Bravehearts overcome long odds to win FCBL championship

Early morning on July 30th I asked a mathematician/engineer friend who is working on a free app to determine playoff chances for sports leagues what the odds were the Worcester Bravehearts would make the FCBL playoffs. A few minutes later he texted me the answer, and it was just short of 9%. I jokingly asked what the chances were they’d win the title. Fifteen minutes later the reply came: almost zero. The staff and players of the Bravehearts should avoid buying lottery tickets for a while because their longshot came in on Sunday when Worcester defeated the Bristol Blues 6-4 in ten innings to win the Future’s Collegiate Baseball League championship series two games to one.

The last thing a team on a roll wants is a couple of days off, but that’s what the Bravehearts got after the scheduled off day Monday and then Tuesday’s slate of playoff games was washed out by a huge storm that dropped significant amounts of rain on southern New England. It turned out to not be an issue Wednesday as Worcester picked right up where they left off in a 3-0 victory over the Brockton Rox. Starter Dylan Collett went 6 2/3rds innings, and while he allowed six hits and only struck out two he was never really in any trouble in his stint. Miles Sheehan came in and struck out three of the five batters he faced before giving way to Logan Fullmer in the ninth. All three of the Bravehearts runs were scored the same way, with Alex Sanchez grounding out to score Gavin Tristan in the third, fifth, and ninth innings.

Other Wednesday results
@Bristol 3, Torrington 1
Nashua 5, @North Shore 2
@Martha’s Vineyard 4, Pittsfield 1

As the FCBL playoffs rerack after each round that meant Worcester, as the lowest remaining seed, would have to go to which ever team was the highest seed remaining. At least on paper it wasn’t a good thing for the Bravehearts as they were matched up with Martha’s Vineyard out on the island. Over the last two regular seasons Worcester is a woeful 2-9 against the Sharks, but MV was the team the Bravehearts swept to win last season’s title so they did have a little playoff success under their belts, and their playoff record improved to a perfect 3-0 against the Sharks with a 7-4 win in 15 innings. Worcester jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead after one and a half on a TJ Riccio RBI single in the first and Ian Strom RBI hit in the second, but the Sharks got one back in the home half of the second on Donovan Casey‘s solo shot. In the home half of the third MV would score on a wild pitch to even the score, but Zack Tower would get the Bravehearts back in front with a fifth inning homer of his own. Brian Campbell homered in the bottom of the sixth to tie it again for MV, but once again Worcester would take the lead in the next half on a Tower sacrifice fly. In the bottom of the seventh the Sharks came right back and tied it again on Ryan Kelly‘s RBI single. From there relievers Charlie Butler and Mike Parmentier took over, each dominating the game as it rolled into extra innings. It was the Sharks Parmentier that tired first, and that proved to be the break the Bravehearts needed as they put up three in the top of the 15th inning. They got two runs on Willie Allen‘s double, and a couple batters later Gavin Tristan would single in another run. Logan Fullmer came in to close out the game, taking over for Kyle Cutler who had relieved Butler for the 14th.

Other Thursday result
@Bristol 7, Nashua 0

Friday saw the FCBL championship series start in Worcester against the Bristol Blues. Under the playoff format the higher seed has the choice of hosting game one or games two and three, and the Blues chose to start the series on the road. After the long trip back to Worcester from Martha’s Vineyard where the team didn’t arrive back in the city until just after 3am there was some concern as to how the squad would be able to handle it. They handled it just fine. Zack Tower’s first inning RBI single gave the Bravehearts the early lead, and in the fifth inning Alex Sanchez singled in Gavin Tristan for the 2-0 lead. Starter Mike Bruemmel made those runs stand up all the way through seven innings with a gem of a game where he allowed just three hits and one earned run, on Ryan Costello‘s seventh inning RBI triple, while striking out five. Clayton Dostal and Miles Sheehan each pitched a scoreless inning to give the Bravehearts a 2-1 win and a 1-0 series lead.

In was off to Bristol for game two Saturday, and it was a pitchers duel the whole way as only a single run was scored in the game. Unfortunately for Worcester it was the Blues that scored it as Bristol tied the series 1-1 with a 1-0 win. Hard-luck loser Greg Stagani pitched a real good game, going five innings and striking out seven while allowing just the one run. Frankie Moscatiello was just as good in relief, striking out five in three innings whole allowing just two hits. Bristol starter Dominic LoBrutto pitched his best game of the season, going eight innings and striking out nine. Robert Paccione has a shaky ninth inning for the Blues but got some help from his defense to record the save. The only run of the game was scored by Blues center fielder Davis Strong in the bottom of the first after Strong singled, stole second, advanced to third on an error, and the scored on a wild pitch.

It was at Bristol again for the winner-take-all final game on Sunday, and it was the Blues jumping ahead early when Davis Strong scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the first. The Bravehearts would claim the lead in the top of the fourth on RBI singles by Willie Allen and Joe Caico, and would increase their lead to 4-1 on Gavin Tristan’s double that scored two runs in the top of the seventh. Bristol was far from dead however, and in the bottom of the eighth scored three runs to tie it on run scoring doubles by Willy Yahn and Tyler Packanik and a pinch hit RBI single by Dylan Morris. Nine innings not being enough to determine a champion to extras the teams went, and Worcester’s clean-up hitter Zack Tower did just that by tripling in two runs in the top of the tenth for the eventual 6-4 final.

210Sports’ Bravehearts of the week
Pitcher: Mike Bruemmel, the finals game one winner, who allowed just three hits and one run while striking out five in seven innings.
Batter: Zack Tower, who went 7-23 with a double, triple, and home run in five playoff games. He led Worcester with 5 playoff RBI.

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