Starfires Score Early and Often In Rain-Shortened Win Over Worcester

Box Score

WESTFIELD, Massachusetts (June 29, 2024) – The rain came down almost as quickly as the runs did for the Westfield Starfires, who took a 10-2 victory over the Worcester Bravehearts in a weather-shortened five-inning game on Saturday, June 29 at the Richards Jewelers Diamond at Billy Bullens Field.

Westfield is now 16-10 on the season, leading the Futures Collegiate Baseball League by percentage points over the 17-11 Norwich Sea Unicorns.

In the first, Central Connecticut State University’s Gianno Merlonghi singled to start the bottom of the inning off, and advanced when his collegiate teammate Aidan Redahan hit a shot that deflected off the pitcher to first base. Merlonghi stole third, and scored on a fly ball to left by Washington State University’s Trey Cruz.

Worcester bounced back quickly in the second inning as Dylan LaPointe walked, and Jackson Marshall and Jacob Hurrell hit back-to-back doubles. Just as rapidly, however, Westfield took back the lead with a leadoff walk from Bryant University’s Cam Papetti. Boston College rookie Julio Solier then hit a bouncer that left Worcester pitcher Jack Lager nowhere to throw it to put two men on. Two batters later, a miscue at third base during Keegan Soltis’s at-bat allowed the Millersville University junior to pack the bases.

Merlonghi came to the plate for a second time and delivered, smacking a two-run single to left. Redahan followed, incredibly hitting his second liner off of the Worcester pitcher in as many innings, this time reaching safely and bringing Soltis home for a 4-1 lead.

The third inning was a defensive disaster for the Bravehearts; Kansas State University’s Chandler Murray reached on an error at shortstop to lead off for Westfield, followed by a Papetti base hit through the left side and a Solier walk. Two strikeouts by Gavin Price threatened to prevent Westfield from scoring, and he induced a Merlonghi grounder to short that should have ended the inning with Westfield not scoring.

Instead, the grounder was not only muffed by the shortstop, but the resulting throw to third by the left fielder went awry; rather than no runs scoring, all three men who were on base came home, extending the Westfield advantage to 7-2.

The Bravehearts loaded the bases themselves in the fourth, but Keene State University junior Daniel Cantafi did not blink, nor did the defense behind him; a strikeout and a 6-4-3 double play ended the best chance Worcester had of coming back.

“There’s not as much pressure when you know that you go out there, your guys have your back,” Cantafi said.

The rain picked up more in the bottom of the fourth, and Westfield’s offense continued to strike. Hofstra University senior Luke Masiuk, playing his first game at Bullens Field since rejoining the team after playing with the Starfires in 2023, worked a four-pitch walk and stole second, scoring on a Murray base hit. Papetti walked, and College of the Holy Cross rookie Van Liott singled through the middle to score Murray. Soltis then hit a bouncer to the mound that should have ended the inning, but the throw was dropped by the Worcester first baseman, allowing Papetti to score Westfield’s 10th run of the game.

Solier then provided spectacular defense to go with his hitting, snaring a liner deep in the hole at second and turning a jump throw to put out the leadoff hitter for Worcester to start the fifth. A strikeout and a lineout later, the inning was over, and with the rain continuing to pound on the field, home plate umpire Jeff Folkins called the game.

Cantafi’s outing, which is credited as a complete game, was strong; he allowed just three hits and struck out four in the five innings, throwing 50 of his 83 pitches for strikes.

“We’ve been in these conditions before…trusting the defense and knowing everyone is going through the same thing, it’s an equal playing field,” Cantafi said. He also noted, “It’s more than just baseball. We’ve been with each other for a month and a half and we feel like family…you play with guys, they’re your buddies…everyone wants to win.”

The Starfires return to action on Tuesday, July 2 at 5:00 p.m. for a doubleheader with the Nashua Silver Knights; it is a single-admission doubleheader, with both games slated for seven innings.

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