BRISTOL - For the Bristol Blues, postseason success will be determined by whether or not the team continues to excel pitching and defensively.
While offense is important, the foundation that this summer’s Blues team has built starts on the mound and in the field.
With the Blues debuting in the semifinals of the playoffs on Wednesday, Bristol finds itself in a perfect spot to make a deep playoff run.
The Blues enter the postseason as the hottest team in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. Bristol closed out the regular season on a high note by winning five consecutive games and dominating in every facet of the game.
“Regardless of opponent, the biggest thing for us is throwing strikes, playing clean defense and capitalizing offensively when given opportunities,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said.
In the final game of the regular season, the highlight reel grab by Chris Davis in center field to end the eighth inning and five different pitchers combining to hold the Wachusett Dirt Dawgs to just one run showed just that. The strong performances also secured the Blues a first-round bye in the playoffs.
“I think it comes down to which team will … try to win and I think we all want to win enough to get the job done,” catcher Jeff Sanfeldt said.
Over the final four regularly-scheduled games of the season, the Blues pitching was thriving. In those games, opponents scored just five runs against Blues pitching.
Starting pitcher Michael Genaro finished his season on a positive note. Throughout his last four outings, Genaro logged 18 1/3 innings and allowed just three earned runs during those appearances.
Genaro is not alone, though, as the entire pitching staff has been excellent. The team’s ability to pound the strike zone and keep the ball down has played a pivotal role to the pitching success. The Blues are the only team that has issued less than 200 walks over the course of the season.
Genaro and Malachi Edmond are the two starters that Palmer plans to run out in the first series.
While the offense was not a powerhouse over the course of the summer, in the last four regularly-scheduled games, Bristol’s offense was just as impressive.
The Blues scored 24 runs over those four games and No. 2 hitter Chris Davis set the tempo for the team with his speed.
Davis led the league in steals with 26 stolen bases and with just 32 home runs during the year, manufacturing runs in other ways is going to be vital during the playoffs.
Speed has been an integral part of the Blues’ success this year. The 75 stolen bases on the season ranked third in the league.
“Offensively I think we’ll change things up a little bit in the playoffs and play for runs at times a little more with small ball,” Palmer said.
Bristol’s opponent will be the Nashua Silver Knights, who beat the Pittsfield Suns in a one-game first round contest Tuesday night. The Wachusett Dirt Dawgs were upset by the Worcester Bravehearts in the other game.
The Blues elected to start the semifinal series on the road in order to finish it in front of the home fans.
“Hands down Bristol has the best baseball fans in our league. Bristol is baseball, and to see all those people come out and how they rally around the guys, obviously that energy is pretty exciting,” Palmer said.
Dan Orencole can be reached at , or On Twitter: @OrencoleDan