In 2015 they were the top 2 seeds in the YBL tourney and battled in the Championship Round. This year they will meet again, but this rematch takes place in the first round. Once again the #2 seed, Somerville has not been quite the dominant force as we’ve seen over the past decade-plus. But they once again led the league in team pitching with a 2.14 ERA and 242 strikeouts. Offensively, Bernie Driscoll and Cam Lynch’s Alibrandis were second only to the record-setting efforts of the Athletics, scoring 226 runs with a .334 avg and leading the YBL with 88 stolen bases.
After a league-best 25-5 record in 2015, the East Boston Knights stormed into the Finals with high expectations but were swept by Somerville. And while the Alibrandis were able to improve upon their record, 2016 has been a much different year for the Knights. After starting the season 4-1, Eastie lost their next 4 and never again got themselves on the fun side of .500. But Coach Bellavia’s team fought their way through the season and made the playoffs knowing that once you get there, the regular season record doesn’t matter anymore. Everyone around the league knows that you can’t sleep on this team with their offense that can light up the scoreboard at any time. Despite their record, EB still finished the year in the top-5 in both batting and pitching, and they have the talent on the roster to beat anyone in the league.
Game 1 –Chris Costa (4-1, 33.2 IP, 1.46 ERA, 43 K’s) vs. Sam Bennett (1-3, 37.1 IP, 2.25 ERA, 47 K’s)
Game 2 – Jon Morse (7-2, 43 IP, 1.79 ERA, 48 K’s) vs. Evan Vallera (5-3, 42 IP, 3.33 ERA, 24 K’s)
Game 3 – Sean Sullivan (8-1, 43.2 IP, 3.21 ERA, 45 K’s) vs. Max Ockner (2-3, 32 IP, 3.50 ERA, 30 K’s)
Players to Watch
Somerville has the offense, but they are “Pitching Wins Championships” in real life. A breakout year from Chris Costa (1.46 era / 43 strikeouts in 33 innings) has taken a lot of the strain off of the rotation and the bullpen. Look for YBL stud Chris Foundas to make a difference in relief early, or if the series goes to 4 games. But most important for the Alibrandis will be when the starters turn the ball over to Lamarre Rey and Brian Tanguy late in games. No other team in the league has the late innings covered like the Red Army.
For Eastie, as mentioned above they have the talent. But to get past the defending champs they will need to have all of their big players contributing. Both Marty Dunlap and Mike Oliveira had career years in 2015, but struggled at times this season. Perhaps the biggest boost for the Knights will come in the form of rookie pitcher Adam Somers, who just barely eked out playoff eligibility at the end of the season. Somers has been “effectively wild” in 2016 with a 22:17 k:bb ratio in 14 innings. If he can keep the walks down, he is a strikeout machine who can decide a game or two.
Gordie Gronkowski can very well be the piece to push Somerville over the top this postseason. Aformer Angels farmhand (a .298 hitter over his professional career), the Alibrandis rookie posted a .351 avg over 18 games with a .942 ops. But many people are waiting to hear on the status of 2016 YBL batting champ Bobby Barrett. Bobbo suffered a foot injury late in the season, and the biggest decision Coach Bernie may make all postseason could be determining when the appropriate time is to reactivate #7.
After only appearing in 5 games last year, Victor LeBron returned in 2016 and had a good, albeit somewhat streaky year (.316 avg with 18 steals). Coach Bellavia will need some LeBron circa 2014 (.450 avg with 47 steals) where he terrorized the league every time he stepped to the plate in order to have a chance to take down the champs.
While Eastie will likely have all hands on deck for the postseason, the Red Army just has too much offense and pitching. Alibrandis in 4.