By Benjamin Upson
Happy 4th of July! It’s one of the best holidays of the season and we hope that you’re all enjoying the day with some Futures League baseball! Hot dogs, fireworks and baseball couldn’t make for a better trio than today! As we gear up for some Independence Day action out on the diamond, here are “4” previews about today’s action across the Futures League.
Worcester Bravehearts (15-18) at Nashua Silver Knights (16-17) 11:00AM
The Nashua Silver Knights are perhaps the hottest team in the Futures League as of right now. They couldn’t have picked a better time to get going as we are at the midpoint of the season and they have now won 6 games in a row to get to 1 game behind the .500 mark.
Nashua put up a signature FCBL on NESN moment over the weekend on Saturday when Shane McNamara (Eastern Nazarene) walked it off with a game-winning 2-run double in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Pittsfield Suns to win the game 5-4. It must have been fate as it was his first hit of the season and it came at the best time possible.
As for Worcester, they come in on a current 3-game slide and have lost 7 of their last 10 games as well. Pitching has been an issue on this slide as they have allowed 27 runs combined across their 3-game losing streak. They can be optimistic about their 2-2 split with Nashua this season, as each home team has won in their head-to-head matchups so far.
There are two players to keep your eyes on coming into this matchup (both first basemen) who have been among the hottest players this past week in the league. Gavin Noriega (Marist) rides a .552 average in the last 7 days into today’s matchup with an impressive 16 combined hits during his 7-game hitting streak. In their doubleheader last week with Nashua, he recorded a pair of multi-hit games with 2 RBI.
On the other side, Kyle Wolff (Boston College) has been stellar this season for the Silver Knights, and has a scorching hot .588 average in the last 7 days with 2 home runs and 6 RBIs. Today, he seeks a 4th consecutive game with at least 3 hits, eye popping numbers! Surprisingly, it was in the doubleheader against Worcester last week on Tuesday where he struggled, going 0-5 combined over the two games. No matter what, he has been a major factor in Nashua’s winning streak.
Westfield Starfires (16-17) at Norwich Sea Unicorns (17-17) 1:00PM
Fresh off their meeting last week, the Norwich Sea Unicorns seek another come-from-behind victory when they take on the Westfield Starfires at home. The season series is knotted at 2-2, making it even more intense as both teams are fighting hard currently in the standings.
The Westfield Starfires were one of the hottest teams in the league to start the season, but have faltered recently, dropping 13 of their last 17 games entering play today. While the story has been about Jackson Hornung (Skidmore) for most of the summer with his team leading 7 home runs and 35 RBI, it has now taken a back seat.
Today the story takes a new tone for this Starfires team, with the coming of Jack Power (Long Island University). This week, he’s put up a .471 average (5th best in the league) with 6 RBI, including 2 doubles and stolen bases. He has only played in 15 games, but definitely will see more time going forward if these numbers keep up for him.
It's been a solid stretch of baseball in general for Norwich as of late, highlighted by a trio of comeback victories at home, including one against Westfield this past week. They also are hosting yet another game at Dodd Stadium today, their 8th home contest in the last 11 days.
The fun began on Tuesday, as mentioned against Westfield. Down 4-2 in the 8th, the Sea Unicorns posted 3 runs, fueled by a Cam Maldonado (Northeastern) 2-run home run, making it a 5-4 win. On Thursday against Brockton trailing 6-5 in the 9th, Uconn’s Drew Kron drilled a ball deep to the right field wall, sending in a pair of runs with a game winning double, that’s a 7-6 win.
It all came to a peak on Saturday against New Britain as CJ Willis (Western New England University) took his turn with a game-winning 2-run double as the Sea Unicorns overcame a 9-7 deficit and won it 10-9! Getting dramatic victories in front of their home crowd just makes it all the more sweeter and they’ll get another chance at one today.
New Britain Bees (18-15) at Brockton Rox (11-22) 1:30PM
We head out east on the 4th of July as a well-rounded New Britain team comes into town for a showdown with Brockton and the MLB sons, who have garnered a lot of media coverage this past week. It’s the 4th matchup in the last 7 days between these teams, who are getting familiarized with one another in the midst of the dog days of summer.
Hard Hittin’ New Britain is buzzing with electricity as the Bees are working their way up the standings, now sitting in 2nd place. We’ve mentioned it in the past but the thrill of this team is centered around Joel Lara (Franklin Pierce). With a league-leading 28 stolen bases on the season in 26 games, the speed and agility of the college senior has continued to improve. Last time out against Brockton on Tuesday and Wednesday, he recorded 2 hits in both of those contests, and a stolen base of course.
Meanwhile, Andy Martin (Dyersburg State) has been the story of the week for Brockton. He posted a pair of homers IN THE SAME GAME along with 4 RBI, part of an 11-4 road victory against the Worcester Bravehearts on Friday. It’s also worth mentioning he batted for an even .600 over the past week, you really can’t do much better than that.
If you think back to the opening weekend of the season, it can’t be forgotten that these two teams fought it out in a home run derby in their most notable matchup yet. Brockton ultimately won after two separate rounds in the derby, powered by Manny Ramirez Jr. (Tallahassee Community College). He absolutely nailed some shots out to left field, including one off the top of the scoreboard that helped Brockton to a derby win in that game
Vermont Lake Monsters (26-8) at Pittsfield Suns (14-19) 6:35PM
Opposites attract? The Vermont Lake Monsters and Pittsfield Suns square off on America’s birthday in their seventh matchup of the season, while both headed in different direction. The Lake Monsters have won an unfathomable 26 of their last 31 games, while the Suns have started slipping, dropping 6 of their last 10.
An interesting pattern to note is that each time Vermont has traveled to Pittsfield (2 times), their winning streak has been snapped! Although that involved 15 and 7-game winning streaks respectively, they carry just 2 in a row under their belts this time, definitely not quite the same feeling today.
In their previous meetings, there has been a bit of everything so far, most notably that 4 of their 7 matchups have been 2-run games or less as the final score. Vermont has gotten the best of it, leading 5-2 in the head-to-head category.
We have an expected pitching matchup posted for tonight’s contest. Vermont is slated to have Joe Mascio (St. John’s) start on the mound. In 6 appearances this season, he is 1-0 with a perfect 0.00 ERA. He also tossed 5 no-hit innings against the Suns with 8 strikeouts in their June 28 matchup just last week, his first start of the season.
Pittsfield is expected to send out Izaiya Mestre (University of New Haven). He has not had the same luxuries as Mascio, but does boast a 1-0 record with a 3.94 ERA. Although he has given up 11 runs combined in his previous 3 outings, he is a durable pitcher, going at least 5 innings in all 5 of his starts so far this season.
So let’s play ball! Be sure to follow along with the Futures League on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to catch up on all of our content. You can also stream live games on the FCBL Network, which can be accessed at fcblnetwork.com. We offer 7-day passes for $10 and 30-day passes for $30 that offer unlimited access to both live and archived games, all at one low price.