When the Boston Red Sox fell behind 3-0 in the 2004 ALCS to the New York Yankees, many fans thought the series was over.
However, Ryan Collins, the Founder, and Owner of Cruel Fan Sports, relied on a “gut feeling” to keep his hope of witnessing history alive. What happened next led Collins to declare that series his favorite moment in the rivalry between Boston and New York.
The last time the Red Sox had won a World Series title before 2004 was in 1918. They have suffered a series of heartbreaking playoff defeats, including a walk-off home run by Yankees’ third baseman Aaron Boone in the 11th inning of game seven of the ALCS one year earlier.
“My best friend and I would call each other during big games and just stay on speakerphone throughout big playoff games,” said Collins. “Thinking every year was our year. I think when that happened, we both just went completely silent and one of us hung up the phone. But the worst part was walking into school the next day and knowing that happened and dealing with all the ‘Yankee fans.’”
Fast-forwarding to game four of the 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox had just come off being blown out 19-8 at Fenway Park and being pushed to the brink of elimination and now were facing the task of coming back against Yankees closer Marino Rivera down 4-3 in the 9th inning.
During the game four broadcast, Play-by-Play Announcer Joe Buck stated that Rivera was 6 for 6 in save opportunities against the Red Sox in the postseason entering game four.
First baseman Kevin Millar led off the 9th inning with a five-pitch walk and was promptly lifted for pinch hitter Dave Roberts. After three pickoff attempts by Rivera, Roberts barely swiped second base to put the tying run in scoring position. Three pitches later, Bill Mueller grounded a game-tying RBI single into center field, scoring Roberts without a throw.
“I think everybody knew why he was in the game, but It somehow still felt surprising,” said Collins. “It was an amazing moment and probably one of the most influential base steals of all time.”
The game would head to extra innings before DH David Ortiz ended the game with a walk-off home run in the 12th inning to keep the Red Sox season alive. He would follow it up with a walk-off bloop RBI single one night later to send the series back to New York.
“Ortiz’s pop off the bat and swing was always just so fun to watch. Always clutch and always powerful,” said Collins. “The list of his clutch performances are unmatched in baseball history.”
The Red Sox would proceed to outscore the Yankees 14-5 in the final two games, to become the only team in MLB history to win a series after falling into a 3-0 hole. Ortiz won ALCS MVP honors with a .387 batting average, three home runs, and 11 RBIs.
The Red Sox would end their 86-year World Series drought by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Since 2004, the Red Sox have won four World Series titles (2004, 2007, 2013, and 2018) to the Yankees one (2009).
The two teams are set to renew their rivalry, as the Red Sox open their season at Yankee Stadium with a three-game series starting April 7th. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 pm EST.
During his 19 years working WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston, the New England Patriots have been a central part of Bob Halloran’s career, as he had a front-row seat to watch the combination of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady win five of their six Super Bowl titles. However, an unexpected health scare stole the spotlight in the summer of 2016, seven months before Super Bowl 51.
On July 22, 2016, one day after celebrating his 53rd birthday, Halloran decided to attempt 63 pushups at his local gym. Unfortunately, he was only able to complete 10 or 11 before he felt a “pop” behind his right eye.
Unbeknownst to him, Halloran had suffered a brain aneurysm. He assumed that it was just a migraine and decided to continue working. Six days later, as the pain began to increasingly worsen, Holloran was scheduled to have a doctor’s appointment to address the pain, but never made it to the appointment.
After leaving Gillette Stadium after shooting a sports segment for the first day of training camp, he pulled off Route 138 in Canton, Massachusetts to purchase an egg sandwich and coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Shortly after leaving the parking lot, he began to lose consciousness and eventually crashed into a large bush on the side of the road.
Halloran was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton in Milton, Massachusetts where a CAT scan confirmed his diagnosis before being transferred to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital for further treatment.
“He doesn’t remember a lot of his time in ICU, which actually is a blessing, because I wouldn’t want him to remember that horrible pain,” said Eileen Curran, Bob Halloran’s wife.
