2001 New England Patriots Reincarnated? 

The New England Patriots (4-4) have underperformed this season with a 4-4 record, just two seasons after Tom Brady left in free agency to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 24 games since Brady’s departure, the Patriots are 11-13, while the Buccaneers won Super Bowl 55 and have won 21 of 28 games (including the postseason) with Brady under center. 

However, WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston Sports Anchor/Reporter Bob Halloran believes that this year’s New England Patriots can replicate their 2001 campaign based on close contests against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2), Dallas Cowboys (6-1), and Los Angeles Chargers (5-3). Against the Buccaneers and Cowboys, New England combined for 668 yards on offense. Unfortunately, they lost both games in the final possessions thanks to a missed 56-yard field goal in Tom Brady’s homecoming in week four, and Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb breaking loose for a 35-yard game-winning score in overtime in week six.  

Their ability to go toe to toe with the best teams in the NFL with a rookie quarterback and a rebuilt receiving corps prompted Halloran to recall the following quote from Hall of Fame Cornerback Ty Law after their 2001 regular-season matchup against the St. Louis Rams: 

“We can look at this game and learn from it, but I think we can also look at this game and say we can play with anybody.” 

The Rams would win that game 24-17, behind quarterback Kurt Warner’s 401 yards and three touchdowns. New England’s defense did force two interceptions to keep the game close and those interceptions would repeat themselves when the two teams met again 10 weeks later in Super Bowl 36.  

This would mark the last defeat that season for the Patriots, as they rode a nine-game winning streak into Super Bowl. According to ESPN, they entered as 14-point underdogs. Three Rams’ turnovers resulted in all 17 first-half points for New England, including a 47-yard pick-6 by Ty Law in the second quarter. 

Trailing 17-3 entering the fourth quarter, St. Louis would rally for two touchdowns by Kurt Warner and Ricky Proehl, leaving 1:21 left on the clock and no timeouts for Tom Brady to work with. Brady led a nine-play, 53-yard drive to set up kicker Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard field goal. He drilled the kick right down the middle as time expired to capture the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history. 

Fast-forwarding to week eight this season, the Patriots had yet to defeat a team with a winning record. Their only wins were against the New York Jets (twice) and Houston Texans, who have won two games all season.  

Ahead of their matchup road matchup against the Chargers, Halloran stated: 

“They’ve won both their road games this year, albeit against subpar competition, but it shows they’re not intimidated by hostile environments or adversely affected by travel and fatigue. Also, the Chargers appear to be a bit of a paper tiger. They’re 4-2, but their point differential is a minus-2.” 

Bill Belichick’s defense held quarterback Justin Herbert to a 51% completion rate and 10 points in the second half, after falling trailing 14-13 at halftime. Patriots’ safety Adrian Phillips delivered the game’s turning point, by returning a 26-yard pick-6 with 10:11 left in the fourth quarter to hand his team a lead they would not relinquish. 

Offensively, New England relied on kicker Nick Folk, who finished with four field goals and running back Damien Harris added his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. Harris finished the contest with a team-high 23 rushes for 80 yards. New England finished with 141 yards on the ground against the league’s 32nd ranked run defense in yards per game, according to NFL Network. 

“Moving forward, they’ll have opportunities to prove that they are a very good team,” said Halloran. “Nothing is for certain, but as they play out the schedule, I’m curious to see how much they improve, especially when it comes to finding ways to win games late, which they didn’t do against the Buccaneers and Cowboys. Doing it against the Chargers isn’t quite enough to elevate my confidence to a very high degree, but I think again that it was a quality win, and we’ll see where the Patriots go from here.” 

Over the next five weeks, the Patriots will face two teams in the thick of the race for the playoffs: the Tennessee Titans (6-2), and Buffalo Bills (5-2). Halloran is particularly interested in seeing how the Patriots bounce back against the Buffalo Bills, who have won five of their last six games and outscored their opponents 178-86 during that stretch. 

