WORCESTER – After three days off for the Futures Collegiate Baseball League All-Star game the Worcester Bravehearts got back to action Thursday night when the Brockton Rox visited Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field. Just like before the break starting pitching was the story for Worcester as Joseph Mancini went seven strong innings, scattering four hits and striking out seven while allowing just one run and earning the win in the Bravehearts 9-1 victory.
Despite having runners in scoring position in the first two innings Worcester wasn’t able to get the timely hit to score any runs. That changed in the third when Chris Rinaldi doubled in Mariano Ricciardi for the game’s first run. Dustin Harris then singled Rinaldi home for the two run lead. Later in the frame a Kirk Sidwell single drove in Harris. In the fifth inning a Joe Pesce RBI single made it 4-0.
In the sixth Mack Cheli earned an RBI with a sacrifice fly, and after the Rox got one back in the top of the seventh Worcester tacked on three more runs in the bottom half on a wild pitch and a Cheli two-run single. The Bravehearts closed out the scoring on a Pesce home run in the eighth. Rob Cerulle and Peter Bovenzi each worked a scoreless inning in relief, each recording 1-2-3 innings.
On Friday the Nashua Silver Knights invaded the HIP for a double header, and they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a run in the top of the second. Worcester took the lead in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double by Harris and a run scoring single by Edward Haus.
The Bravehearts broke the game open with a five run sixth inning, starting with a bases loaded walk to Jon Hansen. Pesce then followed with a double scoring two more runs. The next batter was Idelson Taveras, who earned his first RBI of the season with a single. Cheli followed with a sac fly to close out the scoring for Worcester. Nashua added a run in the top of the seventh for the 7-2 final.
Henry Ennen earned the win with the five inning start, striking out three. Tyler Patane and Edward Lehr held the Silver Knights at bay with an inning each of relief.
In game two it was the Makenzie Stills show as the incoming Vanderbilt freshman threw a complete game seven inning gem, striking out six while allowing just two hits and an unearned run in the 3-1 win for Worcester. It was need as the Bravehearts bats were also kept in check by Nashua pitching. Worcester got on the board first on a Rinaldi bases loaded walk in the second. They added another run in the third on an infield single by Sidwell.
A Silver Knights run on two Bravehearts errors in the fourth cut Worcester’s lead in half, but the Bravehearts got an insurance run in the sixth on a Rinaldi single.
There was some anticipation of the top of the seventh inning as in the top of the fourth Nashua designated hitter Jake Lebel went hard into second base, taking out Ricciardi. After tempers briefly flared the umpires ruled the batter out at first due to Lebel’s interference. Lebel was the second batter of the seventh inning, and with the score close many fans in attendance figured Stills wouldn’t retaliate. He didn’t, instead Stills buzzed a fastball just inside on the first pitch of the at-bat. Lebel was off balance the rest of the at-bat as Stills struck him out looking for one of the loudest cheers of the night.
Saturday it was the Pittsfield Suns visiting the HIP for the first of a home-and-home against the Bravehearts, and while starting pitching once again was the story unfortunately for Worcester in was Suns starter Gage Feeney who was doing the shining, holding the Bravehearts bats in check until the very end of his eight and a third inning outing as Pittsfield ended Worcester’s nine game winning streak.
The Suns took a 4-0 lead with a run in the top of the first and three in the fourth, and while the Bravehearts were hitting the ball hard it was always right at the Pittsfield defense, who in many cases didn’t need to range more than a step or two to field the ball. Worcester managed to avoid the shutout with a Harris RBI single in the bottom of the ninth for the 4-1 final.
Sunday’s rains wiped out two FCBL games, but luckily for the Bravehearts their contest in Pittsfield went on as scheduled as Worcester loaded up on the runs and ended the week 9-3 winners over the Suns. Starting pitcher Jake Sanderson was outstanding for the Bravehearts, allowing just five hits and two earned run over seven innings while striking out four.
The Bravehearts offense got things going in the second inning, scoring six runs. The first was scored on an infield out, and Rinaldi followed with a sacrifice fly. Haus added a run with an RBI single, and then Harris crushed a three-run homer to center field. In the third inning Will Lucas had an RBI single, and in the fourth Sidwell also singled in a run. Worcester would get their ninth run of the game on a double play ball in the fifth inning.
With the win on Sunday the Bravehearts clinched an FCBL playoff berth.
*This week’s Bravehearts schedule
Monday vs Brockton, 6:30pm (Paint Party In The Park)
Tuesday vs North Shore, 6:30pm (Bark In The Park)
Wednesday at North Shore, 10:30am
Thursday at Brockton, 7pm
Friday vs Martha’s Vineyard, 7pm (Fireworks Friday)
Saturday at Pittsfield, 6pm
Sunday vs Bristol, 4pm (Bravehearts Baseball Card Giveaway)
*The TWIW Bravehearts Player of the Week is Chris Rinaldi (Holy Cross) who set two Bravehearts franchise marks during the week in scoring a run in 17 consecutive games and reaching base in 21 games in a row. The on-base streak will continue into next week.
*Around the FCBL
Martha’s Vineyard 10, @Brockton 1 (game 1, 7 innings)
@Brockton 12, Martha’s Vineyard 11 (game 2, 7 innings)
FCBL All-Star game ppd/rain, rescheduled for Wednesday
FCBL All-Star game: Dodgers 6, Nashua 2
@Pittsfield 1, Nashua 0
@Bristol 6, North Shore 4
Brockton 4, @Martha’s Vineyard 3
North Shore 6, @Pittsfield 5, HRD
Martha’s Vineyard 6, @Bristol 4
@Brockton 9, Nashua 5
Martha’s Vineyard @ North Shore, ppd/rain
Nashua @ Bristol, ppd/rain