Once again the Worcester Bravehearts won the Futures Collegiate Baseball League Championship. It was their fourth championship in six seasons. There were a lot of highlights throughout the season, and here were some of the best from the second half of the season. For the first half highlights, click HERE.
On July 9th, the Bravehearts faced off with the Brockton Rox. The teams were tied 6-6 after 10 innings, which meant that there would be a Home Run Derby tiebreaker. The Bravehearts would go first, and they sent Paul Coumoulos up to the plate. He hit home run after home run, and ended with an amazing 15 home runs, just two short of the league record. The Rox hit five, meaning the Bravehearts would get the win. This marked the first time that Worcester won a Home Run Derby in the franchise’s history, having previously gone 0-3.
The next day, on July 10th, pitcher Eric Chavarria made some history of his own. In the fifth inning he threw an immaculate inning. He threw just nine pitches, and struck out all three batters. Bravehearts pitching struck out a season high 17 batters that game.
A week later, 11 Bravehearts made the trip to Pittsfield for the All-Star game. Prior to the game, Coumoulos participated in the league Home Run Derby. He hit a total of 15 home runs, and became the second Bravehearts to win the derby.
On July 26th, the Bravehearts set a new attendance record for the third time in the season, as 5,554 fans came to the ballpark. This broke the previous record of 5,157 which was set on June 6th. The Bravehearts also played in the highest scoring game of the season that night, losing to the Nashua Silver Knights 17-16. The Bravehearts were down 17-10 heading into the eighth inning, but scored six runs as the record crowed came to life. They would get the tying run to third base, but would not be able to tie the game.
That inning was seen as a turning point for the season, as that game was the eighth game in nine days, and the team could have easily just given up. The team didn't look back afterwards, and went 8-3 in the last 11 games of the regular season. Including the playoffs, they went 13-4 after July 26th, and outscored the opponents by a score of 115-67.
The following Monday, July 29th, the Bravehearts faced off against the North Shore Navigators. Ben Rice hit a solo home run in the first inning. In the third inning Rice came to the plate with a runner on, and hit another home run. In the fourth inning Rice again got on base after getting hit by a pitch. Rice once again managed to get on base in the sixth inning, as he hit a RBI double. He would get one more at bat in the eighth and made the most of it, as he hit a line drive home run over the left field fence. He finished the day 4-4 with three HRs, a double, five RBIs, and three runs scored.
On July 31st, the Bravehearts played a double header against the Bristol Blues. They lost the first game 12-4, and needed a strong effort in the second game from starter Jack Moynihan. They got just that. Moynihan went all seven innings, struck out five, let up just one unearned run, and allowed zero hits. He threw the Bravehearts’ second no-hitter of the season, as the team won 5-1.
Three of the seven finalists for best pitcher in the league came from the Bravehearts. Shawn Babineau, who threw the first six innings of the teams’ opening night no-hitter, and finished the season 5-0 with a 2.51 ERA. Angelo Baez, the closer turned starter, finished the season 5-1 with two saves, and an ERA of 1.63. He also struck out 62 batters in just 44 innings. Eric Chavarria, went 3-2 with a 3.32 ERA, and had 60 strikeouts compared to just 12 walks. Baez ended up being named the winner, becoming the first Bravehearts pitcher to win the award.
The Bravehearts would finish the regular season 30-26, good for fourth place in the league. This meant they would be playing the Pittsfield Suns in a one-game playoff to see who would advance to the semi-finals. The Bravehearts went on to win that game by a score of 10-1. The next day the team travelled to Brockton for Game 1 of the Semi-Finals, behind a stellar performance from Eric Chavarria, the team would win 6-2, moving them one win away from the championship series. Following an off day, the Bravehearts and Rox played Game 2 in Worcester. The Rox took a 2-1 lead before a torrential downpour started. This caused a delay of a little over an hour, but the Rox didn't miss a beat, going on to win the game 12-6, setting up a decisive Game 3 in Brockton the following night. After Brockton started the scoring in the bottom of the second with one run, the Bravehearts scored the next seven, and eventually won the game 8-2.
The Bravehearts had a quick turnaround, as Game 1 of the Championship series against the Bristol Blues would be the very next day in Worcester. Pitcher of the Year, Angelo Baez had been expected to make the start but due to the league’s pitch count rules, Baez was ruled to need one more day off. In stepped Jack Steele, who found out he was going to be starting the game just hours before first pitch. He was outstanding, going 5.1 innings allowing no runs. The biggest moment of the game came in the fourth inning. The Blues loaded the bases with just one out. Steele proceeded to strike out the next two batters, with the second one causing the crowd to go crazy. Jakob Barker came in and pitched the last 3.2 innings, giving up just one unearned run. The Bravehearts won by a score of 2-1.
The Bravehearts travelled to Bristol the next day, and they had their ace on the mound in Angelo Baez. The Bravehearts scored two runs in the first inning to go up 2-0. By the fourth inning the score was 3-2, this was when things got a little confusing. Baez was called for a balk with one out. Bravehearts pitching coach came out to calm Baez down, afterwards Baez had some words with the plate umpire, which led to Kelly running back out. After a long discussion, Baez was allowed to finish the at-bat, but then was required to be taken out. Jack Moynihan was brought in to face league MVP finalist Austin White. While pitchers all around the league could not figure White out, Moynihan had his number all season. White was 0-5 with five strikeouts against Moynihan entering this at-bat. Moynihan was able to get him to fly out. In the sixth inning, the Bravehearts broke the game open, scoring five runs to make it 8-2. They tacked on four more runs, to make it 12-2, before McCabe Sargent came on to close out the game. The win clinched another championship for the Bravehearts.
Mariano Ricciardi, playing in his third season for the Bravehearts, was named the Championship Series MVP. He also set six different records this season. They are as follows, career hits (120), career singles (95), career doubles (23), career runs (83), and career walks (96). He also overtook his brother Dante Ricciardi for most career games played with 120.
Jakob Barker also became the franchise’s leading strikeout pitcher, finishing the season with 85 career strikeouts between his time with the team in 2017 and this season.
The team also set a league record for most fans in a single season, with 72,069. The average attendance of 2,574 was good for the sixth best in the entire country for collegiate baseball league teams.