The 2013 Johnny Pesky Division Champion Revere Rockies are looking to take home their franchise’s first Yawkey Baseball League title after falling just short last season, losing to the Somerville Alibrandi ballclub in last year’s YBL Championship. After a slow start, AJ Bucciarelli’s crew rifled off an incredible 17 consecutive wins, placing them firmly in the hunt for the league’s top seed (24-8 overall). Settling into the #3 spot despite a clutch 2-game weekend series sweep of the top-ranked Stoneham Sabers, these perennial playoff contenders (10 consecutive trips to the postseason) are rested and focused for a deep playoff run.
The Rockies will face off against the “Saints of South Boston” (Cue the Boondock Saints intro music) in this year’s first round, who enter playoff play with a 19-11-1 overall record, good enough for the #6 seed. Playoff participants in 6 of the last 7 seasons, Jon Tenney’s Saints opened up the season with victories against all 3 top seeds – Al Thomas, Revere, & Somerville – and look to continue their winning ways on the backs of some impressive veteran bats.
If the regular season matchups are any indication, this series could be hotly contested with some very close ballgames. The season series is tied at one win a piece, with each team walking off with a one-run victory in the final at-bat.
Players to Watch
The offseason additions of Tommy Englehardt (.507, 7 HR, 30 RBI) and Bobby Foote (.368, 4 HR, 32 RBI) added some thump to an already potent Revere Rockies lineup, anchored by de facto captain Chris Santosuosso (.323, 28 Runs, 17 RBI). The loss of reigning league MVP Luis Rodriguez to injury hasn’t stopped the Rockies from pounding out nearly 6 runs per game, with all the usual suspects chipping in throughout the 2014 campaign.
This year’s squad may be the franchise’s best yet thanks to a frighteningly deep pitching staff to complement their dynamic offense. While veteran arms “Donkey” Del Rio, Sandini, and Rich “Woody” Wlodarczyk (4-0, 2.63 ERA) handled the bulk of last season’s playoff workload, it could be the emergence of Young as the staff ace (League-Leading 0.83 ERA in 33.2 IP) which gets the squad over the hump. Veteran closer Ian Titcomb (4 saves, 1.14 ERA) turned in another strong performance in 2014, and his ability to shorten games will be critical in keeping the Revere arms fresh for a condensed playoff schedule.
South Boston will have to find a way to overcome the loss of their top 2 starting pitchers – Dylan Joyce & Rob Cahill – if they want to advance out of the first round. If there is an offense in the league that can do it, it just might be South Boston’s. Kent Graham remains one of the league’s top right-handed bats, and the Saints will need more of his team-leading 4 home runs if they want to take the series. New faces David Lightbody (.373, 8 2B’s, 16 BB’s) and former NCAA National Gold Glove recipient Trevor Boyce (24 runs, 16 SB’s) have been key contributors throughout the campaign, and catcher Jim McLaughlin continues to be a run-producer in the middle of the lineup, chipping in a team-best 19 RBI’s.
The series might hinge on Hueston’s bionic arm (106 innings in 2014 for 4 different teams) and his ability to snag a pair of wins in Round 1. With victories against playoff participants Somerville and Savin Hill, he has proven he can handle top teams with ease. Tenney’s intensity and mound presence cannot be counted out. He has shown over the years that he thrives in the big game atmosphere.
Perhaps the most clutch bat on the squad, Kyle Rufo has asserted himself as field general behind the plate for Revere. His steady presence has softened the blow of losing league legend Tony Iafolla to adulthood.
MSBL All-Stars Lightbody and Ryan Raddabaugh may not be household names to the newcomers in this league, but they have been terrorizing the amateur baseball scene throughout New England for decades. Playoff baseball is all about poise in pressure situations, and these 2 have been there before, many times over.
In the end, winning in August is all about pitching. Revere has it. South Boston does not. I wouldn’t bet my own money against Lights and Graham, but Revere has the bats and pitching staff to go all the way this season.
Rockies advance, 3 games to 1.