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?

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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.

 

Brockton Rox from the Press Box

Ever since the Futures League added a Worcester team, I have wanted to go see a game.  When I learned my next door neighbor for many years, Jake Rosen, was playing for the Brockton Rox against Worcester at Hanover Insurance Park, I made plans to go.  Jake was the starting shortstop and batted 9th this past Thursday, July 19th.

I got in touch with Jake a few days before the game, and he told me that I could interview him if I got there about an hour before the start of the game.  We walked to the Holy Cross football field away from the pre-game music.

Jake-Andrew before Game 3

Check out the full interview below:

After the interview we watched Jake warm-up we had great seats right next to his team’s dugout. 

Before the game started, my dad bought me some chicken tenders with fries which was delicious.  On our way back to our seats, we stopped at the Bravehearts press box.  We knocked on the door, and announcers J.R. Suyemoto and Donny Porcaro invited us in and gave us a place to sit after I handed them my business card.  The game was broadcast live on Facebook as it always is and saved on the Bravehearts Facebook page.

Andrew with announcers JR Suyemoto and Donny Porcaro
With Worcester Bravehearts play-by-play broadcasters J.R. Suyemoto (right) and Donny Porcaro (left)

The game was starting soon, and we were getting settled in the press box.  Paul Lambert shared the line-up cards with us so we could follow along.

In the meantime, Jake and the rest of the team were just about ready for the game.

Jake just before game
Brockton Rox SS Jake Rosen just before the game began.

Rox LF Charlie Maxwell led off the game with a single, but the Rox lineup was relatively quiet in the first few innings.  The Bravehearts were also kind of quiet at the plate in the first couple innings, but C Brett Coffel hit a big double in the 2nd inning, and the Bravehearts had 1st and 2nd in the 1st inning despite failing to score a run.  Worcester didn’t really get going until the 3rd inning.  Their leadoff hitter, 2B Mariano Ricciardi, walked to begin the inning, and DH Chris Rinaldi drove him in with an RBI double.  3B Dustin Harris drove Rinaldi in with a long single, and after Mack Cheli, their star hitter, singled, SS Eddie Haus hit another single to load the bases.  Coffel struck out, but Kirk Sidwell drove in a third run with his single and the bases remained loaded.  However, Joseph Pesce grounded it to the pitcher, who threw it to the catcher (Jack Kelly) to start a 1-2-3 double play and prevent the Bravehearts from scoring more runs.

Brendan Connelly, a Brockton Rox reporter from WATD (a South Shore radio station), walked in and sat next tome in the press box.  He told us that he also works at the Boston Herald as a high school sports reporter.  I told him about my Herald radio experience and how I am going to help cover my high school’s sports teams this year.

He helped us by giving us insight on some of the best Rox players and the team overall.  Brendan also told us that the Futures League was a Summer League that featured elite college baseball players, and that some of the league’s top players get drafted into the MLB.  It would be really cool if Jake was drafted by an MLB team and I really enjoyed watching him from the press box.

Andrew w Brendan Connelly WATD Reporter 95-9 FM.JPG
With Brendan Connelly of WATD Radio

The Bravehearts made it 4-0 in the 5th inning, when Brett Coffel singled for his 2nd hit of the day and Joseph Pesce knocked Coffel in with a single of his own.  They scored a 5th run on a Mack Cheli sac fly with men on 1st and 3rd.  Eddie Haus tried to get another rally going when he hit an infield single on the next at bat, but the Rox ended the inning before the Bravehearts could get another man on base.  The Rox scored their first run in the 7th after Jack Kelly tripled and scored on a sac fly.

But after a crazy 3-run 7th, a home run by Joseph Pesce in the 8th, and a dominant performance throughout the game by the pitching staff (including 7 strong innings thrown by starter Joseph Mancini), the Bravehearts won, 9-1.

Even though the Rox lost 9-1, seeing my neighbor Jake Rosen hit and play in such a big stadium was incredible, especially from the press box.  Jake hit a hard grounder up the middle in his second plate appearance but was robbed of a single on a close play. Although this was not a great night at the plate for Jake, his defense was strong throughout the game.  Late in the game when I went back to my seats on the first base line, I saw Jake prevent an infield single by a speedy Braveheart:

 

Being focused on one player, I learned of another golden baseball player tradition, never step on foul line when walking on or off the field.

I noticed Jake avoiding the line every time he walked on and off the field.  I asked him after the game if he did it on purpose and he said, “Of course, rule of baseball…”

 

I did a little digging on this superstition and found this story from MLB Pitcher Mel Stottlemyre who last stepped on a foul line in 1987.  Here’s what happened per The Baseball Almanac:

“The first batter I faced was Ted Uhlaender, and he hit a line drive off my left shin. It went for a hit. Carew, Oliva and Killebrew followed with extra-base hits. The fifth man hit a single and scored and I was charged with five runs. I haven’t stepped on a foul line since.”

I really enjoyed my first Futures League game and I owe special thanks to Jake Rosen, J.R. Suyemoto, Donny Porcaro, Brendan Connelly, and Paul Lambert, all who made the experience that much better.

Andrew - Game over with scoreboard saying win.JPG

I definitely plan on going again because the Bravehearts do a great job at making the game fun even between innings like letting kids run on the field and pie eating contests.  My younger brother Ryan who is a gamer, loved the video game music after each play.

Check out my video about this experience:

Stay tuned for more baseball posts soon.