BRISTOL - The Bristol Blues will begin their fourth summer at Muzzy Field on Saturday night, when they host the Pittsfield Suns in a game set to begin at 7 p.m.
The Blues organization has set the foundation for success with two postseason appearances in its first three seasons.
“I’m looking forward to the upcoming summer and the guys arriving,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said. “We have quite a number of guys that have put together outstanding college seasons personally and guys coming from teams that have won championships and competed in regionals. We hope that momentum can carry over for us this summer.”
Last year’s playoff run ended sooner than Bristol would’ve hoped, losing both games to the Nashua Silver Knights in the first round of the playoffs.
Some players from last year’s team will be returning this summer:
Kyle Haag - RHP, Ramapo College;
Michael Genaro - LHP, Babson College (8-1, 2.76 ERA, 57 strikeouts in 57.1 IP);
Robert Paccione (also played for Blues in 2015) - RHP, Long Island University Post (LIU);
Alex Loparco - infield, Western New England University (Commonwealth Coast Conference Player of the Year); and
Mark Tumosa - infield, UMass Lowell.
Player of the Year
As the season wound down last year, Loparco joined Bristol’s roster and made his presence felt with three hits in six at-bats and scored three runs.
In college this year, Loparco was named the Commonwealth Coast Conference player of the year after hitting .391 with 43 runs scored, 30 walks, 17 stolen bases, 30 RBI and eight doubles.
His speed and ability to put the ball in play should have him hitting near the top of the order as a tone setter for Bristol.
“We look for him to be solid defensively, while also adding some athleticism to the lineup,” Palmer said. “Alex is a speed and contact hitter who once he gets on base has the ability to swipe some bags. These types of offensive guys add some energy to the lineup.”
Along with the returning players, there will be some newcomers to watch out for this summer.
Richard Brereton: The two-way player from Emory University, has been a stud on the diamond both offensively and pitching. He has strung together a .320 batting average and a 3.60 ERA on the mound for the Eagles this season.
Ian Ostberg: Ostberg has been a key player for Quinnipiac University this season and with a .291 batting average should be able to provide a spark in the Blues batting order.
Neal McDermott: One of the premier relief pitchers for Seton Hall, McDermott will provide Bristol with a reliable bullpen arm. For the Pirates this season McDermott has 40 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched with three saves and a 2.89 ERA.
Ryan Grieco: Grieco will be another bat to watch. He has a .310 batting average for Seton Hill this season.
Teddy Hague: His .310 batting average ranked second best on the Bulldogs roster this season. Hague has added a pair of home runs and a steal.
Brereton is going to be as interesting as it gets in the Futures League this summer.
The Emory University sophomore is a force at the plate and on the pitching mound.
Brereton is batting .320 with two home runs, 20 RBI, 37 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. Brereton and Loparco’s ability to make an impact on the base paths will be something to monitor for Blues fans this summer.
In 70 innings pitched for the Eagles Brereton has compiled a 3.60 ERA, 66 strikeouts, and 61 hits.
Elite young talent
To accompany the collegiate players, Bristol will have some elite high school talent on its roster this summer again.
Ryder Green (outfield) and Justyn-Henry Molloy (infield) will both be Vanderbilt-bound in the fall.
Patrick Winkel (catcher) and Emmet Sheehan will be playing at New England schools, Winkel at UConn and Sheehan at Boston College next year.
For the Blues, success is the priority, but the team also wants to ensure it continues doing what it has since first taking the field back in 2015.
“We certainly want to compete at a high level and make a playoff run,” Palmer said. “With the obvious goal of bringing an FCBL championship to Bristol. But just as important, we want to represent the Blues organization, City of Bristol and the fans in a respectful and positive manner that does them all proud.”
Last season the Blues had a pair of standout players in Jayson Gonzalez and Garrett Blaylock, both high school players at the time that were Vanderbilt commits.
While neither Gonzalez nor Blaylock will be back competing for the Blues this summer, Bristol will have another pair of future Commodores in Malloy and Green.
Both Malloy and Green are going to be featured for the Blues this summer, a luxury for Palmer.
“Vanderbilt is a national name,” Blues manager Ronnie Palmer said. “Coach Tim Corbin and his staff do a great job. [Vanderbilt is] in arguably the best conference in college baseball. They get front line guys and guys who will get professional looks. Anytime you get a chance to have these guys on your roster, you take them.”
Former state champions
The Hague brothers, Andy and Teddy, were part of an Amity baseball program that became the first ever to win four consecutive championships in Class LL.
Teddy ranks second in batting average (.310) for Yale in just his first season in New Haven.
Andy hasn’t seen nearly as much playing time with just three at bats for UConn, yet he has done damage in his limited playing time with one hits in three at bats and a pair of runs scored.