BRISTOL - It appeared for so long that the Bristol Blues would qualify for the FCBL playoffs but a late-season collapse left the Blues on the outside looking in.
In their final 13 games, dating back to July 24, the Blues posted a 2-11 record, including four losses in two days on Thursday and Friday.
“It was a very difficult week to put it mildly,” Blues manager Pat Riley said.
The fall from the playoff spot culminated on Saturday, when the Blues dropped winner-gets-in game 4-2 to the Torrington Titans.
“Every game was a playoff-type deal,” Riley said. “It came down to executing and we didn’t. We had the opportunity to win a couple games and solidify our playoff spot and we didn’t. It was a tough break. We had a heck of a season. This is going to be tough to swallow for a while.”
Three of the Blues’ final five games, plus the conclusion of a previously suspended game, were decided by a single run. According to Riley, the bats just did not come through in the big moments.
“It’s just the little things. We did not get big hits,” he said. “We had the bases loaded and runners on second and third. Every single game was close and that stuff adds up. We didn’t do the small stuff and it cost us.”
While the bats were quiet in important moments, pitching was, as it has been all season, the strength of the Blues team. The Bristol pitchers gave the Blues the chance to win throughout the final week of the season but the offense only backed up Ben Brown, who started in the Blues’ home finale, a 6-0 win over the Nashua Silver Knights.
“All things considered, we really battled on the mound,” Riley said. “We were really banged up. Guys had to eat up innings. On the mound, we did a pretty good job this week with what we had.”
The Blues occupied second place in the West Division and a playoff position for most, if not all, of the 2016 season but they could not close out the regular season. Even when they had the chance to win the final game and get it, the Blues could not pull it off.
“When it’s bad, it’s bad,” Riley said. “We let it slip away. We were playing for lives but we still had a chance. As bad as we were, we still had a chance to win. We had the right guys on mound for it. It was a tough, tough ride. When you’re losing, it’s tough to face. You’ve got to play all the way.”
This season, the Blues experienced an astounding amount of roster turnover, as players could not make it through the entire season for whatever reason. Going forward, this season will provide Riley and the rest of the Blues coaching staff and organization with more knowledge about building a winning roster.
“It’s a long season,” Riley said. “It comes down to doing your research on your roster. I know what it takes. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. It’s about getting the right guys-guys who want to be here. You’ve got to get the combination of guys that want to be here and have talent.”
On the positive side of what the Blues accomplished this season, the team continued to grow as a part of the Bristol community. In just its second season playing at Muzzy Field, the team reached new highs in attendance and continued to stress community outreach to its players.
“We broke our attendance record and we had a great fan base,” Riley said. “The take-away is that this team has really found a home in Bristol. I hope it stays that way. Bristol really embraced this team.”
While the result of the season was not ideal, Riley was still proud to be a part of the season and being able to get the Blues players some important work between college seasons.
“It was great to be a part of it,” he said. Guys got their reps in and got a chance to play.”
Josh Kestenbaum can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org