With the temperatures and humidity climbing it not only indicates that summer is almost upon us, it also means baseball returns to Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field as the Worcester Bravehearts begin their third campaign in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League as they look to defend their back-to-back championships.
The Bravehearts will have a new manager as they look to capture their third FCBL title, with Clark University baseball head coach J.P. Pyne taking over for the departing Justin Edwards. Pyne is not a newcomer to the FCBL, having served at a pitching coach for the 2013 champion Nashua Silver Knights, followed by a season as head coach where they lost in the finals.
“I am extremely honored to take over as manager of the Worcester Bravehearts,” said Pyne in a posting on the Bravehearts’ official website. “My family and I want to thank the Creedon family and Futures League for this opportunity. Worcester has skyrocketed to the top of the league–both on and off the field–and I can’t wait to be a part of the organization.”
Pyne’s task will be a little easier as two of Worcester’s better players from last season will be returning. Starting pitcher Mike Bruemmel, who won game one of last season’s FCBL championship series, returns to the hill for the Bravehearts after his junior season at Wheaton College. Power hitter and fan favorite Zack Tower also heads back to the Bravehearts after his junior season at UMass-Lowell.
Both were winners in the “210 Awards” last season, Bruemmel for “Pitcher of the Year” and Tower for “Batter of the Year”, and both were inclusions on the first team of the FCBL’s All-Futures League Team.
The other pitching returnees for Worcester are Greg Stagani and Frankie Moscatiello. Stagani, from West Liberty University, pitched much better in his starts last summer than his record showed, allowing just 12 earned runs in 43.2 regular season innings and then allowing just a single run in game two of the FCBL championships in a hard-luck 1-0 loss. Moscatiello, from St. Thomas Aquinas, joined Worcester late last summer and had two solid playoff outings, striking out seven in 3.2 innings.
Two infielders rejoin the Bravehearts, with Assumption College’s Mike Coggeshall and West Boylston, Mass native Dante Ricciardi both coming back for a second year. Coggeshall is coming off a great spring with the Greyhounds where he had nine home runs and 40 RBI, both highs for his college career. Ricciardi, the 39th round pick for the Seattle Mariners in last summer’s MLB draft, is looking to continue to grow as a shortstop after a respectable freshman season at Georgetown.
Joe Caico also returns to the Worcester line-up, and while listed as an outfielder on the Bravehearts roster he is also a pitcher. Ciaco did both for Worcester last season, just as he has for both seasons at the University of New Haven. Evan Hirschbaum, a Washington College outfielder, caps the list of returning Bravehearts.
Pitching has always been the strong suit for Worcester, and several newcomers look to continue the trend. One that bears watching is left handed pitcher Mason Feole, who will be attending UConn in the fall. Feole was the 2016 Rhode Island Baseball Player of the Year after going 6-1 with a 0.78 ERA in his senior high school year for the Prout School in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
Another starting pitcher looking to help bring the Bravehearts another championship is Wheaton College’s Brady Furdon, who went 5-1 in ten starts for the Lyons. Saint Leo University product Zach Whitaker is also coming off a good spring season, going 6-1 with a save in 19 appearances for the Lions.
In 2014 Worcester opened fast and never looked back on their way to the FCBL championship. It was a completely different story in 2015 as the Bravehearts struggled all season, just barely making the playoffs before going on an incredible run to secure their second championship. What will 2016 hold? We’ll all find out in a few days.
This week’s opponents
Thursday @ Seacoast, 6:35pm
Friday vs Wachusett, 7pm (Fireworks)
Saturday vs Martha’s Vineyard, 7pm (Free T-shirt Saturday & Fireworks)
Sunday @ Torrington, 6pm