“They’ve still got a chance to beat the (Buffalo) Bills for the AFC East title,” said Halloran. “Beating the Bills will be paramount for making that happen. Someone else said 9 wins will get a team into the playoffs this year. That seems likely based on all the parity I see, especially in the AFC. So, the Patriots have to win six of their final 10 games. Not easy, but certainly a possibility. If this team ultimately replicates or approximates what the 2001 Patriots did, it’ll have to start revealing itself with winning football.” 

The Patriots head back on the road next week to face the Carolina Panthers (4-4). The game will kick off at 1 p.m. from Bank of America Stadium. 

Catch Bob Halloran on WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston weeknights at 6 p.m. For more information about Halloran’s thoughts on the Patriots dynasty, purchase his book called Count the Rings!: Inside Boston’s Wicked Awesome Reign as the City of Champions. 

New England Sports teams have won 11 championships since Bob Halloran joined WCVB-TV Channel 5 in 2003. Photo by Mike Cole.

“He’s creative, funny, and witty, all while delivering the important details in every story,” said WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston Sports Producer Samantha D’Orsi. “Working with Bob is a breeze. As his producer, I can always count on him to turn content efficiently and on time. He comes to work ready to go and has a backup plan for every story idea. He’s always where he needs to be, when he needs to be there – and believe me that’s half the battle in this industry.” 

Boston Havoc’s Championship Redemption

One year ago, the Boston Sox, now called the Boston Havoc, watched the MABL 18+ championship slip away as they fell three games to one to the Middleboro Mocka Rays. They were outscored 15-7 in that series, including 9-0 in the final two games. This postseason, the Havoc went up two games to one against the defending champions, but lost game four, 2-1, on October 7. As a result, a win or go home contest was necessary to decide the MABL 18+ championship.

The Havoc scored all nine of their runs in the first three innings, which was highlighted by a six-run second inning. Their offense finished with 14 hits, including five by corner outfielders Ramelo Carbuccia and Nick Powers who combined for three RBIs. The Havoc outscored the Mocka Rays 23-4 in this series to secure their team’s third MABL 18+ championship in team history. Their other titles were at the conclusion of the 2013 and 2018 seasons, when they were known as the Boston Sox. 

“Right out of the gate they brought the energy,” said Mocka Rays catcher Derek Pizzaro. “They were ready to go right out of the gate and didn’t waste anytime, which is what you need to do in a game situation like that. It was a quick momentum grab, and they never came close to giving it back.” 

On the mound, starter Jon Shepard fired a two-hit shutout, striking out seven Mocka Rays in the process. This was his second consecutive complete-game win of the series, as he allowed two runs in Havoc’s 6-2 victory in game two. The Havoc surrendered two runs or less in every game this postseason, losing their only two playoff games to the Mocka Rays in this series. 

“He’s able to dissect hitters at a level you don’t always see in men’s leagues,” said Pizzaro. “Getting to see him throw when it’s not at you is a treat and it’s fun to play behind him. When you are playing against him it’s a tough night at the plate and my 0 for 3 the other night would prove that to be true.” 

“It goes right back to my team having my back in the field,” said Shepard. “I like to keep them involved. I never to try and strike people out.” 

This was coming off a regular-season campaign, where he finished with a 4-1 record, 0.66 ERA, walking two hitters, and striking out 42 in five starts. Four of his five regular-season starts ended in complete-game wins for Shepard, most on the staff. In the post-season, he elevated his game to another level by allowing four earned runs in 30 innings pitched, which included two complete game wins. 

During their 2013 and 2018 championships, the Boston Havoc/Sox combined to post a 39-7-2 regular season record. Photo by Whitney Dowds.

“I think historically, even when I was a little kid, I always pitched better in the big situations,” said Shepard. “I always get more enjoyment going against the better competition.” 

