Bravehearts Turn it Around for Victory after Slow Start

Despite a slow start, the Bravehearts took down the Westfield Starfires 7-4 on Friday night June 28.  They were led Angelo Baez’s 5-inning, 10 strikeout start and Riley Livingston’s 4 for 4 night.

Though it was hot, it was a good night for baseball, and the stadium was packed.  The Bravehearts were wearing special jerseys for Ghostbusters Night.   A couple of those jerseys were auctioned off during the game.  Bernie Carbo, an ex-Red Sox player on the 1975 American League champions, was in attendance.  I got the chance to interview him:

After the game there were fireworks for the nearly sold out stadium.  A good show to get everyone excited for the upcoming holiday.

Before the game, I caught up with leadoff hitter Mariano Ricciardi and assistant coach Adam Chase:

Krish Vyas, the team’s honorary captain, was in attendance.  He went on the field and in the clubhouse before the game, and spent the game with me and other Bravehearts media members in the press box.  Check out my interview with Krish about what he does for the team and how his role with Bravehearts all got started:

The Bravehearts started off slow.  They did load the bases twice during the first 3 innings, but they weren’t able to score a run in these innings.  The Starfires ended up striking first in the top of the 4th.  Star outfielder Thomas Joyce led off the inning with a single, and he advanced on a long single into the left field corner by Danny Crossen.  C Tommy Quinn hit a deep double that scored both runners to make it 2-0 Westfield.

But Worcester’s bats had been heating up, and it showed as the game progressed.  In the bottom of the 4th, Riley Livingston (who had already singled once), hit a solo shot into left center, making it a 1 run game.  The Bravehearts continued to rally their way back in the bottom of the 5th.  John Thrasher hit what looked to be a single into center field but he was able to stretch it to a double.  That allowed him to score on Mack Cheli’s RBI single and tie the game.  Tyler Becker followed with a deep shot into center for a double, putting both him and Cheli in scoring position.  Paul Coumoulos’ single drove them both in.  It was now 4-2 Bravehearts, and there was only one out.  The Bravehearts loaded the bases again with two outs thanks to another hit by Livingston and a walk by Nick Martin, but their bases loaded struggles continued as Ricciardi struck out to end the inning.

With Angelo Baez out of the game in the 6th, Thomas Joyce hit a moonshot, all the way to the Papa Gino’s sign in right.  But the Bravehearts still held the lead after this, and extended it when 3B Ben McNeill hit a 2-run dinger of his own into deep center.  But this wasn’t it for home runs.  Devin Kellogg hit one for Westfield in the 8th to make it 6-4 Worcester.

The Bravehearts extended their lead in the bottom of the inning with a pair of singles followed by an RBI ground out.  Bryce Hellgeth earned another save to seal the victory in the 9th.

I caught up with Ben McNeill, one of the game’s best hitters, after the game:

Riding a 3 game win streak, the Bravehearts are now above .500 with a record of 13-12.  This week, they travel to the North Shore on Monday and Nashua on Wednesday for a twin bill.  Will their win streak continue?

Dogs Bring Luck, Bravehearts Rally Past Blues

Last night with several dogs and their owners in the stands for the first of two Bark in the Park games, the Bravehearts were down 2-0 after 2 innings.  Though it took a few innings for Worcester to get going as warm-ups were shortened by downpours before game time, the team was able to rally their way to the lead in the 4th inning and hold that lead through the rest of the game.  Despite being held to just 4 hits, they ended up taking down the Bristol Blues 6-3, with Bryce Hellgeth earning the save for Worcester and Shawn Babineau earning the win.

Going into this game, the Bravehearts had lost 2 games in a row despite the return of star hitter Mack Cheli and shortstop Ben McNeill.  But in this game, everyone was settled in for the summer and contributed as the team was helped by having a full roster.  Just an hour before the game, it did not look good as it was pouring.  But the tarp was taken off the field soon before the original 6:35 PM start time and the grounds crew did an excellent job getting the field ready.

Even with the rain, a decent number of fans still showed up with their dogs for Bark in the Park night.  You can bring your dogs again on July 22nd for another Bark in the Park game.  I caught up with one dog owner and season ticket holder, Michael, who ran on the field with his dog after the 6th inning along with many kids.

I also interviewed C Jack Gardner, who caught the Bravehearts first ever team no-hitter on Opening Night this year .  Riley Livingston would catch tonight for Shawn Babineau (aka “Babs”) in this game, but Gardner was in the lineup as the DH.

