BRISTOL - Monday marks the final day of the New England Collegiate Baseball League regular season and Tuesday will be the first day of the postseason for all teams except the each of the division leaders.
Holding last place in the southern division, Tuesday could be the final game of the summer for the Bristol Blues as the team awaits the result of Monday night’s matchup between the Valley Blue Sox and the Mystic Schooners. The first place team in each division earns a bye through the first round of the playoffs, meaning the Blues will face whichever team ends up in second.
The Martha’s Vineyard Sharks entered Monday in first place and will stay there if Valley loses, but a win for the Blue Sox would push them ahead of the Sharks and earn them a day off before starting their postseason.
Bristol closed out its first NECBL season with a 12-29 record and lost eight of its final 10 games. The team will already be without infielder Christian Fedko, who played his last game for the Blues on July 27 after leading the team in walks and hitting the second-most doubles this season.
Bristol has a combined record of 4-9 against Vineyard and Valley with only one win in six matchups with the Blue Sox. Valley is led by first baseman Luke Franzoni who holds a team-best .294 batting average and is tied for the NECBL lead in doubles (11) and tied for third in home runs (10). His teammate, outfielder Brian Hart, is one of the two players ahead of him in home runs (12) while also holding a share of the NECBL lead in RBI (32).
The Blues will face one of the league-leaders in RBI regardless as Sharks first baseman Ryan Hernandez also drove in 32 runs this season while batting .337, which is the sixth best in the league. Hernandez is aided defensively by some of the most consistent arms in New England including three of the league’s top-five leaders in strikeouts. Starting pitcher Noah Johnson has a 3-1 record in seven starts to go along with 50 strikeouts (third-most in the NECBL) and the league’s second best ERA among eligible pitchers (2.57) over 35 innings. Relief pitcher Riley Phillips has 51 strikeouts and a 2.88 ERA this season in 12 appearances across 25 innings while starter Jackson Nezuh has a 1.80 ERA and 49 strikeouts over 30 innings in seven starts.
The NECBL updated its playoff format for this season, now allowing all 14 teams into the postseason. The first-place team in each division will get a bye while the other six teams in each division are paired up by winning percentage for a one-game playoff. The winning teams will move on to join first-place teams in the division semifinals where they will be matched up to play in best-of-three series to earn a berth into the division finals, which is another best-of-three series for a chance to play the other division champion for a league championship in a best-of-three.
Matt Hornick can be reached at (860) 973-1811 or email@example.com.