Shepard kept a Mocka Rays’ lineup in check that led the MABL 18+ division in runs scored (184), walks (84) and batting average (.378). Middleboro outscored their opponents 185-44 during the regular season on their way to securing the number one seed in the MABL 18+ playoffs with a 19-2-1 record.  

In addition, Shepard pitched for the Boston Athletics (21-4-1) of the Boston Park League this season. He finished with an 8-0 record, 0.37 ERA, and led his team in strikeouts with 50. He surrendered a total of six runs in nine starts in that span to help earn the CY Young Award. 

“Historically, he has dominated in both the regular season and the postseason and has several championships under his belt,” said Dan Field, the Boston Men’s Baseball League playoff color commentator. “I’ve only faced him once or twice in my career but I believe he has 3 pitches in his repertoire, with his slider being his best pitch.  As a broadcaster positioned behind home plate, I got to really see exactly how much his slider moves and why it’s so effective in getting batters to chase balls outside the strike zone.”

With the Boston Men’s Baseball League postseason now finished, the 2021 BMBL League Banquet is scheduled to take place on October 27 at 7 p.m. at Game On! Fenway. 

Solomon’s Rock-Solid Pitching Evens MSBL Masters Championship Series

After losing game one of the MSBL Masters 38+ Championship series on a walk-off grand slam, the Avi Nelson Rockies were immediately faced with a 1-0 deficit in the top of the first. However, that would prove to be the only run allowed by Rockies’ starter Ethan Solomon in the Rockies’ 5-1 victory over the Bistro 781 Bulls on Friday night.

“Well for most of the year, Ethan has just really been a bulldog,” said Rockies’ first baseman Mike Barthel. “His bread-and-butter pitch is his slider, which everyone in the league talks about. It’s got unbelievable movement. It looks like a fastball coming out of his hand and my guess is that a lot of hitters have trouble just picking up that pitch and that’s why it’s been his go-to pitch.”

Soloman fired his third straight complete game, surrendering just two hits, walking two and collecting a season-high 13 strikeouts in the process. This marked his second consecutive postseason outing with 10+ strikeouts. First baseman Steve Busby was the only Bulls’ hitter to reach base twice against Solomon with an RBI single and walk.

“My focus is always to just go out there and get ahead of hitters and trust what I have in the tank and go out and try to execute one pitch at a time,” said Solomon.  

Soloman was awarded his second consecutive MSBL Masters 38+ division Cy Young Award, finishing the regular season with a 3-1 record with a 1.20 ERA, walking five, and striking out 53 hitters for the Rockies. 

During his first Cy Young campaign in 2020, Solomon finished the season with just three walks and 18 strikeouts.

“He has a good mix of pitches (slider and changeup) and this is why he is the best pitcher in the league and won the CY Young,” said Bulls’ catcher Kevin Lyons. “[You] have to tip your cap to him.”

In the bottom of the third inning, his offense broke through with a four-run rally. First baseman Mike Barthel’s bases-loaded 2-run single started the scoring for the Rockies, putting the Rockies up 2-1. Barthel leads the team in RBIs (6) this postseason. 

“The table setters as usual were able to draw walks, get on base and really put the middle of the order hitters, like myself, in a position where I can deliver,” said Barthel. “Thinking about that inning, their pitcher fell behind in some counts and it was just one of those situations where I came up to the plate, I got a good pitch to hit, hit it hard and was able to turn things around for the team.”

The third run of the inning came across thanks to a throwing error by Bulls’ starter Robert Austin, who attempted a pickoff play at second base. Steve Miller scored from second on the error and Nate Knowles added an RBI single six pitches later to extend the lead to 4-1. Two innings later, Mike Tufo added an insurance run with an RBI fielder’s choice to officially cap the scoring. The Rockies have scored five runs or more thirteen times this postseason. 

Both Ethan Solomon and Mike Barthel agree that their team’s key to success moving forward is their pitching. The Rockies’ pitching staff has struck out 60 hitters and have combined for a 1.96 ERA this postseason ranking first in both categories in the MSBL Masters 38+ division. 

