Starfires’ Bats Come Alive For Victory In Burlington

Box Score

BURLINGTON, Vermont (July 6, 2024) – The Westfield Starfires found themselves in a familiar spot: trailing big late in a game at Centennial Field against the Vermont Lake Monsters.

They left Lake Monsters fans with a familiar feeling: stunned after a big rally put the Starfires on top at the end, with Westfield taking a 16-13 victory.

The Starfires, now 20-12-1, sit a point ahead of the Norwich Sea Unicorns for first place in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League.

The Lake Monsters, playing in throwback uniforms to honor the former Vermont Expos, jumped to a 1-0 lead after a Tyler Favretto leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first. Westfield responded in the second as Washington State University’s Trey Cruz singled to right and Chandler Murray of Kansas State University smacked a double to center to bring him home.

Vermont retook the lead in the third, loading the bases for Zander Teator, who doubled to bring in two; he and Mark Quatrani scored later in the inning on a wild pitch and a groundout, respectively, giving the Lake Monsters a 5-1 edge.

The Starfires put a run on the board in the fourth, with an RBI single by University of Louisiana-Lafayette rookie Blaine Lucas singling after College of Charleston freshman Jayden Novak reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced on a passed ball, but the Lake Monsters countered with a leadoff home run from Wyatt Patchett and a Jackson Sirois RBI groundout, expanding their advantage to 7-2.

In the fifth, a grounder to shortstop by Boston College’s Julio Solier was botched, setting up a big inning. Central Connecticut State University’s Aidan Redahan and Gianno Merlonghi smacked back-to-back doubles, each driving in a run, before Cruz hit a towering home run to right, shrinking Westfield’s gap to 7-6. Vermont again added to its total, however, with a two-run double by Joey Gale in the home half.

Merlonghi added another RBI to his total with a hit that brought in Quinnipiac University’s Kyle Garbowski in the sixth, but the frame proved to favor the hosts with four runs coming in on the home side, as Dylan Pacheco, Chone James, Gale, and Patchett each brought in a teammate.

Vermont’s edge at this point was 13-7, with only a third of the game to play. The Starfires were down, but not out.

The comeback began with Murray and pinch-hitter Cam Papetti both drawing walks, with the Bryant University rookie pushing Murray to second. Two batters later, Millersville University’s Sam Morris rocketed a 2-0 pitch into the left-center gap for an RBI double, and manager Paul Bonfiglio sent another pinch hitter to the dish in College of the Holy Cross freshman Van Liott. He too connected, driving a single to center to bring Papetti and Morris home and elevating Westfield’s run total to 10.

“I was just looking for a ball over the plate, something to drive, get the barrel behind the ball, and it worked out,” Morris said of the double.

Cruz led off the eighth with a four-pitch walk, and Papetti singled to left to add to the pressure. Louisiana junior Luke Yuhasz was sent to the dish and did his job, singling to load the bases. Morris worked a walk to bring in Cruz, and then, with two outs, Solier strode to the plate.

The Springfield native jumped on the first pitch he saw, lacing the ball into the right-center gap. By the time the throw came in from the wall, Papetti, Yuhasz, and Morris had scored, Solier stood at third, and Westfield led 14-13.

After Vermont singled to lead off the eighth, Camden Thomas came in to pitch for Westfield. The Keene State University sophomore sat down the next three batters he faced, striking out Patchett on three pitches to end the inning.

The Starfires wanted insurance and they found it in theninth; Merlonghi was hit by a pitch and Cruz walked, as did Yuhasz, loading the bases with two down. Morris came to the dish again and hit a 1-1 offering hard at the third baseman, who could not handle it; Merlonghi and Cruz came in on the error.

That was more than enough for Thomas, who worked around a one-out hit batsman of his own to shut the door and earn the six-out save.

“We never go away from our plan; we always stick to it no matter the situation. The pressure doesn’t matter. We control what we can control,” Morris said.

“That’s huge. It’s the second time we’ve done that to them this year. It just goes to show you how much toughness that we have, resilience...they love to hit, and I think that really shows, that really pushes you through a game,” Bonfiglio said.

Southern New Hampshire University’s Devin Divita was the winner on the mound, working 1.2 innings and allowing two runs on three hits and three walks.

The two teams will meet again on Sunday, July 7 for a 5:05 p.m. start in Burlington.

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