Another eventful week around the Futures League saw playoff pushes and seeding battles come down to the last few regular-season games. Whether teams’ playoff hopes came down to the wire or they tried to pull upsets to shake the standings, playoff competition is sure to be can’t miss.
For the first time in franchise history, the Norwich Sea Unicorns secured the regular-season title and No. 1 seed after sweeping Westfield in a Sunday doubleheader. This was no fluke, however, as the team also ended the regular season going 7-3 in its last 10 games and is on a three-game winning streak. The offensive attack has been outstanding with first baseman Andrew Bianco (Seton Hall) recording his 35th RBI to move him up to third in the league, and third baseman Dean Ferrara (Fairfield) leading the league in batting average at .422. The Sea Unicorns will take on the No. 4 New Britain Bees in the semifinal round, beginning Tuesday at Dodd Stadium.
The Vermont Lake Monsters clinched the No. 2 seed and three straight postseason appearances after a 9-7 win over the Nashua Silver Knights Sunday. The team has made the playoffs every season since joining the Futures League in 2021 when it won the championship. Going 6-4 in its last 10 games, the Lake Monsters offense is ready to make noise led by shortstop Kyle Lodise (Augusta) who stands eighth in the league with 28 RBI. The pitching is just as locked in for this team with Francis Ferguson (Eastern Nazarene) and Callan Fang (Harvard) both ending the season top five in strikeouts with 50 and 45, respectively. The Lake Monsters will take on a familiar foe in the No. 3 Worcester Bravehearts, who they went 3-2 against this week, in the semifinals.
In a season full of records, Worcester took the No. 3 seed after winning a franchise-record 39 games. The team returns to the postseason for the first time since 2021 and enters on a two-game win streak after victories against Vermont and the Pittsfield Suns. Shortstop Tyler Bastunas (Drury) practically rewrote the record books for the team, having racked up a record 73 hits and stolen 31 bases. In addition to these stats, Bastunas also ended the regular season second in the league in batting average at .358 and fourth in RBI with 34. The Bravehearts’ pitching has also been a strength with Clay Robbins (University of Southern Maine) tossing four strikeouts against Vermont on Saturday, moving him up to second in the league with 54.
The New Britain Bees claimed the fourth and final playoff spot after going 7-3 in their last 10 games. This will be the team’s second postseason appearance in a row, a first for any baseball team that has called New Britain home. Despite a season of ups and downs, the Bees offense and pitching is getting hot at the right time. Catcher Jimmy Keenan (St. John's) hit his ninth home run of the season in a 6-4 win against Pittsfield, finishing second in the league in that category. Pitcher Brian Hart (Hofstra University), who has acted as the team’s ace closer, ended the season third in the league in strikeouts with 51. Additionally, Esteban Rivera III (Franklin Pierce) tossed six strikeouts in the Bees’ win over the Suns to rise up to eighth in the league with 39.
The Westfield Starfires ended their season with a fifth-place finish in the Futures League standings at 31-32. The team went 5-5 to end the season including a 2-1 series win against Pittsfield Thursday and Friday. First baseman and team MVP Nick Serce (American International) led the league in home runs throughout most of the season, and his franchise-record total of 13 was 4 more than any other player. Also, Serce’s four RBI this week put him in second place in the league with 41. The Starfires offense wasn’t the only side of the ball performing well, but pitching was also a strength throughout their season. Ryan Bailey (Alfred State) led the league with 59 strikeouts after tossing four in a Tuesday win against New Britain.
Despite a late effort at reaching playoff position, the Pittsfield Suns finished sixth in the standings at 29-32. Two Suns won nightly honors this week including center fielder Austin Rachiele (MCLA), who went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBI in Tuesday’s win over the Brockton Rox. Rachiele also ended the season ninth in the league with 27 RBI. Left fielder Spencer Berson (Franklin and Marshall) was the other Player of the Night, going 2-for-5 with five RBI including a home run Monday against Nashua. The Suns also had a star pitcher this season in Tim Lewis (Westminster), who was seventh in strikeouts with 41.
The Nashua Silver Knights still had a lot to be proud of this season regardless of a seventh-place finish in the Futures League standings. The 2022 champions went 5-5 in its last 10 games, including pulling off an 8-4 road upset over the Lake Monsters Tuesday and a home win over the Brockton Rox on Friday. In Friday’s contest, catcher Will Fosberg (Northeastern) won Player of the Night honors after going 2-for-4 with three runs scored and three RBI. Shortstop Brady O’Brien (Colby) won Player of the Week honors after going 13-for-27 (.481) with eight runs, a homer and nine RBI. Right fielder Shane McNamara (Eastern Nazarene) led the league in the regular season with 44 runs driven in.
The Brockton Rox finished the season on a high note, taking a huge home upset win against Worcester Wednesday that shook up the standings before beating another playoff team in New Britain in Sunday’s regular-season finale. Pitcher Logan Lawrence (Stonehill College) won both Pitcher of the Night Wednesday and Pitcher of the Week honors this week after tossing seven strikeouts while only allowing two hits and walking one batter in a seven-inning complete game against Worcester.
With the postseason commencing Tuesday and the season coming to an exciting close, the competition is surely going to heat up this week. 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.