WESTFIELD – It has been a constant explosion of epic proportions hovering over this year’s Westfield Starfires organization of late.
One week ago, the Starfires posted an eye-popping, franchise-record 18 runs in an 18-10 win over the Worcester Starfires, becoming the first Futures Collegiate Baseball League team to score 300 runs this season, more than six runs per game.
Then again on Friday, Westfield shut out Worcester 5-0 to close the gap in the playoff chase before the night was capped off with a spectacular fireworks show in front of a packed stadium at Bullens Field.
“Any time you can shut out the other team and just manufacture a few runs and get a win, that’s what we are looking for,” Westfield Starfires manager Tony Deshler said. “We need more of it down the stretch.”
Westfield starting pitcher Shayne Audet (New England College), of Springfield delivered five scoreless innings to earn the victory. Audet recorded 11 strikeouts, allowed two hits, and walked four batters. Alek Elges (Webster University) provided four scoreless innings of relief. Elges also allowed two hits. He struck out four batters, including three straight to end the game.
“My biggest problem all year has been throwing strikes so I was just trying to get ahead and make them beat me as opposed to getting behind 2-0 and giving them fastballs they can hit,” Audet said.
“It’s really just getting ahead and attacking.”
Audet came out firing from the get-go, retiring the first three batters of the game, all on strikeouts.
In the second, Audet got into a jam. Zach Demattio and Lewis Barnum walked. Matt Maloney singled to load the bases. The Starfires starting pitcher came back to strike out the next two batters, Sebastian Salado and Kenny Mallory, Jr., though before forcing a fly-out to end the inning.
Audet was lights-out in the third and fourth inning, retiring all six batters via the K.
Worcester starting pitcher Alex Amalti duplicated the feat on the scoreboard with goose eggs in the run column until the fifth inning.
Three straight Westfield batters reached base to begin the bottom of the fifth, including Cole Bartels, who smacked a run-scoring single through the right side of the infield for the game’s first run. With one out, Kosta Drosidis knocked in the Starfires’ second run with a sac-fly to center field.
Audet got into another jam, walking the first two batters to begin the sixth but Elges bailed him out by retiring three of the next four batters to end the threat.
Westfield extended its lead in the seventh inning. Hunter Pasqualini and Cole Bartels drew consecutive walks. An infield error on Sean Burychka’s grounder scored one. With one out, Matt Garbowski hit a two-run chopper through the infield for a 5-0 advantage.
“Their starter was really good,” Audet said, regarding Worcester’s Alex Amalfi, who struck out seven and allowed two runs over five innings. “We were grinding back and forth all game. When we finally got through it, I knew we were going to win the game.”
With just one week remaining in the FCBL regular season and the Starfires knocking on the playoff door, their manager offered up his take on the season and a look ahead.
“When I think of how talented we are and how we have played the whole summer, we should be right there as a playoff team,” Deshler said. “We’ve lost a couple tight home run derbys. We’ve blown some leads. We’ve just found ways to lose. It seems like we can never get truly rolling. We’ll win one or two and then we’ll have just a deflated loss and it just hurts. It’s tough to bounce back from those sometimes, especially when you’re playing a ton during the week.”
“From the beginning of the summer and planning from the fall,” Deshler continued, “we knew we had a roster that was going to win a ton of games. For some reason, we have more L’s than W’s but hopefully down the stretch we can play some good baseball and put ourselves in position for that fourth place spot.”
The top four teams will compete in the FCBL playoffs.
“As long as we go out and play hard every day, we are going to be in every single game,” Deshler said. “I know that down the stretch.”
Notes: Westfield split a double header with Pittsfield, a 9-8 win (7 inn.) and 3-0 loss, Sunday after losing to the Brockton Rox, 13-3, in eight innings Saturday to remain a half game out of the playoffs. The Starfires return home Friday to close out the regular season against Norwich at Bullens Field.