“It’s about doing the same stuff that’s gotten us here,” said Solomon. “Pitch to contact, fill out the strike zone on the mound, make the routine plays and then compete at the plate.” 

“Ethan is obviously our leader on the mound, but we have several guys who throw the ball very well,” said Barthel. “We have the luxury of throwing a number of arms at them and we do feel like we have the advantage in that sense.” 

The Bulls won game three of the series tonight, 4-2, securing a 2-1 series lead. They now sit one win away from being crowned the 2021 MSBL Masters Division champions of the Boston Men’s Baseball League. Visit bostonmabl.com to view this week’s complete Boston Men’s Baseball League postseason schedule.

In the meantime, click the video below to relive the Bulls’ walk off grand slam from game one with the call coming from Boston Men’s Baseball League broadcasters Dan Field and Brett Rudy during a Facebook live stream of the contest.

The Mocka Rays Secure Game 1 with Chilly Shutout 

For the second straight season, the Middleboro Mocka Rays (19-2-1) and Boston Havoc (14-6-2) face off for the right to be crowned MABL 18+ champions. With temperatures dropping to 55 degrees on Thursday night in game one, the Mocka Rays won their second straight shutout to place themselves two wins away from repeating as champions. 

Center fielder Nick Radcliffe provided all the offense with two hits and two RBIs in the first three innings. Radcliffe was ranked second on the team in RBIs (18), behind DH Mike Knell who finished the season with 26.  

On the mound, starter Justin Sylvia was nearly unhittable, allowing just four baserunners the entire night. He carried a perfect game through three innings, before Havoc center fielder Brendan Pounds reached on a single to start the fourth. However that did not last long, as catcher Derek Pizzaro fired a strike to throw out Pounds attempting to steal second on the next pitch.  

“People need to start reading the scouting report on (Pizzaro),” said Radcliffe. 

Sylvia finished the night striking out 10 hitters, and he now leads the Mocka Rays’ staff with 17 this postseason. This was his first win this postseason and second complete game. 

Justin Sylvia enters game two with 70 career strikeouts (including postseason). Photo by Dan Field

“I’d say my curveball helped shutdown the Havoc,” said Sylvia. “I was able to throw it over the top for a 12:6 curveball, and at times changed my arm angle to make my curveball look like a slider to throw off the batter. It seemed to work well, so I stuck with it.” 

The Mocka Rays’ rotation have allowed two runs or less in eight of their nine postseason contests, while striking out 57 batters along the way. They have complied a 7-2 record in the process. With this 2-0 victory, the Mocka Rays have now outscored the Boston Havoc (formerly the Boston White Sox) 11-0 in their last three postseason matchups.   

“Each of us just need to keep being a team player,” said Sylvia. “Having each other’s backs defensively and offensively, and keep taking it one pitch at a time.” 

Game two of the series is currently in progress at Pierce Playground in Middleboro, MA. 

Bulls 15-run Outburst Ties MSBL Masters Semifinals  

Leading up to Friday Night’s Contest in Lynn, the story of the night was poised to be scattered showers moving into the area and threatening to postpone game two of the Boston MSBL Masters semifinals series between the Bistro 781 Bulls and Boston Dodgers. Instead, only a few brief drops of rain fell, and the Bulls wasted no time jump-starting their offense.  

The Bulls scored runs in five of the six innings on the night in route to a 15-2 route. Their biggest inning came in the fifth inning, where they entered leading 8-2, but broke the game open scoring five runs. The game would end in the sixth inning, because of the slaughter rule policy, which states that if a team is leading by more than 12 runs after 4 and a half innings, the game will be called, according to the Masters (38+) Rules and Regulations

First baseman Steve Busby and catcher David Lightbody had a busy night on the bases finishing with seven hits, eight RBIs, and four runs scored to pace his offense. The Bulls finished with 15 hits, six walks drawn, and eight different players finished with at least one RBI.  

