Monday began the Worcester Bravehearts final push to solidify their Futures Collegiate Baseball League playoff seeding when the North Shore Navigators visited Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field, and it was a huge night for Ben Rice as he tied the franchise record by hitting three home runs, and by adding a double set the team mark collecting 14 total bases to lead Worcester to a 10-6 win.
North Shore scored in the top of the first, but John Thrasher and Rice both hit solo homers in the bottom half to give the Bravehearts the lead. The Navigators tied it with a run in the second, but a Mariano Ricciardi RBI single that scored Riley Livingston gave Worcester the lead back. In the third Rice hit a two-run shot to make it 5-1 Bravehearts.
A tough top of the fourth put Worcester down a run, but they got back to even when the Bravehearts loaded the bases and Mack Cheli earned an RBI being hit by a pitch. In the sixth an RBI double by Rice made it 7-6. In the seventh Worcester scored on a passed ball and a Ricciardi RBI single, and in the eighth Rice added his third home run for the 10-6 final.
Troy Klemm picked up the win pitching a scoreless sixth inning, and Jakob Barker struck out six batters in two innings of work.
After an off day Tuesday the Bravehearts traveled to Muzzy Field in Bristol, Connecticut Wednesday afternoon for a pair against the Blues. Things started off great for Worcester as they put up three in the top of the first on RBI groundouts by Chris Rinaldi and Tyler Becker and a bases loaded walk by Aidan Wilde.
But it got ugly after that with Bristol tying it in the bottom half, and then taking a 7-3 lead after four innings. Thrasher added a homer in the top of the fifth, but five by the Blues in the home half made it a 12-4 final.
In game two Bravehearts starter Jack Moynihan made sure that Bristol’s hot bats in the first game didn’t return by pitching a complete seven inning no-hitter. Worcester got all the runs they’d need in the top of the third on a Nicholas Martin bases loaded single, an infield error, and a Rinaldi sacrifice fly.
In the sixth Ben McNeill doubled and Paul Coumoulos singled him in, and in the seventh the Bravehearts scored a run on a wild pitch. Bristol got a run in the bottom of the seventh after consecutive Worcester infield errors for the 5-1 final.
On Thursday the great pitching for the Bravehearts continued in their visit to Bullens Field in Westfield as they took on the Starfires. Evan Moore pitched six innings of two-hit baseball and was followed by Brendan Case, who struck out two of the three batters he faced, and Christopher Macca who fanned three of the four who batted against him. Andrew Cain made his team debut in the ninth and added two strikeouts.
For the bats, with the exception of a Rice double they were quiet until the fifth inning when Joseph Pesce ripped an RBI double. He’d later score on a groundout. In the sixth Wilde hit a three run homer to make it 5-0. In the eighth a Thrasher double knocked in a sixth run. The Starfires scrounged a run in the bottom of the ninth for the 6-1 final. Martin ended the game going 4-5.
On Thursday night the Nashua Silver Knights invaded the HIP, and the visitors from the north scored a run in the first and four in the top of the third to take a 5-0 lead. The Bravehearts got one back in the home half when Becker scored on a double play ball. In the seventh McNeill hit a sac fly to make it 5-2, but that would be it for the scoring in the game.
On Saturday Westfield visited the HIP for a pair, and in game one after the Starfires scored a run in the top of the first Jack Gardner tied it in the home half with an absolute bomb to left field. Westfield grabbed another run in the third, but a Becker sacrifice fly in the fourth tied it.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the seventh when Worcester had runners on first and second with one out. Rice hit what looked like a sure double play ball, but the shortstop’s throw pulled the first baseman off the back. From this writer’s vantage point it looked as if the first baseman tagged Rice as he ran by, but the umpire ruled Rice safe. Thrasher, who started the play on second, never slowed as he rounded third and scored the winning run.
After a few moments of discussion between the umpires, the “safe” call stood and Worcester walked off 3-2 winners.
Barker earned the win, and in doing so set the Bravehearts career strikeout mark. He ended the game with 85 careers Ks.
In game two the Bravehearts jumped out to a lead in the bottom of the first on a Martin double, and then he stole third without a throw as the pitcher held the ball on the mound seemingly forgetting Martin was on base. He’d then score on a Rinaldi sac fly. In the third Rinaldi had another sacrifice fly, and Cheli had an RBI single scoring Thrasher, who had doubled earlier.
Westfield got runs in the fourth and fifth, but Worcester put the game out of reach with a five run fifth. Thrasher began the damage with a two-run homer, and three batters later Becker launched a three-run shot. In the sixth Thrasher laced a single that scored two more, and he then scored on a wild pitch.
And as if Thrasher hadn’t done enough in the game, he came in to pitch the seventh. Klemm earned his second win of the week. Bryce Hellgeth pitched a scoreless inning, striking out three.
Sunday it was off to Campanelli Stadium in Brockton for the regular season finale, and it was all Rox as the Bravehearts dropped a 10-2 contest. Worcester scored on a double play ball in the first and a Rinaldi RBI single in the eighth.
210Sports’ Bravehearts of the week
Pitcher: Jakob Barker of Seminole State gets the nod, going 1-0 in six innings over three relief appearances. Barker did not allow a run, and struck out 13 batters on his way to setting the Bravehearts career strikeout mark (85).
Batter: John Thrasher of the University of Hartford is this week’s winner, going 12-31 with two doubles, three home runs, and eight RBI. He also scored seven runs.
This week’s opponents
Monday vs Pittsfield, 7pm (All tickets will be $5. To buy tickets, call the box office at 508-438-3773. Tickets will also be available at the ballpark. Bravehearts working on making tickets available online)
Rest of schedule TBD
Around the FCBL
@Westfield 5, Pittsfield 1 (game 1, 7 innings)
Pittsfield 14, @Westfield 5 (game 2, 7 innings)
@Brockton 3, Bristol 2 (10 innings)
Bristol 7, @Brockton 4
North Shore 11, @Westfield 3
@Pittsfield 6, Nashua 1
@Bristol 6, Pittsfield 4
@Nashua 7, North Shore 6
@Brockton 17, Westfield 4
Bristol 11, @Pittsfield 8
@Brockton 17, Westfield 4
Bristol 11, @Pittsfield 8
@Brockton 10, Pittsfield 0
Nashua 2, @North Shore 1
@Pittsfield 6, Westfield 4
@Bristol 10, North Shore 3