WORCESTER – This week saw the start of the 2018 Futures Collegiate Baseball League season, and with it the fifth campaign of the Worcester Bravehearts. Playing with a short roster due to some players still not having arrived in the city–and a few arriving a little banged up–the Bravehearts still managed to have a positive week, going 3-1 over the four games they played.
Opening night was Wednesday for the Bravehearts as they took on the two-time defending FCBL champion Nashua Silver Knights at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field in a rematch of last season’s championship finals. The outcome wasn’t in doubt long as Worcester put up nine runs in the third inning and cruised to a 13-2 victory. In their five seasons the Bravehearts have never lost a season or home opener.
Returning starter Sebastian Gruszecki took to the hill, and had the best start of his Bravehearts career, striking out seven Nashua batters over five innings to earn the win. Tyler Patane made his Worcester debut and pitched four innings of shutout ball to close out the game. By pitching more than three innings Patane should have been awarded a save, but as of yet the scoring doesn’t show one for him.
As for the bats, the Bravehearts got on the board in the bottom of the first when Brett Coffel doubled in Chris Rinaldi, and Coffel would eventually score on a third strike passed ball. In the second a Dustin Harris infield out and Coffel sacrifice fly added two more runs.
In the third inning, Worcester sent 12 batters to the plate, with nine of them reaching base safely. The scoring began with back-to-back doubles by Mack Cheli and Derek Adamson, each knocking in a run. A single by Alex Gionis made it 7-0, and three batters later Coffel’s second sac fly of the night plated another run. Michael Dellicarri‘s two-run triple got the Bravehearts into double digits, and then Dakota McFadden‘s single scored Dellicarri. Cheli’s two-run homer to left field capped the scoring for the Bravehearts.
On Thursday it was the Bristol Blues visiting the HIP, and it was a game of pitching and defense. Unfortunately for Worcester Bristol’s pitching was just a bit better and the Bravehearts defense was a little shaky as the Blues came out on top 3-1.
The game started off with record breaking inning for Worcester newcomer JT Morin when he recorded the first immaculate inning in franchise history, throwing nine pitches to strike out the side. He pitched well and finished the game with six strikeouts over five innings. Matthew Stansky followed with a shaky outing, allowing an earned run in the sixth and followed that up by hitting the first two batters of the seventh. 2017 FCBL Relief Pitcher of the Year Cody Laweryson then entered the game, but infield errors on back-to-back plays allowed two more runs to score.
Worcester’s only run of the game came on a Joseph Pesce RBI single in the bottom of the sixth.
After an off day on Friday the Bravehearts traveled to Lynn, Massachusetts to take on the North Shore Navigators at Fraser Field Saturday evening. Once again Worcester’s bats were wide awake as they rolled over the Navigators 9-3. The Bravehearts jumped out to an early advantage with RBI singles by Pesce in the second and Dellicarri in the third. North Shore then followed with two in the bottom of the third and one in the fourth to take the lead.
The top of the fifth saw Worcester score five runs, starting with a Harris RBI single. Another sacrifice fly by Coffel gave the Bravehearts the lead, and after an infield error scored another run a two-run Pesce single capped the scoring in the frame. A seventh inning sac fly, this time by Harris, made it 8-3, and some poor Navigators defense in the ninth led to another Worcester run for the 9-3 final.
Rob Cerulle picked up the win in relief as starter Jared Freilich didn’t pitch the requisite five innings.
A Sunday battle with the Pittsfield Suns at the HIP ended the week for the Bravehearts, and pitcher Pat Gallagher had an impressive outing, allowing just three hits and an unearned run over six innings to help lead Worcester to a 6-1 win over the Suns.
The Bravehearts would score single runs in each of the first four innings, highlighted by an Adamson solo shot to left field in the bottom of the second and a bases loading single by Edward Lehr in the fourth. After an unearned run for Pittsfield in the sixth Worcester scored a run in the seventh on a passed ball and in the eighth on a Dellicarri RBI single. Rob Stone pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the Bravehearts, and McFadden showed his versatility by pitching two scoreless innings to finish off the game.
With three stolen bases in Sunday’s game Rinaldi tied the franchise single game mark, and was the first Bravehearts player to do it at the HIP.
*This week’s Bravehearts schedule
Monday at Pittsfield, 6:30pm
Tuesday vs Brockton, 10:30am (Baseball in Education Day)
Wednesday vs Bristol, 10:30am (Baseball in Education Day)
Friday at Pittsfield, 6:30pm
Saturday vs Pittsfield, 7pm (T-Shirt Giveaway)
Sunday vs Martha’s Vineyard, 4pm (Space Night)
*The TWIW Bravehearts Player of the Week is outfielder Joseph Pesce, who went 7-15 (.462) for the week, knocking in four runs and stealing three bases.
*Around the FCBL
@Pittsfield 9, Brockton 3
@Martha’s Vineyard 8, North Shore 1
@Brockton 5, Nashua 4
Bristol 9, @Pittsfield 1
Martha’s Vineyard 7, @Brockton 3
@Nashua 8, North Shore 7
@Bristol 5, Pittsfield 4
Brockton 13, @Martha’s Vineyard 9
North Shore 2, @Bristol 1 (game 1/7 innings)
@Bristol 1, North Shore 0 (game 2/7 innings)
Brockton 5, @Nashua 2