This game marked the seventh time this season the Bulls have scored in double figures this season (including the playoffs). They lead the MSBL Masters division in both runs scored (41) and hits (55) this postseason. During the same stretch, they outscored their opponents 39-17. 

The Bulls ended the 2021 regular season ranked first in OPS (.913) in the MSBL Masters division. Photo by Whitney Dowds

“We have depth throughout our whole lineup,” said Busby. “Our bottom of the lineup could top of the lineup guys for other teams.” 

That was more than enough run support for starter Jeff Fucarile, who fired a complete game, allowing just two runs on six hits and striking out two Dodgers and improving to 1-0 this postseason in the process. This was the seventh time this season he has surrendered two runs or less in an outing. 

“He threw a ton of strikes and gave us opportunities to make plays in the field,” said Busby. “He kept them off balance and then we were quickly getting up to bat again.” 

Game three of this series is scheduled for tomorrow night at 8 p.m. with the game location yet to be determined. The Bulls and Dodgers have split the first two games of this five-game series. 

Win or Go Home Matchup Set for the Bulls and Red Sox 

As the Metro Red Sox (8-8-1) and Bistro 781 Bulls (11-5-1) face off tonight, they will be playing for the right to advance to the semifinals round of the MSBL Masters 38+ division playoffs. Players and coaches on both sides repeatedly referred to this game as the equivalent of a game seven. 

Both games have featured a lot of traffic on the bases with a combined 31 hits and 10 walks, which resulted in 26 runs. In game one, the Bulls and Red Sox were deadlocked in a 2-2 tie headed to the bottom of the fifth, before a five-run rally broke the game open.  

The Red Sox would answer back with three runs in the top half of the fifth, cutting the lead to 7-5. However, the Bulls would put the game on ice with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to complete th 9-5, putting them one win away from advancing. Eight of the eleven Bulls hitters finished with one hit, including three by Mike Maguire and Joe Chiodo who combined to drive in four runs.

“Against that team, you have to do everything that you’ve done in your life in terms of baseball: picking off guys, changing things up, mixing up signals,” said Red Sox game two starter Sam Steed. “They are the toughest team that I face every year. Everything hurts after I play against those guys because I have to give everything, my teammates are giving everything.” 

The Red Sox flipped the script two nights later, as they took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth. The Bulls were determined to take the lead in both the third and fourth innings but were thwarted as Steed picked off two runners taking leads off second base. Steed’s most memorable pick-off came when he quickly spun to pick off Bulls’ catcher/manager Kevin Lyons at second base to thwart a scoring threat in the fourth inning. 

“I landed so hard on my knees and stomach,” said Lyons. “The impact on my leg left bruises.” 

“I saw a little daylight; you know I saw him creeping when I was coming set,” said Steed. “I spun; I have done that move in the past and I just made a really good throw over the bag. Mike (Hinojosa) made an awesome swipe tag and we got lucky because they had men in scoring position and that was a huge play and that definitely helped swing the momentum back in our direction.” 

Two innings later, the Red Sox broke the game open with a four-run sixth. First baseman Russ Ward delivered the game’s biggest hit with a 2-run double in that inning to cap the scoring and give Steed extra run support. Ward finished with two hits and three RBIs on the night. 

“You can’t walk people,” said Lyons. “You can’t get behind in counts. You put people on, and things will happen.” 

Steed fired his second complete game of the postseason, allowing just two runs and striking out six. In those contests, he has struck out 16 with a 1.00 ERA, leading the Red Sox staff in both categories. 

Sam Steed has surrendered 2 runs or less nine times this season (including the playoffs). Photo by Whitney Dowds

Game three of this series is currently in progress at Monan Park in Boston.  

Visit bostonmabl.com to keep up to date with the latest Boston Men’s Baseball League postseason action.  

The Red-Hot Spinners Extend Winning Streak to Nine Games 

The Cambridge Spinners (17-5) have won nine straight games dating back to August 1. They outscored their opponents 78-9 during that stretch. Their last defeat came against the South Shore Spartans (18-3) on July 28.  

