WORCESTER – The Futures Collegiate Baseball League’s playoff week began with a first round bye on Monday that came with the Worcester Bravehearts’ second place finish, and once the single elimination first round was completed it was the third seeded Bristol Blues that became Worcester’s FCBL semi-finals opponent in a best of three series that began on Tuesday at Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field.
In game one Kirk Sidwell got the Bravehearts a quick lead with a solo home run in the bottom of the second. Bristol answered with two runs in the top of the third, but a Dustin Harris bases loaded double in the home half of the frame gave Worcester a 4-2 lead. In the fifth Worcester grabbed another run off a wild pitch, and in the sixth a Joseph Pesce single drove in another run.
In the eighth the Blues scored another run, but once again the Bravehearts answered back with a couple runs in the bottom of the inning on a two-run double by Pesce. Those runs would prove huge as Bristol made a game of it in the top of the ninth plating three runs before David Tiskevics slammed the door shut with a game closing strikeout as Worcester took game one 8-6. Rob Cerulle got the win in relief.
It was off to Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut for game two on Wednesday night, and this time it was the Blues getting off to a quick one run lead in the bottom of the second. The Bravehearts answered in the top of the third with three runs, the first coming on an infield ground out. A couple batters later Brett Coffel ripped a single that drove in two runs. Unfortunately for Worcester their lead was short lived as Bristol scored three times in their half of the inning to take a 4-3 lead.
Turns out that lead didn’t last long either as in the top of the fourth Harris laced a two run double to give the Bravehearts the lead back, a lead that lasted exactly one half inning as the Blues came back to tie in their half of the inning. In the fifth the see-saw swung back in Worcester’s favor on a Tyler Becker’s RBI single, and this time the Bravehearts pitchers held the advantage.
Sidwell gave his team a little breathing room with a two-run single in the eighth, and in a long ninth inning, as the Blues struggled to find a pitcher that could get some outs, the Bravehearts picked up a run on a Harris single, a wild pitch, and a Coffel sacrifice fly as Worcester would defeat Bristol 11-5 and send the Blues out of the playoffs with a two game sweep of the series.
The Bravehearts then needed to wait for the other semi-finals series to end Thursday night to determine who–and where–they would play in the FCBL final, and with top seeded Martha’s Vineyard coming out on top it was off to the island on Friday to take on the Sharks in game one.
Martha’s Vineyard has some good bats in their line-up, and they showed it in the bottom of the first putting up two runs to take a quick lead. In the top of the fourth Worcester showed they have some bat of their own as Paul Gozzo crushed a two-run homer to get the Bravehearts back to even, but another two run inning from the Sharks in the bottom of the inning gave them their cushion back.
In the fifth Worcester answered back when the Martha’s Vineyard infield booted Mariano Ricciardi attempted sacrifice bunt allowing Pesce to score from second, and then Edward Haus followed with an RBI single to square the game 4-4. In the sixth the Sharks scored once again to retake the lead.
It had been awhile since the Bravehearts had put together a huge run scoring inning, and that drought was ended in the seventh inning as Worcester batted around and scored six times to take a commanding lead. An infield out with the bases loaded scored and an error on the play scored two runs, and a Gozzo single scored another. Sidwell followed with a three run shot to cap the scoring.
The Sharks would score a run in the bottom of the seventh, but that would be all for both squads as the Bravehearts headed back to home 10-6 winners and up 1-0 in the best of three series.
Game two was supposed to be at the HIP on Saturday, but day-long heavy rains postponed the game until Sunday. The way things turned out Worcester probably should have been hoping for more rain as the Sharks scored three times in the top of the first and never looked back in taking game two 4-2. Coffel scored both runs for the Bravehearts, the first coming on a towering shot to left field that hit the on-ramp to I-290 in the second, and in the seventh scored on a Sidwell single.
The home run was the fourth in Coffel’s Bravehearts post season career, a new record. Sidwell finished the game with 10 playoff hits, also a WooBall record.
Game three was set for Monday in Martha’s Vineyard, but after playing for just a short while the rains came again. With the field no longer playable FCBL Commissioner Chris Hall declared both teams “co-champions”.
*The TWIW Bravehearts Player of the Week is Kirk Sidwell, who went 10-18 (.556) with two doubles, two home run, and 7RBI in four playoff games.
*Around the FCBL
@Bristol 4, Pittsfield 0; Pittsfield eliminated
@Brockton 6, Nashua 5; Nashua eliminated
Brockton 7, @Martha’s Vineyard 5
Martha’s Vineyard 3, @Brockton 2
@Martha’s vineyard 5, Brockton 0; Brockton eliminated