BROCKTON, Mass. — The best of the best in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League took to Campanelli Stadium on Thursday night for the league’s annual All-Star Game and a few with local ties stood out from the crowd.
Rising UMass Lowell senior Matt Sanchez went 2-for-2 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI as the starting left fielder representing the Nashua Silver Knights as the West Division earned a 4-1 win.
The visiting West jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead against one of the FCBL’s top pitchers in Martha’s Vineyard’s Matt Quintana (Siena) in the first inning.
Sanchez led off the game with a double to deep center field and scored through the back door as Torrington’s Mike Odenwaelder (Amherst) skidded a double-play ball to shortstop.
“We all just came out here wanting to have some fun,” Sanchez said. “I was just sitting fastball and got my pitch.”
After robbing Seacoast third baseman Alex Merritt (North Florida) of a base hit in the second inning, Worcester second baseman Dylan Harris (St. Leo) charged a triple into the right-center field gap and scored as Sanchez beat out an infield single to open a two-run inning on three hits.
“It was awesome,” the eventual Most Valuable Player Harris said after going 2-for-3 with the triple and a run scored. “Words can’t describe it. I just went out there, played the game and it was fun. On the first pitch (to follow up his defensive gem), I took a good pitch and was on him. I hit it pretty well.”
Odenwaelder rolled another grounder to shortstop from there to score Sanchez for the second time in the contest, but this time the Titan slugger was credited with a run batted in.
The East side got on the board in the fifth inning on an RBI groundout by Brockton second baseman Zack Short (Sacred Heart). Short put on a show on the basepaths two innings earlier, but was stranded at second base after reaching on an error and stealing second and third.
In the sixth, the West got the run right back and closed the scoring as Nashua shortstop Michael Pierson (Appalachian State) dropped an RBI single into shallow right field.
Silver Knights pitchers Sam Nepiarsky (UConn) and Travis Landry (SNHU) worked scoreless innings for the eventual victors with Landry, a Loudon, N.H. native, earning the call for the ninth inning. On the opposite side, Melrose’s Rob DiFranco of the North Shore Navigators got easy outs against the two batters he faced.
The River Hawks were also represented by Silver Knight veteran first baseman Jimmy Ricoy. The hometown Lowell native went 0-for-2 but showed his usual standout defense for the West side.
“Some of these guys play at really big schools too,” Sanchez said, “so just hearing their background stories and where they come from. Having them be on our team is a great experience.”
Although won by Worcester’s Mark DeYoung (Judson), Pittsfield first baseman and rising UML sophomore Zack Tower put on an excellent show in the league’s first-ever Home Run Derby. Tower tied for the overall lead with four dingers in the first round, but dropped a 3-2 swing-off to DeYoung who advanced to the finals.
“(Wachusett manager and UML assistant coach Kevin Barnaby) was throwing to me because he throws BP at school,” Tower said. “He was working me middle in because that’s a good pitch to hit and I did my best.”
Tower peppered left field wall, favoring the short porch into the bullpens beyond the 320-foot marker in straightaway left. Two of his home runs cleared raised advertising panels over the wall as well.
“You have to pull here because it’s a big park, you can’t go to center,” the Auburn, Mass. native noted. “The velocity is not hard enough coming out of a BP pitcher’s hands.”