By Benjamin Upson
The first full week of Futures League action is now officially in the books! With rosters being finalized and teams beginning to face each other daily, the race is now truly on in the chase for the 2022 FCBL championship! Storylines are building as we progress through the early days so let’s take a look back at what’s happened in the past week!
The Westfield Starfires offensive powerhouse finally came to a slight lull during this past week. After beginning the season with a perfect 7-0 record, the team suffered a pair of losses to the defending champion Vermont Lake Monsters on Thursday and Friday to fall back.
After 71 runs were posted during their undefeated stretch, the fire was extinguished by the Vermont pitching staff, especially the bullpen. Thursday’s game saw Liam Reiner (St. Lawrence), Colton Regen (Vanderbilt), Kyle Locklear (Clarkson) and George Goldstein (Middlebury College) shut down the Starfires. The four of them combined to toss five innings, allowing just four hits, one unearned run and seven strikeouts.
Wyatt Cameron (New England College) has also returned from the 2021 championship team for another summer and made a big contribution in Friday’s contest, surrendering just two hits on one walk with seven strikeouts in 3.1 innings pitched. Watch out for the Lake Monsters pitchers this season!
It’s also not much of a surprise that Vermont has now won eight games in a row and have blazed up the standings to tie Westfield for first place in the league. Half of the wins in the streak came against the Brockton Rox and Westfield Starfires, six of those eight wins also occurred in Burlington at Centennial Field.
As for the Starfires, they tumbled down to 7-3 before picking up yet another mercy rule victory at home against Nashua on Sunday, their fifth of the young season. This win placed them back in a tie at the top of the league standings at 8-3 entering the first off day of the season.
There’s nothing like making the SportsCenter Top 10 as the Worcester Bravehearts had a signature moment in their Thursday contest with the Norwich Sea Unicorns. It hasn’t been the greatest start to the season for hometown junior Ben Smith (Worcester State) who is 0-1 with an ERA of 10.28. He was thrown into the SportsCenter spotlight, however, at No. 4 with a spectacular diving catch in Thursday’s game during the fourth inning.
The Bravehearts as a team have started piecing together a nice run. They remain undefeated with a perfect 5-0 record at their home base Fitton Field. They went 5-2 in the past week, only dropping contests with the Norwich Sea Unicorns and Brockton Rox and now currently sit at 7-3 in third place.
The Norwich Sea Unicorns and Pittsfield Suns headlined the weekend with a pair of the most bizarre yet insane contests that we’ve seen. In a home and home series that happened Saturday at Pittsfield and Sunday in Norwich, both teams combined to score 45 runs, 61 hits and a combined 15 errors occurred in the weekend series.
Saturday’s contest came right down to the wire. Norwich was able to get within one run in the top of the ninth inning when first baseman Connor Podeszwa (Tufts University) hit a solo shot to make it a game. It ultimately came down to the Suns defense, despite their four errors, who were able to force a 4-6-3 game-winning double play a few batters later to win 9-8 at Wahconah Park.
As for Sunday, Norwich also had another opportunity to strike with the bases loaded in the bottom half of the 9th inning. A fly ball to left off the bat of center fielder Ray Leonzi (Fairfield University) stranded the runners as Pittsfield locked up the weekend sweep in a 16-12 slugfest.
With the abundance of errors on both sides, only 29 of the 45 runs on the weekend were earned. Everyone in Pittsfield’s lineup had a hit during Sunday’s contest, a contributing factor of the 22 total hits they were able to tally. Many players on both sides had multi-hit performances over the course of the weekend as well.
Unfortunately, there’s a loser at the end of the game and Norwich was brutally faced with that. There’s really not many times in baseball when you’re able to score 20 runs as a team in two games and lose both of them, but the Sea Unicorns unfortunately had to endure that. Leaving 27 runners on base across both games certainly didn’t help that cause. As they say, that’s baseball! They will look to get back on track as they ended this week at 3-7.
It’s Monday and that means we have the first weekly awards of the season! The player of the week presented by 78 Sports goes to Jackson Hornung (Skidmore) of the Westfield Starfires who has recorded a .487 average with one home run, 16 RBI, 12 runs scored and five extra-base hits. In seven of his first 10 games, he has recorded at least two hits solidifying his award accolades.
The pitcher of the week presented by ChangeUp is Sean Matson (Harvard) of the Vermont Lake Monsters. With nine innings under his belt in two starts, he has been flawless. Matson has not allowed a run to this point, giving up just two hits and one walk. He currently leads the league in strikeouts with 18 as well. He is one of only three starting pitchers that holds an ERA of 0.00 through their first two starts.
This week, the Pittsfield Suns (5-6) and Vermont Lake Monsters (8-3) will meet for the first time since the two teams squared off in the 2021 FCBL Championship series, with Vermont winning the series in three games. Both games will be in Burlington at Centennial Field on Tuesday and Wednesday with first pitches scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
Also, the league is implementing a new element into this year’s schedule. For one day only this Wednesday, June 8, all games will involve their own customized rules. This is based on the foundations of “Banana Rules,” which became nationally recognized from the Savannah Bananas.
Around The Diamond is back for the 2022 season and will continue on a weekly basis for the first half of the summer. Here you’ll find some unique notes and information from around the league’s action. For the latest scores and statistics, visit thefuturesleague.com. If you are looking to live stream games across the league, go to fcblnetwork.com and purchase an all-season pass at one low price of $99.