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FCBL Around The Diamond: July 25, 2021

Standings | Schedule/Results | Stats | FCBL Network

By Benjamin Upson

Last Night’s Games:

Sunday, July 25

Brockton Rox 6, Worcester Bravehearts 4 (8 innings) (Game 1)

The first place Brockton Rox met with the playoff bubble team Worcester Bravehearts on Sunday afternoon for a doubleheader at Fitton Field. Both teams put on a show for the crowd with two action packed games. 

Game 1 featured a lot of offense to begin with as both teams were off to a blistering start. In the bottom of the 1st inning, Worcester pushed across 4 runs to take an early and commanding 4-0 lead. That was all the offense we would see out of the Bravehearts in this one.

The contributions were made from the bottom half of the lineup. It started with catcher Zach DeMattio (Wheaton College) and right fielder Andrew Eppinger (NJIT), who began the scoring barrage with a pair of RBI singles. A few batters later, left fielder Matt Maloney (Dayton University) drove in another run with an RBI double. 

We have seen time after time that the Brockton Rox may be down in a game, but they’re never out of it. Their offense quickly responded with their own rally in the top of the 2nd inning. First baseman Jack Murphy (Saint Mary’s College (CA) kicked it off with an RBI double to left field, then a passed ball and sacrifice brought in 2 more runs during the inning. 

Murphy is the player of the game for the Rox as he was a perfect 4-4 at the plate, with 2 RBIs and 2 runs scored. On the season, Jack is hitting for a .316 average with 11 RBIs. Game 1 of the doubleheader marked his 2nd multi-hit game of the season. 

From those early innings, the scoring did slow down quite a bit as both teams were warmed up and adjusted to the gameplans. It wasn’t until all the way in the 7th inning we saw some scoring again. It was 4-3 Brockton and they needed a run to try and salvage a win to start the double dip. 

It was first baseman Erick Ramirez (UMass Dartmouth), who came up to pinch hit. He came through with a sacrifice fly that brought in Jack Murphy to tie it at 4-4. The Rox ultimately added on in the 8th inning with a pair of RBI singles by Murphy along with shortstop Pat Roche (Boston College) that made it a final score of 6-4. 

Worcester Bravehearts 2, Brockton Rox 0 (7 innings) (Game 2)

Game 2 between the two teams featured a special pitching matchup. There were a pair of brothers starting out on the mound for their respective teams, Brady and Bryce Afthim. Both of them impressed during this game and allowed no earned runs combined. The sibling rivalry was on!

The Afthim brothers both hail from Windham, Maine. Brady attends the University of Connecticut while Bryce is at the University of Southern Maine. At the end of the day it was Bryce who bested his brother and even received the FCBL pitcher of the night award, tossing 6 scoreless innings, allowing just 3 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 7 batters. 

Both of them are having nice 2021 campaigns with their teams in the Futures League. With the Rox, Brady is 0-2 with a 3.60 ERA in 4 games with 2 starts under his belt now. He has thrown for 10 innings with 4 walks, 14 strikeouts and has allowed 4 earned runs and 13 hits surrendered. 

As for Bryce, he has fared better overall with the Bravehearts and has appeared more for them. He holds a 1-3 record with a 2.09 ERA in 7 games with 6 starts. He has tossed 34.1 innings with 14 walks, 39 strikeouts and has allowed 30 hits on 8 earned runs overall. 

On the offensive side, 2 runs was all that the Bravehearts needed to clinch the win over the Rox in Game 2 and they came during the 3rd inning. It was Zach DeMattio (Wheaton College) again, this time as the designated hitter in Game 2, who scored the first run with an RBI single.

Next batter, center fielder Kenny Mallory Jr. (Vanderbilt) singled to left field, and Brockton left fielder Pedro Martinez Jr. committed a big error as he mishandled the ball and it rolled past him all the way to the wall. This allowed DeMattio to come in to score from all the way over at 1st base, making it 2-0 Worcester, ultimately becoming the final score as the Rox only managed 5 hits in Game 2. 

Norwich Sea Unicorns 3, Westfield Starfires 1 (7 innings) (Game 1)

It was indeed a Sunday Funday as the Westfield Starfires headed out to Dodd Stadium for a thrilling doubleheader with the Norwich Sea Unicorns. Both games were low scoring, but there was a lot of drama within them. 

Norwich got ahead from the get go and never looked back. Shortstop Kaelen Culpepper (Kansas State University) drilled a 2-run home run to deep left field, well over the tall Dodd Stadium wall. 

Culpepper was an All-Star selection and member of the FCBL Team of the Month for Norwich. He has come through in some big moments for them and this was another one. Kaelen is now batting .315 with 2 home runs and 18 RBIs on the year.  

