BRISTOL - The Bristol Blues put up a fight, but it just wasnâ€™t enough.
Bristolâ€™s season came to a close Wednesday night at Muzzy Field with a 11-5 loss to the Worcester Bravehearts. The result gave the Blues their second loss in as many nights to drop the best-of-three series.
â€śObviously thereâ€™s only one team that can win the FCBL,â€ť Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said. â€śUnfortunately, itâ€™s not us. I think thatâ€™s a Worcester team that got hot at the end of the year and theyâ€™re the best team in the league right now. I would be surprised if they donâ€™t win the championship.â€ť
It was a game of missed opportunities for the Bristol offense. The Blues left 10 runners on base, including leaving the bases loaded in the third and fourth innings.
â€śHonestly, I think it just happens in baseball,â€ť Justyn-Henry Malloy said of the teamâ€™s offensive struggles. â€śItâ€™s nothing to be sad about or hang our heads on. We put the ball in play a lot. Tonight, we just got beat.â€ť
Bristol did have some highlights with the bats, though. Alex Loparco, Dylan Reynolds, Malloy and Andrew Hague all reached base multiple times in the game. Reynolds had three RBI to lead the offensive effort. Malloy reached base five time, with three walks and two hit-by-pitches.
â€śI felt kind of relaxed,â€ť Malloy said. â€ś[Earlier in the season] I was swinging at pitches I shouldnâ€™t be. I was jumpy. But since I came back from injury, Iâ€™ve been much more patient at the plate and it worked out tonight for me.â€ť
The defense kept the Blues in the game all night. The Blues nabbed three Bravehearts at third base in the game, including second baseman Andrew Hague catching a runner too far off the base after a diving stop in the third on a play that seemed to give Bristol some life.
But the pitching just couldnâ€™t hold on to an early lead for the Blues.
Jake Regula got the start on the mound and lasted just three innings. Regula game up three runs, all in the third inning. He struggled with command throughout the outing, giving up five hits and walking three. In all, the Blues had to use seven pitchers in the game.
Justin Rouse came on in relief for the fourth day in a row and his fatigue showed. In an inning of work, Rouse gave up two runs on three hits to surrender what, at the time, was a 4-3 Bristol lead.
Palmer thinks his pitching staff simply ran out of gas.
â€śYou try to do different things with different guys, but I remind myself that these are student-athletes and itâ€™s been a long season,â€ť Palmer said. â€śThey fought hard tonight and all season long and if I were to do it again, I would trust the same seven guys to take the ball.â€ť
Despite not reaching the ultimate goal, Palmer couldnâ€™t help but be proud of the effort his squad put in this season.
â€śI still feel pretty good,â€ť the manager said. â€śWe put up a 30-win season and were one of three teams to stay above .500 this year. Itâ€™s been a great year and our guys deserve to feel proud of themselves.â€ť
Tyler Roaix can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org