BRISTOL - After a late collapse last season, a new summer represented a fresh season for the Bristol Blues and a fresh start for Blues first-year manager Ronnie Palmer.
As always, Bristol’s roster had many unfamiliar faces entering the year, but Palmer’s group had a fantastic season and made the playoffs after a strong finish in the regular season, which involved clinching the West Division.
“It was just really fun to be around [the team] and the Bristol Blues organization top to bottom is a first class organization,” Palmer said. “They do things the right way so that was a pleasure to be around.”
But the offensive struggles shown during the regular season carried over to the postseason in the elimination game against the Nashua Silver Knights Thursday night. The Blues scored three runs and saw their season end in front of the home crowd.
Even with the loss, Palmer’s first season was successful nonetheless. Bristol finished with a 28-24 overall record.
“The big thing that we talked about all summer with how I coach is I told the guys to trust their instincts and just grow as a baseball player,” Palmer said.
Getting to the postseason took some work as the Blues entered the final four games far from a lock to make the playoffs.
An offensive spark was ignited in those final games as the Blues scored 22 runs. As a result, Bristol advanced to the playoffs and earned a first-round bye.
“We play great as a team. We play great at home,” infielder Jayson Gonzalez said. “The fans here are phenomenal. I think that’s the biggest thing, that we have great team chemistry.”
The offensive production continued in the first game that the Blues lost 10-9. Unfortunately, in the second game, the offense disappeared on a night when the Blues pitching staff allowed just four runs in the loss.
“When you don’t capitalize on those opportunities in a short series you end up on the back end of two one-run losses,” Palmer said.
One of the Blues best offensive players throughout the year was Gonzalez. The Vanderbilt commit finished with a .281 batting average with three home runs and 23 RBI.
“Towards the beginning of the season I was a little bit nervous a little anxious being the new teammate to the Blues,” Gonzalez said. “But as the season went on, you realize that it’s a long season.”
His Bristol teammate, Max Goione, was the Blues top hitter. Goione will be entering his junior season at Siena College and hit .285 over the summer, along with five home runs and drove in 22.
Pitching wise, Bristol had the third best team ERA in the league. Michael Genaro and Malachi Emond were the aces for the Blues and started the playoff games. Relief pitcher Anthony Morrone led the league with six wins.
To compliment strong starting pitching, the bullpen for Bristol was dominant. Jacob Wallace and closer Tommy Curtin led the way out of the pen. Both Curtain and Wallace had ERA’s below 2.00, while Brandon Fox did not allowed a run in 14 2/3 innings of work.
While the Blues didn’t go as far as they had hoped, Palmer wants to return for another season. If his first season is any indication of things to come, the Blues will continue to see success in the Bristol community for many summers ahead.
“My favorite part was just meeting the guys and coming out every day and kind of [being] brothers with everybody,” outfielder Logan Greene said. “You’re with the same group of guys all summer. It’s exciting.”
Similar to this year, there will be a different group of players lining up at Muzzy Field next season, ready to start things all over again.
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan