As two of the league’s winningest franchises in recent memory, the South Boston Saints and Revere Rockies are set to square off this Tuesday in what will surely be a hard-fought opening round matchup. Having never missed the postseason, freshman coach Nate Laliberte’s Rockies faces a tough test in future Hall of Famer Jon Tenney’s South Boston Saints, who have made it to postseason play in 8 of the last 9 seasons.
Down 2-0 in last year’s opening round, the Rockies made a heroic comeback to advance past the Al Thomas A’s, later bowing out to an East Boston Knights team stacked with elite arms in the semi-finals. But the Purple & Black entered 2016 as a team to beat, considered by many as early-season favorites to repeat as an impact playoff squad.
Thanks in part to a hot June which saw Revere cruise to wins in 8 of 9 games, the Rockies have been amongst the league’s best all season. The season nearly derailed in early-June when ace Alex Wong went down with an elbow injury. However, the Rocks added newcomer Pat Shore (Stonehill) to an already deep pitching staff which overcame Wong’s absence to finish in the top 3 in both ERA and WHIP. Offensively, the experienced lineup (They will enter postseason play with over 1,000 playoff at-bats under their belt) faced some ups and downs in 2016 but still managed to finish in the league’s top 5 in scoring.
The Saints opened up the year having lost an entire squad’s worth of YBL All-Stars to retirement, injury, and adulthood. Faced with fielding a squad without names like Graham, Wicks, Hueston, Evans and Geoghegan in the starting lineup, the Saints mustered together one of the league’s best offenses with a mix of new blood and veteran talent. Overcoming an early season slide that had them well below .500 at the all-star break, South Boston would go on to win an incredible 12 of 13 games down the stretch, en route to securing the league’s #5 seed.
The story this year for the Saints has been all about timely hitting and superb defense. While their pitching staff has struggled at times (5.04 ERA & 132 walks), they’ve managed to fill up the bases offensively, and sport the league’s 3rd best average at the time of this writing. South Boston will look to ride their impressive July wave straight into a first round victory.
Game 1 –Adam Del Rio (5-0, 34.1 IP, 1.63 ERA, 27 K’s) vs. Stephano Stravoravdis (6-4, 65.2 IP, 3.94 ERA, 48 K’s)
Game 2 – John Young (3-3, 38 IP, 3.13 ERA, 27 K’s) vs. Dan Shaw (5-2, 50.2 IP, 4.28 ERA, 35 K’s)
Game 3 – Chris Sandini (0-3, 30 IP, 3.50 ERA, 29 K’s) vs. Brad Bousquet (1-2, 32 IP, 6.56 ERA, 32 K’s)
Players to Watch
Adam Del Rio turned in a Cy Young-caliber campaign for Revere, going 5-0 with a 1.63 ERA. At the plate, the usual suspects were back at it in 2016, with Chris Santosuosso leading the way with 35 hits, and Bobby Foote shaking off a tepid start with a torrid July to finish with a club-best 19 RBI. Keep an eye on Chris Hartery – a career .345 hitter with over 300 hits, he’s starting to heat up at the plate after a slow start.
Former Babson College standout Trevor Boyce, who once won a Rawlings Gold Glove award for his skills in center field, remains one of the league’s top defenders. Adding a .392 campaign with 29 runs scored and a team-high 40 hits, and Trevor’s impact cannot be understated. Joining Trevor offensively is Cambridge-product Ted Downing, who chipped in with 29 hits of his own in his rookie campaign. Jon Tenney drove in 21 runs (his highest total since 2007) and has tallied 300+ hits and 450+ innings pitched in his illustrious career.
Who cares if he went 0-3 this regular season…Chris Sandini has the makeup and experience to anchor the Rockies pitching staff this August. Chris brings 111 career playoff innings and 9 career playoff wins into the 2016 postseason, elevating his game when the lights are the brightest.
Despite the staff’s pitching woes overall, South Boston workhorse Stephano Stravoravdis led the YBL in innings pitched (65.2) with key wins against playoff teams from East Boston and Brighton. A win in game 1 will set the tone for a Saints series victory.
“It’s not how you start…it’s how you finish”
Inspirational internet memes aside, it really is all about peaking at the right time in this game. The South Boston Saints have saved their best brand of baseball for the run-up to the playoffs, and if they keep this momentum rolling into Tuesday, Revere is in trouble. If the Rockies’ veteran arms show up to play, they will likely earn the right to face Al Thomas in the semi-finals. If they don’t, The Saints of South Boston will finally escape the “Boondocks” of round one and advance.
South Boston edges out Revere 3-2 in a first round that goes the distance.