BURLINGTON, Vt. (August 20, 2021) -- The top-seeded Vermont Lake Monsters ended their first Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) season in grand fashion on Friday night, holding off an emphatic ninth-inning rally by the second-seeded Pittsfield Suns for a 3-2 win in the deciding third game of the 2021 Championship Series at Centennial Field.
Vermont, which set a new league record with 42 wins during the regular season and swept Worcester in two games in the semifinal round, bounced back from Tuesday’s series-opening, 10-2 loss with back-to-back victories. A 12-5 win at Pittsfield’s Wahconah Park the following night set up a third game for the FCBL title for the second consecutive summer.
Played before a crowd of 2,618 fans, the deciding game was certainly worthy of crowning a champion. FCBL Pitcher of the Year Patrick Harrington (Assumption) started the game for Vermont and matched Pittsfield’s Izaiya Mestre (New Haven) for four scoreless innings.
Mestre worked around at least one baserunner in each of his first four frames, but it was not until the fifth that the Lake Monsters scored all three runs they would need to win the game and the championship.
Right fielder Jimmy Evans (Tufts) drove in the first two Vermont runs on a one-out single to center field, cementing his Championship Series MVP honor by going 4-for-9 with a triple, five RBI and two runs scored over the final two games of the three-game set.
Left fielder Francis Ferguson (Eastern Nazarene) led off the run-scoring frame and reached on an error before third baseman Tyler Favretto (Crowder) walked. Shortstop Zach Landry (Worcester State) then sacrificed both runners into scoring position to set up the Evans hit. Two batters later, designated hitter Colby Brouillette (Clarkson) extended the lead to 3-0 with his own base hit through the middle.
Vermont managed seven hits in the final game, with Evans and Brouillette each going 2-for-4 and combining for all three of the team’s RBI.
After Harrington struck out six over five innings of three-hit, scoreless ball on the way to his second clinching victory of the postseason, FCBL Co-Manager of the Year Pete Wilk -- who shared the award with the Suns’ Matt Gedman -- turned the ball over to co-ace Billy Oldham (Eastern Connecticut State) for three more scoreless innings.
Pittsfield finally broke through in the ninth when center fielder Joel Lara (Franklin Pierce) hit a leadoff double to the wall in left-center and scored on left fielder Jack Cooney’s (Springfield) RBI single in the next at-bat. After right fielder Jake Blinstrub (Mount St. Vincent) singled, designated hitter Cabot Maher (Colby) brought home the second run as he reached on a fielder’s choice.
A hit batter put the go-ahead run on first base in the form of first baseman Jack Thorbahn (Northeastern), but Vermont reliever Chris Clark (Harvard) extinguished the threat by inducing a hard fly ball to right off the bat of catcher Mike Gervasi (UMass) and striking out shortstop Nate Cormier (Nichols) to end the game and deliver the 27-year Vermont franchise’s first title of any kind since 1996 in the New York-Penn League.
Vermont was held scoreless over its final three trips to the plate against FCBL Relief Pitcher of the Year Ryan Langford (Florida Southern), who struck out five and allowed just one hit.
Blinstrub and third baseman Anton Lazits (Columbia) both went 4-for-10 in the series to lead the Suns, whose second-place finish was the best in the team’s 10-year FCBL history. A Pittsfield native, Lazits had six RBI with the help of a home run and a double. Thorbahn drove in five.
After starting the season 12-18, the Lake Monsters won a league-record 14 consecutive games, finished 23-2 in July and went 30-6 over the final 36 games to win the regular-season championship. Adding in the seminal sweep, Vermont went 4-1 during its playoff run.