Baseball fans around New England have been waiting months and months for what the Futures Collegiate Baseball League delivered over the past week.
The six-team circuit’s 2020 season is just a week old, and it’s been hard to contain the excitement at ballparks around the region. Players and spectators alike are finally back in action after months of disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the look and feel around the ballyard may be different and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts may be keeping fans away from the seats for the time being, there is no lack of talent on the field. This is where some of New England’s top stars are spending the summer, and it’s been a fun start to the season.
Here is a look at some of the headlines from the first week of the 2020 season of Futures League baseball:
Navigating to No. 1
With two of the region’s top 2021 MLB Draft prospects — Boston College’s Sal Frelick (Lexington, Mass.) and Cody Morissette (Exeter, N.H.) — and reigning Futures League MVP Sean Lawlor (Maine) on the roster, the North Shore Navigators won their first four games.
Frelick posted multiple hits three times over the first four games, helping him to a .438 average with a double, his first home run of the season in Wednesday’s 10-8 win over Brockton, four RBI and six runs scored. Also in the outfield, Northeastern transfer-to-be Ben Malgeri (Stratham, N.H.) has two triples and a handful of RBI.
While the offense has averaged seven runs per game in the early going, Dickinson righty Beau Dana (Marblehead, Mass.) has been nearly unhittable on the mound, striking out a league-leading eight batters over just three innings. He recorded saves in each of his first three appearances.
The powerful swing of Northeastern’s Jared Dupere (Amesbury, Mass.) has carried right over to a second straight summer for the Nashua Silver Knights.
After hitting two home runs in Northeastern’s last game before the season was shuttered on March 11 and driving in 13 runs during the total shortened campaign, the Governor’s Academy product left the yard twice in his first four summer games. He launched a three-run homer to help lift the Silver Knights past Brockton, 10-6, on Tuesday.
Dupere’s eight homers were tied for second in the FCBL last summer with a pair of returning North Shore sluggers in Lawlor and Harvard infielder Logan Bravo (Andover, Mass.).
Not a Sleight start
After not appearing in a game during his freshman year at the University of Virginia, returning Brockton Rox outfielder Evan Sleight (Framingham, Mass.) has certainly missed swinging the bat if his numbers through three games are any indication.
The Belmont Hill product who is headed to Rutgers to continue his career is 5 for 8 with three doubles, three RBI, three runs scored and four walks during his second year for Brockton thus far. He also hit five homers last summer.
Brandeis first baseman Mike Khoury (East Bridgewater, Mass.) hit two doubles in his first two games, while another Division 3 product — Roger Williams lefty Justin Garcia (Foxboro, Mass.) — earned a win last Friday with five strikeouts over three innings of scoreless and hitless ball.
Back for more
The second-year Westfield Starfires have played just two games over the first six days of the season due to a rainout and scheduled off days, but Futures League fans will be happy to see 2019 Top Pro Prospect and rising Rhode Island junior Mark Coley (Bloomfield, Conn.) after he played for Pittsfield last summer.
Coley hit .327 with seven homers, 29 RBI and 38 runs scored to total 91 bases for the Suns a summer ago. It didn’t take long for him to leave the yard for the first time in 2020 as he had two hits, two RBI and a homer in the team’s season-opening, 6-4 win at New Britain on Tuesday.
Westfield’s opening lineup was very strong including Northeastern’s Danny Crossen (Cotuit, Mass.) as well as newcomers like Quinnipiac outfielder Andre Marrero (West Springfield, Mass.), Hartford infielder Drew DeMartino (Pittsfield, Mass.) and lefty Nick Dombkowski (West Springfield, Mass.) on the mound.
The New Britain Bees went on a three-game losing streak after shutting out the defending champion Worcester Bravehearts in last Thursday’s season opener, 6-0, but it has been no fault of New Haven slugger Andrew Cain.
A rising senior from Seaford, N.Y., who hit .292 during the Chargers’ shortened 2020 season, Cain had seven hits, five RBI and two runs scored over the Bees’ first four games. One of his knocks was a homer in Sunday’s 6-4 loss to North Shore. Two of New Britain’s first three losses came by that same score.
Shifting to the mound, Middlebury southpaw Alex Price (Ridgefield, Conn.) started the opener for Yale assistant coach Ray Guarino’s ballclub, allowing just two hits and struck out five over four scoreless innings. Price also earned an FCBL season-opening nod last summer as he pitched for Pittsfield.
With the aforementioned Dombkowski being an exception, the remaining five FCBL teams opted to start league veterans in their opening games.
While Price pitched New Britain’s first game as a collegiate franchise, he opposed a pair of Worcester veterans in Angelo Baez (St. Thomas Aquinas) and Shawn Babineau (Franklin Pierce/Ashland, Mass.). Both Bravehearts won five games last summer, and Baez was the FCBL’s Pitcher of the Year.
It should be no surprise that Maine’s Nick Sinacola (North Attleboro, Mass.) was the go-to guy for Brockton. The FCBL’s 2019 Top Pitching Prospect fanned three over his first four innings of work preceding Garcia.
Gavin Sullivan (Stetson/Swampscott, Mass.) has also spent parts of the 2018 and 2019 seasons with North Shore since graduating from Cheshire Academy. Sullivan earned the win opposite Nashua’s Geoff Mosseau (St. John’s/Bedford, N.H.), who pitched for the Silver Knights two summers ago as a rising freshman.
Loaded trophy case
If you haven’t noticed the trend, all six of the FCBL’s major award winners from the 2019 season have returned to the league this summer. However, Coley isn’t the only one playing for a different team.
While Coley moved from Pittsfield to Westfield, 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Buddy Dewaine (Central Connecticut State/Uncasville, Conn.) is playing for Brockton after spending his first go-around in the league as a member of the Bristol Blues.
North Shore returns both Lawlor and Dana, the MVP and Relief Pitcher of the Year, respectively, while Baez and Sinacola have returned to the mound for their respective teams.