NEW BRITAIN - The 2021 Futures League All-Star Game wrapped up Tuesday night with the visiting team, Team East, coming out on top over Team West in a 10-2 final.
The festivities, which followed a Home Run Derby Monday night, included a showcase for each player selected for the game before first pitch Tuesday. A long day ended up being a good one for the players, who were able to hang around and bond with other players in the league they either don't quite know or are friends with.
The game started out with a scoreless first inning, and was on pace to be a pitcher’s duel with Aaron Cafaro (New Britain) on the mound for the West. After Cafaro was removed in the second the first of two three-run innings from East jolted the game alive to put West on its heels early.
Izayia Mestre (Pittsfield) took over on the mound after Cafaro. He quickly found himself in trouble, letting the leadoff batter Tremayne Cobb (Norwich) get on off an error by the third baseman.
Cobb moved to second in the next at bat, which ended in a walk to Pat Roche (Brockton). An error by the shortstop put Andrew Selima (Worcester) on base to load them up for JP Olson (Brockton).
Olson capitalized on the opportunity, roping a single to score two unearned runs.
A Logan Ott (Nashua) single later in the inning drove in Selima, the third unearned run of the inning. In total, West committed three errors in the inning to keep the inning going, creating a hole it was unable to dig out of.
East added to the damage later in the fifth on a Cobb single to score Tayven Kelley (Worcester). Mike Golankiewicz (Brockton) then scored on a Gavin Noriega (Worcester) double, putting Dakota Harris (Worcester) on third.
Harris scored on a passed ball to make it 6-0, adding to the defensive struggle by West.
Trailing early, Pittsfield manager and acting manager of Team West Matt Gedman said the scoreboard wasn’t as big of a concern as making sure the guys were loose, having a good time and taking it all in.
“The All-Star Game is about having fun, getting to know guys on different teams you’ve played against but haven’t really got to know. As long as the attitude and the guys are having a good time, the scoreboard is secondary,” said Gedman. “We want guys to have success, but we want them to have a good time and a good experience.”
In the other dugout, Norwich manager Devin Belenski echoed a similar thought on getting guys from all sorts of different baseball backgrounds together for a few days to let loose and play baseball.
“They have a great time, wear on each other, and bond with some guys they haven’t been able to all year,” said Belenski. “This is a special week. … They’re here for a reason, to have a good time, learn each other’s craft and names and it’s great to see them all become friends. That can last a lifetime.”
East added two more in the eighth inning and ninth, getting a run on a Nick Martin (Worcester) steal of home and a Randy Flores (Worcester) sacrifice fly to score Ben Rounds (Brockton) in the eighth.
In the ninth an Ott single scored Greg Bozzo (Nashua) and Kaelen Culpepper (Norwich) drove in Sebastian Salado (Worcester) for added insurance to make it a nine-run game.
“That momentum we got in the second inning, that 3-0, that changed the game. Then we had fun the rest of the way,” said Belenski. “When you go up early, that allows you to have fun the rest of the way. You can have situations, run a little bit more, and can really sit back and relax. It just adds to the experience.”
West had its first run of the contest on an Alec Ritch (New Britain) single to score Jake Blinstrub (Pittsfield). In the eighth inning Hunter Pasqualini (Westfield) drove in Christian Beal (Westfield) to score the second run of the game for the West. It was the last scoring play in the game for Team West.
Gedman said part of the strategy Tuesday night was about trying to put guys in an opportunity to best represent who they are as ballplayers in front of scouts and a crowd at New Britain Stadium.
“Whenever you look at it, you try to see it not from a one-sided perspective,” said Gedman. “… We try to take a step back and put guys where they belong to help them showcase the best. Bryson Cafaro, he’s had a hell of a year, I had him a few years back in Pittsfield. … To see how much he’s come along and how good he is now, it was a no brainer to start the New Britain kid, who was very deserving of it, in his home stadium.
Ott was named the FCBL All-Star Game MVP for a three-hit night. He drove in two runs and walked once, playing all nine innings. Pitcher of The Game was awarded to Jake Choate (Worcester), who threw a scoreless second inning with one strikeout.
Outside of Ott, only one player had multiple hits – Culpepper (2-for-4). Olson had two runs driven in for East as well.
Jake Hyde (New Britain) had a hit for West, going 1-for-2. Ritch had a stolen base as well.
Cafaro pitched one inning and struck out one. Colin Blake (New Britain) pitched one inning, allowing three earned runs on three hits and one strikeout. Jagger Duquette (New Britain) had one third of an inning pitched and one walk.