Missed chances on offense, key fielding play hurt Bristol Blues in opening FCBL playoff loss

Published on Wednesday, 7 August 2019 18:33


BRISTOL - On paper, Tuesday night’s matchup of the Bristol Blues and North Shore Navigators in game one of their FCBL semifinal playoff series figured to be an explosive shootout between two of the league’s best offenses. 

Thirteen of the 22 starters hit .274 or higher during a regular season that saw the two teams finish tied for first in total hits, the Blues finish first in average and runs scored and the Navs finish second in each category.  

So, naturally, fans at Muzzy Field saw a grind-it-out game defined by the Blues’ missed opportunities in key offensive situations and an incredible late defensive play that made a huge difference in a 3-1 Navs victory. 

In the seventh inning, the Blues trailed by that same margin and had the bases loaded with two outs with Austin White, one of the league’s top leadoff hitters, at the plate. White hit a fly ball to Navs right fielder Dominic Freeberger, who made a catch in right-center before making a terrific throw, cutting down Blues runner Zeke Diamond for a double play. 

Freeberger’s play helped Navs pitchers hold Bristol to just three total hits, including a 1-for-21 performance from the team’s top six hitters in the lineup that night, all of whom averaged .274 or higher in the regular season. 

However, White (0-for-2) and Brandon Miller (0-for-4), two of the league’s MVP finalists, and Christian Beal (0-for-3), Dylan Reynolds (1-for-4), Buddy Dewaine (0-for-4) and Sam Loda (0-for-4) all struggled to get anything going. 

Those players’ inability to get anything going against the Navs, plus Freeberger’s standout play, served as the perfect encapsulation of what Blues manager Ronnie Palmer has discussed ad nauseam all season … that if success if to be had in the postseason, it’s hard to rely on being a strong offensive club. 

“In playoff baseball, if you look at the teams that are advancing, it’s not [because of] their offense. It’s their pitching and defense that’s why they are advancing,” Palmer said. “It came down to that [Tuesday]. Out of the three runs we gave up, the last two were a two-out hit batter and a two-out walk, and they capitalized. We weren’t clean in some of those innings, and it came back to bite us in the rear.”

The Blues did, however, put themselves in prime position to do some damage, but they came up empty-handed each time. Those mistakes had the team on the verge of an exit in the semifinals for the third straight season heading into game two against the Navs on Wednesday night on the road. 

“Offensively, unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” Palmer said. “We weren’t clean [on defense] in some of those innings, and it came back to bite us in the rear.”

Bristol did, however, get a couple good defensive plays from second baseman Danny Roth, who made his first start since last Wednesday. He made a nice play in ranging to his right to cut off a hit up the middle and stepped on second base for a force out to end the fifth inning, and in the previous inning, Roth made the second-best defensive play of the night by sprinting to the middle of the infield, gloving a ball and making a spinning, jumping throw for a force out at first base to end the frame.

“We thought Danny could run into a ball or two [with his bat], but on the flipside, he played very well defensively,” Palmer said. “That was a nice surprise. He is a good defensive player, but tonight he really showed it. He executed and was opportunistic defensively.”

Zack Carpenter can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or zcarpenter@bristolpress.com

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol Blues on Wednesday, 7 August 2019 18:33. Updated: Wednesday, 7 August 2019 18:36.