WORCESTER – Less than a month ago it looked like the Worcester Bravehearts were going to struggle to make it into the Futures Collegiate Baseball League playoffs, but after a couple almost perfect weeks Worcester found another gear and went though the last week undefeated and have closed the gap on first place to just 2.5 games.

Just like they did last week the Bravehearts started the week off with a road game against the first place Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, and while it wasn’t the slugfest the previous game was Worcester had more than enough offense to come away 9-6 winners. The Bravehearts starting pitching has been great the last few games, and Jared Freilich’s effort Monday night was no exception as he held the high-powered Sharks offense to just four hits and two runs over six innings.

Edward Haus gave the Bravehearts a lead they would never relinquish in the top of the first with an RBI single. In the third inning Dustin Harris doubled in a run and Mack Cheli followed that with a two-run double. In the sixth Martha’s Vineyard got two runs to cut the Worcester lead in half at 4-2.

The Bravehearts have had a lot of four run innings this season, and they hit the Sharks with one in the seventh. Haus knocked in the first of the inning with another RBI single, and later in the frame Kirk Sidwell crushed a three run homer. Paul Gozzo capped the scoring for Worcester with an RBI single in the ninth.

Tuesday it was off to Campanelli Stadium for the Bravehearts to take on the Brockton Rox, and once again starting pitching was the story as Sebastian Gruszecki baffled the Brockton hitters for six innings, allowing just one hit and striking out eight. Michael Dellicarri got Worcester on the board in the top of the first with a two run shot, but Brockton got one of those back in the bottom half with some small ball and an infield error.

Brockton would repay for their run with some poor defense of their own in the top of the third leading to two Bravehearts runs. The teams exchanged runs in the fifth, and Worcester grabbed a run in the seventh on Dellicarri’s second homer of the game. In the ninth Dellicarri singled in another run, and a Haus sacrifice fly tacked on another run for the Bravehearts. A couple of stat killing runs for the Rox in the bottom of the ninth made it an 8-4 win for Worcester.

Wednesday was “Camp Day” at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field as the Pittsfield Suns visited Worcester for a late morning start. The trend of great starting pitching for the Bravehearts continued as Henry Ennen had his third quality start in a row, striking out seven and allowing three runs–two earned–in six and a third innings.

As has become a common occurrence of late Worcester got on the board in the bottom of the first with a Haus RBI with the bases loaded. The Suns answered back in the top of the second, but the Bravehearts retook the lead in the fifth courtesy of a Dellicarri bases loaded triple. The top of the seventh was not good for the Bravehearts as six Pittsfield batters crossed the plate as the Suns took a 7-4 lead.

Earlier this season that might have been enough to put Worcester away, but the Bravehearts showed they still had some life in them in bottom of the eighth with three runs to tie the game 7-7. Sidwell started the rally with an RBI double, Idelson Taveras continued the rally with an RBI single, and a Mariano Ricciardi sac fly knotted the score.

The the bottom of the ninth was just three pitches long, as Harris crushed a 1-0 pitch for a triple. On the next pitch a Suns infield error allowed Harris to score as the Bravehearts walked off with an 8-7 win. Kendall Pomeroy earned the win with two and two-thirds of scoreless relief.

On Thursday Worcester visited Lynn, Massachusetts to take on the North Shore Navigators at Fraser Field, it was Makenzie Stills taking to the mound in his turn to shine as a starting pitcher. Stills scattered six hits over seven innings, allowing just a single run while striking out 11. He finished the seventh inning at exactly 90 pitches, which according to FCBL rules didn’t allow him to return for the eighth for a chance at the Bravehearts single game record of 12.

The Navigators jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second, and Worcester answered in the fourth on a Dellicarri home run. In the sixth Cheli gave the Bravehearts a lead with a homer of his own. In the eighth inning Worcester broke the game open with a five run frame, starting with scoring two on a North Shore infield error. Jon Hansen followed with a two run single, and then scored on a Joe Pesce RBI single. The Navigators had two in the ninth for the 7-3 final.

It was off to New Hampshire Friday night for Worcester in a rematch of last season FCBL finals against the Nashua Silver Knights, and as good as starting pitcher Joseph Mancini was, allowing just a single run and six hits over six innings, the Bravehearts bats were better in smashing 16 hits en route to a 14-3 laugher over the defending champions.

In the top of the second inning a two out double by Pesce knocked in a run, and a Rinaldi single scored two more. Two batters later a two run single by Harris made it 5-0. In the fourth Harris had another RBI single, and in the fifth Cheli led off with a home run. A Nashua run in the bottom half made it 6-1 after five.

Rinaldi added a couple runs in the seventh with a single driving in two, and in the eighth a Sidwell sacrifice fly made it a nine run advantage for Worcester. The Silver Knights got two back in their half of the inning, but in the ninth the Bravehearts added four more on a Harris RBI single, a Sidwell two-run single, and a Pesce RBI ground out.

After a scheduled off day on Saturday it was the North Shore Navigators visiting the HIP for a Sunday afternoon contest, and just like the rest of the week the Bravehearts starting pitcher was the story. In just his second start of the season Jake Sanderson shined, scattering four hits over five innings, allowing just two runs while striking out five.

The Navigators got on the board in the top of the first, but Worcester came roaring back with three runs in their half of the frame on a wild pitch, a bases loaded walk, and a Jack Gonzalez RBI single. A Harris sacrifice fly and a Brett Coffel RBI single accounted for Worcester’s two runs in the second inning. Coffel added a sac fly in the fourth to make it 6-1.

North Shore got one back in the fifth, but the Bravehearts answered that run with four of their own in the bottom half. Some poor defense by North Shore scored the first run, and later in the frame a bases loaded double by Coffel knocked in three. Those extra runs proved important as the Worcester bullpen struggled, but as the Navigator runs scored they managed to get enough outs to keep the Bravehearts in front. Ricciardi capped the scoring for the Bravehearts with an RBI single in the eighth as Worcester went on to win 11-7.

*This week’s Bravehearts schedule

Monday off day, All-Star break

Tuesday off day, All-Star break

Wednesday FCBL All-Star Game in Nashua (rescheduled from Tuesday)

Thursday vs Brockton, 6:30pm (Craft Beer Night)

Friday vs Nashua, doubleheader, 4:30pm (Military Appreciation Night & Fireworks Friday)

Saturday vs Pittsfield, 7pm (Hockey Night)

Sunday at Pittsfield, 5pm

*The TWIW Bravehearts Player of the Week is Makenzie Stills (Vanderbilt) for his Thursday start where gave up just a single run while striking out 11 in Worcester’s 7-3 win.

*Around the FCBL

Monday

Pittsfield 9, @Brockton 3

Tuesday

North Shore 6, @Nashua 1 (game 1, 8 innings)

@Nashua 5, North Shore 4 (game 2, 7 innings)

Wednesday

@Martha’s Vineyard 4, North Shore 3

@Brockton 3, Nashua 0

Thursday

Martha’s Vineyard 3, @Nashua 2 (game 1, 8 innings)

@Nashua 7, Martha’s Vineyard 4 (game 2, 7 innings)

Bristol 5, Pittsfield 3 (10 innings)

Friday

@North Shore 6, Bristol 2

Martha’s Vineyard 7, @Brockton 2

Saturday

Bristol 5, @North Shore 3 (game 1, 7 innings)

Bristol 2, @North Shore 1 (game 2, 7 innings)

@Martha’s Vineyard 7, Nashua 4

Brockton 10, @Pittsfield 4

Sunday

Bristol 4, @Pittsfield 2

@Brockton 3, Martha’s Vineyard 2

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