On September 14, they closed out the regular season with a 4-0 victory over the Somerville Senators (6-15-1). In that contest, pitching and defense took center stage.  

Spinners’ starter Dan Blomerth fired six shutout innings, surrendering just one hit, walking one, and striking out two, earning his third win this season. Matt Lassard pitched a scoreless seventh adding two more strikeouts to complete the shutout. 

Blomerth is ranked third on the team in wins and Lassard is second on the staff in runs allowed (5) and strikeouts (24). Both pitchers have combined to allow just four runs since the beginning of August. 

This game was a ground ball clinic, as 11 ground ball outs were induced. More importantly for Cambridge, Blomerth managed to escape three bases loaded jams to keep the game scoreless. 

“They played a hell of a game behind me,” said Blomerth.  

Offensively, right fielder Sean Merrigan led the way by reaching base all four times, including two hits and a run scored. Seven Spinners finished with at least one hit. Ricky Salvia, Adam Johnson and Derek Richards were responsible for scoring the other three runs for Cambridge. 

The Spinners knocked in 157 runs this season, second behind the Boston Bombers at 193. Photo by Whitney Dowds

The Spinners are locked into the third seed in the MSBL 28+ division playoff seedings and set to face the Bay State Pirates (12-10) in the first round. 

“I think if we go out there and throw strikes and we don’t make mental mistakes out in the field, I think there is really no reason why we should get to win this whole thing,” said Blomerth. 

Visit http://www.bostonmabl.com/ to view the upcoming postseason schedule for Boston Men’s Baseball League. 

Ryan Fleming’s Game Day Menu 

Ryan Fleming’s game day diet features a heavy emphasis on tracking his macronutrients. As the reigning Rookie of the Year in the MABL 18+ league, he wants to ensure his game-day diet is strictly followed so as not to repeat his June 24 outing against the defending champion Middleboro Mocka Rays (18-2). 

In that outing, Fleming surrendered a career-high nine runs on 11 hits in four innings of work in the Waltham Cutters’ 10-1 defeat. When reflecting on what factors may have led to his uncharacteristic outing, he immediately pointed out the fact that he deviated from his regular game day routine of ordering a Chipotle burrito bowl filled with two servings of steak, extra lettuce, extra fajita veggies, light brown rice, light black beans, light cheese, light tomato salsa and medium salsa for dinner that night. 

On game day, Fleming starts his day by mixing non-fat Greek yogurt and blueberries in a bowl to go with one cup of coffee. Before he leaves for his job at Boston Children’s Hospital, he makes himself a protein shake to keep him going throughout the day. He combines both lean milk, usually Stonyfield Organic Protein Milk, and two scoops of Gold Standard 100% Whey protein powder. 

For lunch, Fleming creates a PB Fit Peanut Butter and oven or grilled chicken sandwich. That process begins by thoroughly mixing PB Fit Peanut Butter and “ultra-fresh” tap water in a small bowl. The chicken is cooked the night before an upcoming game and added last after being chopped up into smaller pieces, as shown in the video above. 

“The nice thing is you can make it as thick or runny as you want it to be,” said Fleming. “I personally like it to be a little bit runny, but it kinda depends on what else I am throwing in the sandwich as well.” 

“This might look a little weird, but I will say especially in tandem with the chocolate protein shake it is absolutely delicious and comes highly recommended.” 

His favorite snack to bring to the field on game day is Peanut M&Ms, inspired by former Seattle Seahawk RB Marshawn Lynch, who was famous for eating skittles in the middle of NFL games.

“If I know I am going seven (innings) on that day, then I’ll start pumping it (M&Ms) around the second or third just to make sure I don’t fall off a cliff from an energy level standpoint,” said Fleming.