The Sea Unicorns also tacked on another run in the 3rd inning as the newly acquired second baseman Reece de Castro (Castleton University) recorded an RBI single, his 4th RBI over a span of 3 consecutive games. Reece spent his time previously this summer in the Perfect Game Collegiate League. He had played in 13 games for Glens Falls, with a .300 average and 1 RBI overall.

Westfield’s only run came during the 5th inning when catcher Jackson Slaughter (Louisiana Tech University) grounded into a double play with second baseman Hunter Pasqualini (Central Connecticut State University) at 3rd base. He came in to score to make it a 3-1 game, but that was all Westfield could manage to get back in Game 1. 

The player of the game comes from the Norwich pitching staff, and it’s starter Camren Varney (Mitchell College). Varney had a fantastic outing in Game 1, pitching 5 scoreless innings, allowing just 1 hit, 1 walk with 2 strikeouts. 

He picks up a win in the process and improves to 2-4 with a 4.10 ERA in 7 games he has appeared in this season. It’s a confidence booster for Varney as he had previously allowed 10 earned runs combined in his last 3 starts. 

Norwich Sea Unicorns 1, Westfield Starfires 1 (Norwich 3-2 on HRs) (8 innings) (Game 2)

Game 2 was the height of the action on Sunday and provided us with one of the greatest finishes of the season. This game is a prime example of why we love Futures League summer baseball! Let’s go through what went down in this tight finish. 

The only offense that showed up in this game was an RBI single in the 5th inning by catcher Josh Wettemann of Norwich (Southern Connecticut State University) to make it a 1-0 game. Westfield was able to even it up at 1-1 with an RBI walk to third baseman Cam Meyer (Georgetown University) with the bases loaded, tying the game and sending it to an extra inning. 

The game remained tied at 1-1 after the 8th inning. In a normal 9-inning game, the Futures League heads to a home run derby tiebreaker after the 10th inning to determine a winner. Since this was a scheduled doubleheader, it started after the 8th instead. 

The derby matchup consisted of the 2021 home run derby champion first baseman Cole Bartels (Penn State University) for Westfield alongside designated hitter Matt Malcom (Eastern Connecticut State University) for Norwich. The rules for a home run derby are simple: you have 10 outs to record as many home runs as possible, there are no timed rounds. 

Cole Bartels swung first and was able to get 1 home run in the round, which travelled all the way out to the batter’s eye in deep center field, an absolute moonshot at Dodd Stadium!

Malcolm stepped up for the Sea Unicorns but recorded 4 outs. Norwich manager Devin Belenski decided to switch it up and went with first baseman Anthony Porrino (Sacred Heart University). Porrino was unable to manage any homers, and the Sea Unicorns were down to their final 2 outs. Belenski then switched it up once again, rolling with pitcher Bobby McBride (UConn) who he coached when he was at UConn before taking the Norwich job. McBride picked up a bat and he delivered in a big way! 

Down to their final out in the first round, he smacked a deep shot into left center field over the wall to tie it at 1-1 in the derby! Both went hitless in the 2nd round and the score remained at 1-1 as they headed to a 3rd round! 

Bartels was able to get one to put Westfield back up 2-1. The pressure was once again put back on McBride. Down to the final out, McBride drilled one to deep left center field again to tie it at 2-2! We needed a 4th round at Dodd.

At this point in an effort to speed up the rounds, there were only 5 outs allowed for the duration of the 4th round and on if necessary. Bartels could not come through for the Starfires.

McBride stepped in with a chance to win it in dramatic fashion. He recorded 2 outs, but on the next pitch he sent one toward the left field corner and it was gone! Norwich took the victory 3-2 on home runs in what was an unbelievable home run derby finish, one of the best the league has seen!

What an incredible day for the Norwich Sea Unicorns, a doubleheader sweep of Westfield and ending it with a marathon home run derby win. This is one game that will be remembered for a long time and is a highlight of Norwich’s 2021 season!

Nashua Silver Knights AT Pittsfield Suns (SUSPENDED DUE TO RAIN)

The Nashua Silver Knights and Pittsfield Suns were scheduled for a 6:35PM start on Sunday at Wahconah Park. The game did start on time but a storm cell popped up right near the Pittsfield area, causing the game to be suspended after 2 innings of play with the score at 0-0. It is unknown when this game will be resumed as the doubleheaders continue to rack up as we enter the final weeks of the season.

FCBL Nightly Awards:

Player Of The Night: #5 Jack Murphy, Brockton (4-4, 3B, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI) (Saint Mary’s College (CA)

Pitcher Of The Night: #32 Bryce Afthim, Worcester (WIN, 6 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 7 K) (University of Southern Maine)

​​Upcoming Schedule:

Monday, July 26

Vermont Lake Monsters (28-19) AT Brockton Rox (27-17) 2:00/5:00PM (DH)

Norwich Sea Unicorns (22-26) AT Pittsfield Suns (24-21) 3:00/5:00PM (DH)