the losing streak and ripped off wins in five of six games to finish the regular season at 29-23. The hot finish allowed Bristol to be the home team for its play-in game. The Blues won that play-in game 4-0 over Pittsfield, but lost 8-6 and 11-5 to Worcester in a best-of-three semifinal series to end the season.
“There’s only one team that wins the FCBL,” Palmer said. “I know, myself as a coach and Jordie [Scheiner] as an assistant, we certainly want to do it here in Bristol. At the end of the day, we won 30 ballgames. We were one of only three teams in the league that finished above .500. We were above .500 from Day 1, we were in the top three the entire summer. The teams that were one and two, we played good baseball with them. I think the guys got a lot of it, as far as that’s concerned.”
Bristol had some players near the top of the league leaderboard statistically during the regular season. Neal McDermott’s 14 saves led the FCBL by a wide margin, and he also compiled the third-most strikeouts with 49 and appeared in the fourth-most games (20). Michael Genaro threw 50 1/3 innings, second in the league.
Dylan Reynolds was third in walks with 33 and tied for fifth in batting average at .339. Ian Ostberg was fourth in hits with 41, fourth in stolen bases with 21, and eighth in hits with 49. Alex Loparco tied for second in hit by pitches with 11. Andrew Hague tied for the lead in sacrifices with five, and Peyton Stephens tied for fourth in sacrifice flies with four. On defense, Matt Bonvicini had 14 assists and a fielding percentage of .989.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com.