Fleming has followed up his MABL 18+ Rookie of the Year campaign in 2020 by posting a 3-2 record, 2.37 ERA, and striking out 58 batters, which is the most of anyone on the Cutters’ staff. He has allowed one run or less in 13 of 17 career appearances on the mound. The Cutters have also surrendered one run or fewer in 10 of their games this season. 

Ryan Fleming has surrendered three runs or more just three times all season. Photo by Whitney Dowds

“After a very successful rookie campaign, he has really gained confidence and become one of the most dominant pitchers in our league,” said teammate Dan Wilson. “He throws hard and throws a lot of strikes. He has a hammer for a curveball. He is very competitive and pitches his best in big moments.” 

Fleming and the Cutters will be back in action on September 9, when they will host the Waltham Athletics (10-10-1) at Nipper Park in Waltham. The first pitch is scheduled for 8 pm. 

Meet Ryan Fleming, the Reigning MABL 18+ Rookie of the Year

2021 All-Star pitcher Ryan Fleming has pitched just twice since June 24, 2021, for the Waltham Cutters. Four of the seven Cutters’ games in July were postponed or called off in the middle of the game due to inclement weather. This includes that infamous tie against the Singing Surgeons on July 17.

“This season has been anything but normal and that’s coming from someone who started during a COVID-19 shortened season,” said Fleming. 

Fleming returned to the mound on August 1 against the Milton Fighting Irish. He proceeded to fire a four-hit shutout, walking two and strikeout ten. Half of his strikeouts were as a result of his curveball, one of three pitches in his repertoire. He also features a fastball and changeup.

Additionally, Fleming provided his own run support with an RBI fielder’s choice and then he proceeded to score from first on an RBI double by catcher Devin Conroy. This was in the middle of a four-run first inning that provided all the run support Fleming would need in the contest. Waltham won the game 5-0.

“I am very much a momentum pitcher,” said Fleming. “And from my perspective pitching from ahead is infinitely easier.” 

The win improved Fleming’s record to 2-0 this season and the Cutters’ record now stands at 10-4-1. He has started each of the last two games for Waltham firing 12 2/3 innings of two-run ball, surrendering eight hits, and collecting 19 strikeouts during those contests. 

“Once I am grooving, as long I am making competitive pitches, I don’t think there a lot of teams that can beat me straight up,” said Fleming.

Ryan Fleming has accounted for 45% of his team’s strikeouts on the mound this season. Photo by Whitney Dowds

During his 2021 campaign, Fleming has allowed two runs or fewer in seven of his eight appearances. His only outlier this season came in his June 24 start, where he was charged with nine runs on 11 hits in four innings against the Middleboro Mocka Rays (15-2).  

This comes one season after finishing with a 3-1 record in seven appearances, where he gave up two runs or fewer in six of those games to help him win the MABL 18+ Rookie of the Year award in 2020. 

“What’s impressed me most about Ryan is his dedication to the game in always working to make himself better,” said Jeff Coveney, President of the Boston Men’s Baseball League and the Waltham Cutters’ manager. “That extra work has paid off on the field.” 

When he is not pitching, Fleming patrols right field. Offensively, he currently is tied for second on the Cutters in hits (11) and is ranked third in RBIs (5). 

The Cutters return to action against the Greater Boston Bandits (4-11) on August 11. The first pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Nipper Park in Waltham. 

Meet Mike Knell, the Middleboro Mocka Rays’ Singles Machine

When examining the defending champion Middleboro Mocka Rays 13-2 start to the 2021 season, you will see Mike Knell’s offensive dominance right at the heart of the action. He has led his teams in both hits and RBIs this season. His 17 hits and 19 RBIs has earned him a 2021 Boston Men’s Baseball League All-Stars selection for the MABL 18+ division in addition to being awarded the Offensive Player of the Month in June. 

Knell entered the league in 1999 with Boston Braves, after turning down an accounting job at the firm Coopers and Lybrand, where the manager, Jeff Gauthier, referred him to this league.  Knell currently works as the Chief Accounting Officer at Charles River Laboratories. In addition, he is currently in his 19th season coaching his children’s soccer and basketball teams.

