Bristol Blues rebound from slow start

John Natoli throws a strike during Sunday’s victory over the division leader Brockton Rox.

By BRIAN JENNINGS

STAFF WRITER

After losing their first six games of the summer season, the Bristol Blues baseball team has slowly made their way back to contention in the West Division. Bristol is now just a game below .500 after winning seven of their last nine games, taking down the top team in the division in the process.

One reason for the slow start might be the fact that the Blues have no returning players from last season, along with a new general manager and a new head coach. With four wins in six games last week, chemistry might be coming together for the boys from Bristol.

“When the guys celebrated with Chris (Davis) at second base after the walk-off win, you would think that they knew each other for three years and not three weeks,” said Blues manager Ronnie Palmer. “It’s just a good group of guys. When we go on the road on the bus, you would think that they’ve been lifelong buddies. That’s just kind of carried over to the field.”

The Blues have certainly gotten help from solid performances on the mound thus far, but offensively, they’ve done things that they weren’t doing early on during the six-game skid.

“We’re moving guys up and having productive at-bats,” said Palmer. “When we have the opportunities with runners on second and third, we’ve been driving some guys in. It’s giving us the opportunity to win ball games, where in the first six, we weren’t doing those things.”

The Blues will be back on the diamond this week with games against the Pittsfield Suns (8-8), Martha’s Vineyard Sharks (8-7), North Shore Navigators (2-11), and Worcester Bravehearts (7-7). The Suns are currently in first place of the West Division. Bristol is now 7-8 overall.

Loss vs. Brockton

JUNE 12—Bristol’s three-game winning streak was snapped by the Brockton Rox with an 8-4 decision on Monday. The Blues held a 2-0 lead after the first inning, but the Rox managed to knot the score with a pair of runs in the third.

Brockton eventually secured the win with the help six hits and a couple of errors during a five run rally in the fifth and sixth innings.

The Blues finished with seven hits and four errors. Mitch Guilmette went 3-for-4 at the plate with a pair of RBI, a run scored, and a walk.

Davis Stiehl (0-2) started on the mound and was credited with the loss after going five innings with three strikeouts, allowing seven hits, three walks, and two earned runs. Ian Halpin and Takoda Sitar (0-2) saw some action on the mound as well.

Loss at Wachusett

JUNE 13—Despite four errors, the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs still managed to hand the Blues their second-straight loss by a run, 5-4, at their place the next day.

With the game tied 2-2 after the fifth inning, Christian Fedko put the Dirt Dawgs ahead with a bases-clearing triple that drove in a pair of runs in the seventh. The Blues responded to knot the score at 4-4 after Max Goione (2-for-3) drove in Jeff Shanfeldt on an infield error and Brandon Grover scored on a wild pitch. However, an RBI double by Joe Jumonville secured the win for the Dirt Dawgs in the bottom of the inning.

The Blues finished with seven hits and stranded 11 runners on base. Mark Tumosa went 2-for-5 with a run scored and a double.

Keith Grant started on the mound and went six innings with six strikeouts, allowing seven hits, two earned runs, and a walk. Jake Frasca relieved Grant to go an inning, and Jacob Wallace (0-1) was credited with the loss after closing.

Win vs. Worcester

JUNE 14—Although they gave up 13 hits, the Blues managed to end their two-game losing streak by edging the Worchester Bravehearts by a run, 6-5, at home on Wednesday.

The Blues held a 4-3 lead after the fifth inning, until the Bravehearts made a late charge. With two outs in the eighth, Brett Coffel and Mariano Ricciardi gave the Bravehearts a one-run advantage with an RBI double and single. But in the ninth, Chris Davis came up with the game-winning hit on a walk-off double that scored Nick Roy and Kyle Pileski.

The Blues finished with eight hits. Mitch Guilmette went 2-for-4 at the plate.

Michael Genaro started on the mound and went five innings with a strikeout, allowing nine hits, three earned runs, and a walk. John Natoli (2-0) picked up the win to close with four hits and three strikeouts.

Win vs. North Shore

JUNE 15—The Blues earned their second-straight win the next day with a 7-2 victory over the North Shore Navigators at home.

The Navigators posted two runs in the first inning, but wouldn’t score again for the rest of the contest. The Blues scattered runs in the third and fifth innings, including five runs off five hits in the eighth, finishing the game with 10 hits.

Chris Davis was perfect at the plate and a hit shy of the cycle after going 3-for-3 with a pair of RBI, a run scored, a triple, and a double. Jake Frasca went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

Malachi Edmond (0-1) started on the mound and went five innings with four strikeouts, allowing four hits, three walks, and two earned runs. Anthony Morrone (1-1) picked up the win after relieving Edmond to go three innings with three strikeouts, two walks, and one hit. Nick Rubino (0-1) closed.

Win at Seacoast

JUNE 17—Following a day off on Friday, the Blues continued their steady climb to .500 on the season after earning their third-straight win with a 7-4 victory at the Seacoast Mavericks on Saturday.

The Mavericks held a one-run advantage, 2-1, until the Blues captured the lead for good in the fourth inning. Mitch Guilmette hit a solo home run, and Brandon Grover drew a walk with the bases loaded to bring in a run. Kyle Pileski drove in two more runs with a base hit in the fifth.

The Mavericks cut the deficit to one with a pair of runs in the sixth, but Mitch Williams (2-for-3) added a couple more runs for insurance with an RBI single in the seventh. Bristol finished with eight hits and committed two errors.

Ross Weiner (2-0) started on the mound and picked up the win after going five innings with six strikeouts, allowing five hits, four earned runs, and three walks. Ian Halpin relieved Weiner to go three innings with three strikeouts, and Tommy Curtin closed with a pair of strikeouts to get his third save of the season.

Win vs. Brockton

JUNE 18—The Blues rounded out the week by continuing their hot streak with an 11-7 victory over the first-place Brockton Rox (9-3) of the East Division, getting to within a game of .500 on the year by earning their fourth-straight win.

The Rox jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with three runs in the second inning, but their lead didn’t last long. The Blues posted a run in the bottom of the inning and snatched the lead for good with six runs in the third, scattering runs over the next three innings.

Bristol finished with 17 hits, as seven Blues registered at least two hits at the plate. Chris Davis went 3-for-5 with an RBI, a run scored, and a double. Jeff Shanfeldt (3 RBI) and Cooper Mrowka (2 RBI) contributed as well.

Kyle Hodgson (2-0) started on the mound and picked up the win after going five innings with a strikeout, allowing nine hits, five earned runs, and a walk. John Natoli (2-0) relieved Hodgson to go two innings with three strikeouts, and Jacob Wallace (0-1) closed with a pair of strikeouts.