You can also check out my pregame discussion with Bravehearts broadcaster Donny Porcaro:

It didn’t look good for Worcester early on.  The big hitting Blues lineup didn’t do much in the 1st inning, but in the second, the Blues had 1st and 2nd after a base hit to deep left followed by a bunt single.  Jordan Laske drove in both runs with a huge double.  However, Babineau got out of the inning with two consecutive outs.

In the 2nd, Cheli became the first Braveheart to get a hit in the game, and a Tyler Becker walk made it 1st and 2nd.  But the Bravehearts ended the inning on a double play that stranded both runners.  The team didn’t have another hit until the 4th inning, when the team made their comeback.

Blues starter Arjun Thakar was having trouble finding the plate, as he gave up 4 consecutive walks to make it 2-1 Bristol.  This was followed by another double play, but another run scored to tie the game.  A balk scored the go-ahead run while P.J. Barry, the next hitter, was up at bat.  After this, Barry crushed a home run into left field to extend the lead and knock Thakar out of the game after just 3 2/3 innings.  But Worcester wasn’t done.  Livingston walked during the next at bat, and though he was caught stealing with Nick Martin up, Martin returned to lead off the next inning with a home run of his own and give Worcester the 3-run lead.

Babineau left the game after 6 innings due to pitch count, and in the 7th, the Bravehearts did give up 1 more run.  Brandon Miller walked and stole 2nd against Worcester’s relief pitcher Chris Macca.  Though Macca struck out a second batter after the walk, Kyle Maves drove Miller in with a single to make it 5-3 Worcester.  Nolan Cloutier continued the rally attempt with a single of his own to make it 1st and 2nd.  Jordan Laske walked for the 2nd time that night.  He had not failed to reach base yet, and it was bases loaded with 2 outs for Danny Roth.  But Macca struck Roth out to get out of the jam to hold onto the lead.

The Bravehearts gave their bullpen some additional run support in the bottom of the inning.  Livingston walked again, and Mariano Ricciardi got on base for the first time of the night with a walk of his own.  There were runners on 1st and 2nd for Jakob Sessa, but also two outs.  Sessa has been a performing very well for Worcester this season.  Going into this game, he was batting .350.  But he was hitless in this game until he smoked an RBI single to extend Worcester’s lead back to 3 runs.  Angelo Baez and Hellgeth pitched the final two innings for Worcester and helped secure the 6-3 Bravehearts victory, with Baez maintaining a 0.00 ERA on the season through 5 appearances.

I caught up with P.J. Barry on his home run after the game:

Stay tuned for more of my Worcester Bravehearts coverage with this Sunday’s afternoon game against the North Shore Navigators at 4PM.  For the remainder of the week, the Bravehearts will be on the road for 4 games: two in Bristol, one against North Shore, and one in Pittsfield.

 

Dunkin’ Sends me to Cup Finals

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Back in April, I predicted the Bruins to go on a Stanley Cup run after gathering momentum in the final months of the regular season.  It’s amazing that now the Bruins are just 1 win away from winning the Cup.

I had really enjoyed watching the first first four games from home.  Playoff hockey, especially in the Stanley Cup Finals, is a different brand of hockey and watching your favorite team play is even more special.  Tickets to a game in the finals are so hard to get and I never expected the chance to watch a game at the TD Garden.  I had never even been to a playoff game for any professional sport.  I was in complete shock when I found out I would be going to Game 5 with my whole family thanks to Dunkin’ Boston.

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Even though the Bruins lost in a tight game with questionable calls, it was an amazing experience.  When I got home from school on game day, a package from Dunkin’ was waiting for me.  Inside?  Four tickets to the game along with a large assortment of Dunkin’ merchandise.

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Dunkin’ sent us in style in a Boston Chauffer SUV driven by Mark (pictured above).  Mark gave us a warm welcome, was very friendly, and even talked hockey with me and my family before the game.

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We arrived at TD Garden around 6:30, so we had time to grab a a quick burger and fries from Tasty Burger and then head to Fan Fest.  I had the perfect dessert treat, a bag full of free Dunkin’ Munchkins.  We also took pictures with some passionately dressed fans and in front of the NESN and NHL Network pregame shows as they were broadcasting.  I even had the chance to shoot a puck on a mini rink set up in the middle of Fan Fest.

Before the game began, I also took a picture in front of the famous Bobby Orr statue.  While I was there, I ran into Joe McDonald, who I met in the Bruins press box back in 2015.  I also caught up with Blades on the way to our seats.

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After Fan Fest and getting our rally towels, we found our seats and the game began.  I’m especially thankful for the great seats from Dunkin’ in the Loge section behind the net in the Bruins offensive zone for the first and third periods.  Our view from the seats were perfect to see the action up close.