Knell is currently playing in his 23rd season in the Boston Men’s Baseball League with his fifth different team, which has resulted in six championships. He played every position on the field and currently has 432 career hits, scored 272 runs, and knocked in 280 RBIs in the process. 

“I played on a lot of great teams hitting in the middle of the order,” said Knell. “Hitting is contagious. When you are playing with a lot of great players, you get a lot of extra at-bats.”

His advice to players who are struggling offensively is to “not think too much” at the plate and “to go back to basics and hit some line drives.”

Playing on the third team of his career, he won two championships with Netherfield Reds from 2005-2009, winning the titles in 2006 and 2008. He recalled that his favorite championship from that time period came in 2008 when his team pulled off a surprising upset of the Boston Tigers team that entered the matchup with a 24-2 record to open the postseason. The Reds entered the series as an underdog with an 11-13 record and only 10 players qualified to play in the postseason. 

The teams split the first two games in convincing fashion. The Reds won game 1, 11-5, while the Tigers pitched an 8-0 shutout three nights later in game two to even the series and set up a win or go home matchup in the series finale.

The Tigers mounted an early 4-0 lead heading into the fifth inning. The Reds flipped the script, scoring all 11 of their runs in their final three innings and surrendering just three runs in the bottom of the seventh to cap the scoring. Knell finished the game with three hits and three RBIs to help pace the offense. 

They proceeded to complete two “grueling” five-game series against the Senators and Athletics to complete the championship run with each series going the distance. Netherfield was undefeated in elimination games that postseason with a 3-0 record.

Knell recalls his favorite personal performance came game three of the 2008 championship series against the Athletics where he fired a complete game, surrendering just two runs on three hits and striking out seven hitters along the way. He escaped a bases-loaded no-out jam in the first to keep his team in the game, helping his team to earn a close 3-2 win to give his team a 2-1 series. This performance was critical because no other pitchers were available for the Reds at the time.

“It was one of those (games) where everything goes our way and it was sort of destiny,” said Knell. “You sort of had a magical feel about that team.”

Offensively, he added a .320 average and lead his team in both hits (16) and RBIs (12) that postseason, marking his best offensive postseason performance of his career in both categories. Knell’s teams earned playoff berths in 20 of his 22 previous seasons. This included four championships between 2012-2020 with the Cambridge Spinners and Middleboro Mocka Rays.

Knell’s top performances of this season came during back-to-back games against the Boston Jakes (2-11), and Waltham Cutters (9-4) on June 20 and 24. He combined to go 5 for 8 with seven RBIs and one strikeout during that stretch helping the Mocka Rays outscore the Jakes and Cutters 31-3 in the process. 

76% of Mike Knell’s hits this season are singles. Photo by Whitney Dowds

“Any time you can bring a player of Knell’s caliber to a team it’s a big get,” said Mocka Rays manager Tyler Ferdinand. “His veteran presence as well as being a proven MABL champion has helped us get over the hump we were stuck on the last couple of years.”

Unfortunately, two days later he would suffer a torn upper left quad against the Singing Surgeons. As a result of two games being postponed due to inclement weather, he only missed one contest against the Boston Jakes. His doctor informed him the injury would heal in about 4-6 weeks.

“I hit a gapper and was thinking a home run and I was about to round first and I heard a loud pop,” said Knell. “Getting old sucks.”

He returned to action in Friday night’s contest against the Waltham Athletics, finishing 1 for 3 with a single, but was thrown out at second base trying to stretch it to a double. However, a complete-game shutout by Athletics’ starter Alec Christian spoiled his return as the Mocka Rays were defeated 1-0, snapping a six-game winning streak. 

Mike Knell and the Mocka Rays will seek redemption in the team’s rematch against the Waltham Athletics at Nipper Park in Waltham on Wednesday night. The first pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m.