Another eventful week around the Futures League saw more fierce competition and heavy playoff pushes being made. Whether teams were on a tear or looking for their bats to get hot again, the competition is surely heating up in the last week of the regular season.
The battle continues between first and second place, but the Worcester Bravehearts hold the narrow lead by just one game. Despite going 4-6 in its last 10 games, the team is on a two-game winning streak and has rallied to win three out of its last four, beating the Nashua Silver Knights, Pittsfield Suns and Brockton Rox. The team’s elite offense has been on full display this week with the Bravehearts having three of the top four best batting averages in the league. This includes shortstop Tyler Bastunas (Drury) who has been a top player in this category for most of the year and currently sits on a .358 average. Pitcher Griffin O’Connor (Assumption) has also been a bright spot as of late winning Pitcher of the Night honors after tossing seven strikeouts in 5.1 innings pitched Saturday against the Rox.
Even after suffering upset losses to the Rox this past Friday, the Vermont Lake Monsters stand in second place, just one game behind the Bravehearts. The team was able to quickly get back on track, sweeping the Silver Knights in a Sunday doubleheader in its first trip back home to Burlington after the All-Star break. Pitching has been the strength of the Lake Monsters especially this week, as Francis Ferguson (Eastern Nazarene) continues to be a staple on the mound and currently sits in third in the league standings in strikeouts with 46. Also, Ethan Bowen (Rutgers) won Pitcher of the Week honors after pitching five shutout innings with six strikeouts on Sunday.
The Norwich Sea Unicorns are inching closer to the top. While the team had a rough two losses in a row to the quickly emerging New Britain Bees, the Sea Unicorns came out on top to end the week winning game two of a doubleheader 2-1 against the Bees Sunday. Third baseman Dean Ferrara (Fairfield) has been on fire this week, racking up four hits, three RBI and a run in the last three games for the Sea Unicorns while also leading the league in batting average at a .436. Additionally, the Sea Unicorns have been dominating the RBI stat category with three of the top seven league leaders, including designated hitter Andrew Bianco (Seton Hall) who has 31 and is also second in the league in home runs with six.
The New Britain Bees are in the midst of an up-and-down stretch. Going 5-5 in its last 10 games and 2-3 in the last five, the Bees hold a narrow lead in fourth place and the final playoff spot. Despite this, the team still looks to end the season strong. The Bees went 2-1 against the Sea Unicorns and are looking to get back into the win column after a split Sunday doubleheader. The series included an exciting eighth inning 3-run home run hit by right fielder Christian Scanlon (Merrimack) to win 6-5 Friday night. Diving more into that game, pitcher Brian Hart (Hofstra) struck out the side in the ninth inning to close out the game, moving him up to second in the league in strikeouts at 50.
Looking to make a late push, the Westfield Starfires currently sit in fifth place in the league standings. After an All-Star Game that saw first baseman and league home run leader Nick Serce (American International) win MVP, the star player registered one hit over the Starfires’ next two games. The team took a crushing 22-2 loss against the Silver Knights Friday but was able to turn around quickly, beating the red-hot Pittsfield Suns 11-7 Sunday in a crucial matchup to keep their spot in fifth. In that game, center fielder Luke Masiuk (Northeastern) won Player of the Night honors after going 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI. Pitcher Ryan Bailey (Alfred State) has also continued to be a monster on the mound for the Starfires, currently leading the league in strikeouts with 55.
Another team to watch out for is the Pittsfield Suns, who sit even with New Britain and Westfield in the loss column. After winning eight straight games, the team’s longest winning streak of the season, the Suns have won three of four with wins over the Silver Knights and Rox. Pitcher Tim Lewis (Westminster) tossed six strikeouts in five innings Monday against Nashua, moving him to tenth in the league in that category with 35. Also, left fielder Spencer Berson (Franklin and Marshall) won Player of the Night honors Monday after going 2-for-5 with a home run and five RBI.
After starting the week with huge home wins over the Bravehearts and Starfires Thursday and Friday, the Nashua Silver Knights suffered three straight losses to the Lake Monsters and won just one of Monday’s three contests against the Suns. In the game against Westfield, the Silver Knights recorded a season-high 22 runs on 26 hits, including a grand slam and six-RBI performance from catcher Kyle DeRoma (WPI) which earned him Player of the Night honors. Another bright spot has been right fielder Shane McNamara (Eastern Nazarene), whose three RBI against Pittsfield Monday put him in the league lead with 42.
The Brockton Rox surpassed the double-digit win total after pulling out a pair of home wins against the second-place Lake Monsters within the week. Pitcher Jimmy Gilleran (Framingham State) tossed five strikeouts in his last appearance on the mound Monday which moved him up to ninth place in the league with 36. Also, second baseman Jordan Kahn (Georgetown) has had six hits in his last 10 at-bats which was the best production ratio in the league this week. The team will look to continue to pull upset victories and close out the season strong.
With the regular season ending, the final playoff pushes are sure to feature some stiff competition. For the latest news and information on the Futures League all year long, visit thefuturesleague.com and follow the league’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Be sure to catch your favorite team at the ballpark or on the Futures League Network.