Bravehearts break up Starfires’ win streak

WESTFIELD – The Westfield Starfires may have been grounded in their inaugural season, but their slow ascent continues in Year Two.
Over the weekend, Westfield swept first-place North Shore to cap off a 3-game win streak and nearly made it four straight before falling to the Worcester Bravehearts at home for the second time this season. The Starfires lost 3-2 Tuesday night at Bullens Field.
“I think we were the better team for most of that game and you come out on the wrong end,” Westfield Starfires head coach/field manager Tony Deshler said. “The more that we are all on the same page and moving in the right direction, it’s going to get better game by game.”
Westfield (4-3) wasted a solid outing from West Springfield native Nick Dombkowski (University of Hartford), who gave a small contingent of local fans something to cheer about. Domkowski allowed just three hits through 4/3 innings, recording six strikeouts and allowing just two walks in the process.

Nick Dombkowski, of West Springfield lets one loose at Tuesday’s Futures Collegiate Baseball League game against the Worcester Bravehearts. (MARC ST.ONGE / THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

“It’s definitely a good experience to come back here and throw,” said Dombkowski, who last pitched at Bullens in a high school game against the Westfield Bombers. “We fought to the end. It just didn’t go our way.”
Westfield spotted Domkowski an early 1-0 lead when Johnny Tuccillo (Stony Brook Univ.), who reached on an error and advanced on a slow roller from Braydon Seaburg (Quinnipiac Univ.) with two outs in the second inning, scored on an Andre Marrero (Quinnipiac) base hit to center field.
Dombkowski kept Worcester’s hitters off balance, allowing just two hits through the game’s first three innings – both to Bravehearts’ lead-off batter Nick Martin (Westfield State University), who singled and doubled. The Westfield starting pitcher retired nine of the first 12 batters he faced, four via strikeout.
Dombkowski got into a bit of trouble in the fourth, allowing the inning’s first batter, Worcester cleanup hitter Ben Rice (Dartmouth) to reach on a double to left center field. A deep fly ball out from Aidan Wilde (Stonehill) to center field allowed Rice to tag up and take third. The Bravehearts nearly tied it during the next at-bat when Tyler Patane (Franklin Pierce) drove a line drive toward the right side of the infield grass, but one of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League’s top prospects, Westfield first baseman Reggie Crawford (UConn) dove to his right to snare the liner, robbing Patane of a RBI hit.
After Crawford’s defensive gem, the inning’s next batter, Jack Gardner (Morehead State) drew his second walk of the game. Dombkowski escaped the jam unscathed by striking out Donnie Cohoon (Hartford) to end the fourth.
Dombkowski got one more batter to chase one of his pitches to begin the fifth, recording his sixth strikeout before turning the ball over to the bullpen.
“Everyone that faces (Nick) never looks comfortable,” coach Deshler said. “He gets a lot of weak contact and obviously a lot of swing and misses too. …He’s definitely one of our studs out there. We’re hoping by the time August comes, he’s going to be able to carve for six to seven innings for us.”
Worcester (5-3) carved out its first lead of the game in the fifth. With two outs, No. 2 batter Danny Torres (Saint Leo) singled and E.J. Exposito (NYIT) belted a two-run home run to left field to give the Bravehearts their first lead of the game, 2-1.
Seven games into the 2020 season, Exposito has already proven to be a thorn in the side of Westfield’s pitching staff. The talented shortstop was one of three Worcester players to homer in the Bravehearts 3-1 win over the Starfires in the home opener at Bullens Field.
After Exposito’s exposition at the plate, Westfield once again found itself trailing Worcester. The Starfires loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning with consecutive base hits from Eric Callahan (Millersville Univ.), Pittsfield’s Cedric Rose (Herkimer Community College), and Chicopee’s Ramon Jiminez (Boston College). They came up empty though as Worcester reliever Jonathan Rice (Stonehill) bounced back by forcing a ground out and fly out to end the threat.
Westfield reliever Andrew Roman (Salve Regina), of Monson gave the home team a chance to come back, retiring all six batters he faced – two by strikeout – over the seventh and eighth innings.
Persistence, perseverance and patience all paid off for Westfield, albeit temporarily.
In the eighth inning, the Starfires tied the game. Anthony Porrino (Sacred Heart Univ.) was hit by a pitch. He advanced to second base on a perfect Callahan sac-bunt, and scored on Rose’s double to the deep left corner of the outfield.
Worcester got to Westfield’s bullpen in the ninth inning though. Trevor Johnson (Dartmouth) walked, advanced to second on a dropped third strike, and scored on Torres’s RBI single to center field.
Westfield had another opportunity in the bottom half of the ninth. Seaburg singled and advanced to third base with one out when a pickoff attempt sailed past the first base bag. Crawford put the ball in play in the next at-bat, but Seaburg was thrown out at home attempting to score. A ground out ended the game.
“We were just trying to be aggressive,” coach Deshler said about the rally-killing play at home plate. ”I’d rather lose on the side of aggression than just sit back.”
NOTES: Westfield entered Tuesday’s contest on a three-game win streak, following Sunday’s double header sweep of first place North Shore. In Game 1, Mark Coley (2-for-3, walk) homered, drove in two runs, and scored twice. In Game 2, the Starfires scored five runs in each of the second, fourth and fifth innings to rout the Navigators, 15-5. Lead-off hitter Braydon Seaburg went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. …Westfield began its win streak Saturday with a convincing 10-1 win over the Brockton Rox. In that game, Andre Marrero, Cedric Rose, and Johnny Tuccillo each homered. … Westfield will begin a six-game home stand Friday, beginning with the Nashua Silver Knights at Bullens Field at 6:30. The Starfires will play the North Shore Navigators (July 18), host a double header against the Brockton Rox (July 19), and finish up the home stand against the New Britain Bees (July 21) and Worcester Bravehearts (July 22).

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