By Benjamin Upson
As the calendar flips into the month of August, there’s only one more week of Futures League regular season action left! Tickets are being punched into the playoffs, while others are continuing to fight for their opportunity coming down the final stretch. From the All-Star game to the latest games contested, we whip around the diamond to catch you up on last week’s action!
The 2022 All-Star Game was contested in New Britain last Tuesday night in front of a packed house. The fun began with a wild home run derby, won by Cam Maldonado (Northeastern) of the Norwich Sea Unicorns, who whacked a total of 12 home runs in the final round to take home the championship over Worcester’s Cam Seymour (Southern Maine). As for the game itself, the action was pretty one-sided as Team Goldstein took down Team Lara by a final score of 9-0. The Most Outstanding Pitcher was Sean Matson (Harvard) of the Vermont Lake Monsters for his one-inning start and Most Valuable Player went to Jake Marquez (Maine) of the Worcester Bravehearts, who tallied three RBI off a two-run single and sac fly in the game.
When the pressure is on, some teams will falter while others find a way to answer the call. The Worcester Bravehearts have done just that, storming into the playoff discussion over the past week, winners of five consecutive games and only two games back of Westfield for the final playoff spot. Worcester at one point was 4.5 out coming into this past week, but all of a sudden are right back in the mix as we approach the end of the regular season.
They did not lose a game this week, with four of the five victories coming while home at Fitton Field. It began on Thursday against New Britain with four-RBI games from Seymour and Lewis Barnum (Bryant University). They followed it up on Friday walking off on a wild pitch while Barnum was at the plate. To top it all off, they swept the weekend with wins over Pittsfield and Norwich, wrapping the latter game up on Sunday in mercy rule fashion. The schedule does not look comforting coming in, as the Bravehearts will head to Vermont for a pair, along with some key matchups against fellow playoff contenders New Britain and Nashua.
While they may have stumbled going into the break, the Westfield Starfires have gotten their balance back just in time for the final week of regular season play with a 4-2 week. It was highlighted by a 13-0 rout of the Nashua Silver Knights on Sunday, where they dominated from start to finish on both sides. At the plate, Patrick D’Amico (Seton Hall) was red hot with a 2-2 game that included a walk, home run, three RBI and three runs scored.
They also received a strong performance from Michael Aceto (Trinity College) on the mound. He pitched a complete game, seven inning shutout allowing just four hits with three strikeouts. While Aceto sports a 4.56 ERA, the Starfires have backed it up at the plate, scoring double digits in five of his starts on the mound. With six games to play, Westfield holds a two-game advantage over the Norwich Sea Unicorns and Worcester Bravehearts for the final playoff spot.
We’ve got some more hardware to hand out before the races begin for the playoffs. The 78 Sports Player of the Week is awarded to Gavin Noriega (Marist College) of the Worcester Bravehearts, who is having a July unlike any other player in the league. In the past week, he has posted four doubles, two triples and a home run paired with nine RBI with a .500 average (11-22).
The veteran Braveheart is also scorching hot in the overall ranks. While Westfield's Jackson Hornung (Skidmore) was setting the pace in the Futures League, Noriega has now dethroned him with his batting average leaping up to .372, which now leads the league. He also leads in at-bats (183), hits (68) and doubles (19), showing that he’s a pure offensive talent on the field.
The ChangeUp Pitcher of the Month is awarded to Tim Noone (Babson College) of the Vermont Lake Monsters. With a string of three consecutive wins to end the month of July, it’s only fitting that he receives this award. His only outing of the week came on Sunday in Pittsfield, behind a scoreless six innings, with just three hits allowed and eight strikeouts. On the season, Noone boasts a perfect 5-0 record with a 2.86 ERA in 10 games started. He has 61 strikeouts, good for second in the league behind his Lake Monster teammate and Pitcher of the Month in June, Sean Matson (Harvard) who holds 68 total. He also throws efficiently for long durations, with 53.1 innings recorded throughout this season, only tossing under five innings in two of his starts.
As the final week arrives, here’s where things are shaping up in the standings. Vermont has officially clinched a playoff spot and is the No. 1 overall seed for the 2022 playoffs as they will run through the city of Burlington once again. The New Britain Bees and Nashua Silver Knights have their first opportunities to clinch a playoff spot during Tuesday’s action, while the Pittsfield Suns will face elimination for the first time. We already know that the Brockton Rox have been knocked out following their loss on the road in New Britain on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Worcester Bravehearts and Norwich Sea Unicorns continue to scrap away at the rest of the field in an effort to make their respective runs at a playoff spot.
z-Vermont Lake Monsters (40-17)
New Britain Bees (32-25)
Nashua Silver Knights (31-25)
Westfield Starfires (28-29)
Norwich Sea Unicorns (26-31) (2 GB)
Worcester Bravehearts (26-31) (2 GB)
Pittsfield Suns (23-33) (4.5 GB)
Brockton Rox (21-36) (ELIMINATED)
While the conversations are focused primarily on the playoffs, we remind you to stay tuned to thefuturesleague.com as our Zorian Bats July Team of the Month will be posted later this week! This list includes the best players at their respective positions throughout the month across the Futures League.
Around The Diamond offers notes and information from around the league’s daily action. For the latest scores and statistics, visit thefuturesleague.com. If you are looking to live stream games, go to fcblnetwork.com and purchase game packages custom made for you. You don’t want to miss the final chase for the playoffs!