BRISTOL - If the Bristol Blues make a run at the Futures Collegiate Baseball League title this season, July 6 will be one of the reasons.
Bristol committed four errors in the game that Friday night and had distractions in the clubhouse which prompted manager Ronnie Palmer to have a team meeting.
“Baseball is still a pure game,” Palmer said. “It’s called America’s Pastime for a reason. In between innings you can look at things that just happened and address them in the dugout. Myself and the coaches do that and we want to make sure the guys are doing the same thing and looking for every way possible to get better, which is why they’re here, to improve their game.”
Since then the Blues hold a 7-4 record after having dropped seven of the previous 10 games.
“I think it definitely was a spark for us,” Bristol’s Alex Loparco said. “In summer ball, especially with the amount of games we play, it can kind of be easy to get lackadaisical and just go through the motions. It was exactly what we needed to get going in the right track.”
With a 24-20 record on the year Bristol is currently third in the FCBL standings with nine games remaining until the postseason. Six of the seven teams in the league qualify for postseason play, but the Blues are looking at three teams that could provide them with the biggest challenges - the Martha’s Vineyard Sharks, Worcester Bravehearts and Brockton Rox.
The Sharks have held the first-place spot throughout the summer and have won four of the six games against Bristol including the past two contests.
While Martha’s Vineyard is strong, the Blues have played the Sharks tough in those games. In those six contests the two teams have played this summer, Martha’s Vineyard only holds a plus-7 run differential.
“Martha’s Vineyard is a very power driven lineup,” Bristol’s Justyn-Henry Malloy said. “You got big guys and Tate Kolwyck who’s extremely good and extremely clean at second base. Their pitching is very good, they don’t walk a lot of guys, they throw the ball over the plate, they make you hit the ball and make you make plays. They’re very dangerous.”
Then there’s the Bravehearts.
Bristol has won four of the 10 games against Worcester. The Bravehearts, though, have challenged the Blues at the plate holding them to an average of 3.4 runs scored and with it Worcester hold a plus-21 run differential over Bristol.
“Worcester is very good with pitching,” Malloy said. “They paint corners. They’re also another hurdle that we’re going to have to overcome.”
Brockton, understandably, is the most level with Bristol of the three teams. In fourth place behind the Blues (1.5 games back), the Rox and Bristol have split the season series so far with two games left against each other.
The Blues have gone 3-3 against the Rox and Brockton only holds a plus-5 run differential in the games.
“Brockton is more chippy,” Malloy said. “They work the counts, they draw walk and they field the ball. They do a lot of the little things right.”
While the three teams that should pose the biggest challenges to the Blues have all outplayed Bristol at some point this season, the recent spark and the play of late looks to have Bristol ready mentally for the postseason as it tries to make a deep run.
“We never quit in games,” Loparco said. “Whether we’re down by five runs or two runs going into the last inning, we don’t quit. We know we have a shot until the very last out. If we keep fighting, no matter the score, we’re going to have a great chance to win in the end.”
“We’re a very blue-collared type of team,” Malloy said. “And I feel that’s going to be our m.o. going forward against these teams in the playoffs. We’re a very chippy team and we know how to win.”