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The Bruins had control of the game in Period 1, but Blues goalie Jordan Binnington didn’t let up a single goal despite a Bruins power play.  This kept the game scoreless by the end of the period.

Despite going scoreless, I saw many great Bruins scoring opportunities and was thrilled to be at the Garden to cheer the B’s on along with the rest of the very loud and energetic crowd.  It felt surreal being at a Bruins game in June.  The exciting night continued when I visited the 98.5 the Sports Hub suite during intermission.  Adam Moscatel, a 98.5 employee, escorted us up to the 9th floor where the suite was, and I had the chance to catch up with Dan Alperin and Rob “Hardy” Poole of 98.5.

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But when I returned to my seat about a minute after intermission had ended, the score was 1-0 Blues.  St. Louis had gotten off to a quick start in the 2nd period, and I had just missed the Ryan O’Reilly goal that put St. Louis on the board first.

The rest of the period was dominated by St. Louis.  Even on a Boston power play, the Bruins failed to score, or even keep it in their offensive zone for more than a few seconds.  The Blues did not score any more goals thanks to strong goaltending by Tuukka Rask, but the Bruins no longer had momentum in their favor after this period.

During the 2nd intermission, my dad and I left our seats to buy some food, but on our way there, we ran into well-known sports reporter Sean McDonough and took pictures with him:

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Sean McDonough is the son of former Boston Globe writer Will McDonough, who the Sports Museum has named their Sports Writing Contest after.  I have received an honorable mention in that contest for two years in a row.  This year, I wrote about how I got into sports in the first place.  Last year, I won an honorable mention for my essay on the true meaning of Boston Strong based on my experience at the first Red Sox home game after the Boston Marathon bombings.  It was really cool to meet Will’s son Sean, who has also worked as a Boston sports reporter for many years.

We didn’t want to miss the 3rd period so we hurried back to our seats after grabbing a drink.  Early in the period, the Bruins were on a power play.  This time, they did keep control of the puck for the majority of the 2 minutes, but they once again failed to score their first goal.

With about 13 minutes left, Bruins right wing David Pastrnak shot in what looked to be a goal.  The play was reviewed, but in the end, it was not ruled a goal.  The call on the ice was no goal and even though the big screen replays looked to show the puck across the goal line, it was ruled no goal after the officials reviewed it.

The call that really angered the fans came when St. Louis scored their 2nd goal.  Before the Blues scored, their center, Tyler Bozak, blatantly tripped Noel Acciari just a few feet away from a referee on the ice.  However, with Acciari lying on the ice seemingly in pain from being upended from a leg whip from behind, no penalty was called.  Play continued and about 10 seconds later David Perron scored, as a quick pass intended for a wide open Bozak (with the B’s essentially down a man), bounced off the inside of Rask’s pads and in for a goal.  Fans all around the stadium began throwing their towels and water bottles in disgust over the non-call.  Game play was delayed several minutes as they swept up the ice to pick up all the thrown items as items were being thrown faster than the ice could be cleared.  The game eventually resumed, but with the Blues up 2-0 and with less than 10 minutes to go, a Bruins comeback seemed unlikely.  One could make an argument it should’ve still been 1-0 with the Bruins on a power play with hopes of tying the game.  Unbiased hockey fans would agree that the Blues 2nd goal should have never counted as the play should have been whistled dead for a tripping call.  Instead, they were down 2-0.

The Bruins did score one goal before the game ended, scored by Jake DeBrusk.  But the team ran out of time to tie the game and force overtime as Binnington shut them down with his best game of the series.  The Bruins ultimately came up short losing game 5 by a score of 2-1.

Even though they lost, the experience is one I will never forget as I had such an incredible time!

I’d like to thank Amy Righter & Dunkin’ Boston, Mark of Boston Chauffer, and the entire staff at 98.5 the Sports Hub for making my Stanley Cup experience very unique and incredibly memorable.

Fortunately the Bruins won Game 6, taking down the Blues 5-1 to force a Game 7.  The one remaining game to decide the Cup winner will be played in Boston with a crowd likely even more pumped up than the crowd from game 5.

The Blues are far from an easy opponent which is probably why this series has gone 7 games.  In fact, they might be the toughest opponent Boston has faced in for the entire 2019 playoffs.  Anything can happen and I think this game will be a close one.  But as they did against Toronto during this playoff run, the B’s can come back to win a series they trailed 3-2 after 5 games.

What do you think?  Will the Blues get revenge for the 1970 loss to the Bruins led by Bobby Orr to win their first ever Stanley Cup or will the Bruins hoist the Cup once again and parade around Boston this week for the 3rd Boston pro sports Championship in 12 months?

I can’t wait to watch and find out.  Go Bruins!