After just 13 weeks recovering, Halloran returned to work at WCVB-TV Channel 5 on November 1. He proceeded to cover the final six home games for the Patriots and join his colleague Mike Lynch for postgame coverage of the Patriots’ 28-3 comeback victory in Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Halloran called it the “greatest game I’ve ever seen,” in postgame coverage for Channel 5 Boston. New England erased a 25 point second-half deficit, which is the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
“I remember Lynchie saying in postgame coverage that it was nice to have me come full circle: aneurysm when camp opened and now at the Super Bowl,” said Halloran. “I remember worrying about whether I could handle the workload and lack of sleep of a super bowl week, and I was happy when it was over that it went well.”
The Patriots finished with 17 playoffs appearances, reaching nine Super Bowls and 13 AFC Championship games in 20 seasons under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. When looking back at his time covering the team, his most memorable postseason contest to cover came at the end of the 2007 season, where the Patriots finished with a perfect 16-0 regular-season record.
To wrap up their perfect season, the Patriots defeated the New York Giants 38-35 in a Week 17 victory. Tom Brady faced a 28-16 third-quarter deficit before New England’s offense came storming back, outscoring New York 15-7 in the fourth quarter to finish off a perfect season.
In their Super Bowl rematch six weeks later, the Giants held New England to just 14 points. Keep in mind, this was the same record-setting offense that outscored teams by 316 points in the regular season.
“Covering a team that wins the Super Bowl is easy,” said Mike Lynch, a sports correspondent for WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston. “All you have to do is look to your left and your right and there’s somebody to interview because everyone is so happy. The toughest part is covering a team that loses the Super Bowl and Bob’s coverage of the Patriots that night had no equal.”
This game reminded Halloran of the 2001 season, when the Patriots faced the St. Louis Rams twice, including in Super Bowl 36. The Rams won their week 10 matchup in Foxborough, but Halloran recalls Hall of Fame Cornerback Ty Law’s bold statement:
“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.”
Both the 2001 Patriots and 2007 Giants were 14-point underdogs heading into their respective matchups and were facing the league MVP in their rematch. Instead, both teams featured plenty of the drama that Halloran enjoys watching, with their final drives ending game-winning scores with under a minute left in the fourth quarter.
“Bob’s best quality is his creativity,” said Curran. “He doesn’t just say – The Red Sox and Yankees play at Fenway tonight – he researches to find something unusual or distinctive about the matchup or a particular player that night, then he crafts a very creative story about it.”
Halloran began his sports journalism career at Washington & Lee University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1985. He was one of only 20 journalism majors in his graduating class that pursued a career in journalism.
“I think it is extremely important that you are driven into this business with a passion because I’ve told other young people, if you only like it, you will hate it because it is terrible hours, terrible pay, terrible pressure to produce every day and (you have) to be on top of your A-game at all times,” said Halloran. “You can never fail.”
While working in Providence, he would cover everything from the Providence Bruins to the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox. However, due to an hour-long commute and having a growing family, he decided to work at Boston 25 News and that opened the door for working at ESPN, before finding his way to WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston.
“Working with Bob is a breeze,” said WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston Sports Producer Samantha D’Orsi. “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.”
In 2020, sports anchors across the country faced a different challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way all aspects of society were able to function. In the early days of the pandemic, reporters at Channel 5 were simply documenting how teams across the country were responding to the virus and providing updates as they become available.
This included completing all of his player interviews through Zoom instead of in person, which Halloran is still doing to this day. All of the quotes that he would place in the stories he produced would be taken from live feeds of press conferences provided by the New England Patriots on their YouTube channel and team website.
Halloran was particularly disappointed with the missed opportunity to form a personal relationship with players he was interviewing because he could only ask questions over Zoom.
One example of this was his virtual press conferences with QB Cam Newton during his one year with the Patriots:
“It’s very strange that I never met Cam Newton,” said Halloran. “He’s a huge personality. He loved working with the media. And he was here for over a year. Yet, I was never in the same room with him. So, while I was part of several group interview sessions with him, he would have no idea who I am. I don’t get close to any players, but I’m around them so often, that they know who I am and may use my name in response to a question.”
To help protect their reporters in the field and in-studio, WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston implemented the following changes:
Reporters and photographers must travel in separate cars to cover the stories they are assigned.
Photographers must travel in separate cars from their reporters.
Masks are required when interviewing players at podiums.
A second control room was built to help maintain social distancing policies put in place by the CDC.
“Despite the challenges young and not-so-young journalists face in our industry, the foundation for doing our job remains the same,” said Sherrod Blakely, a lecturer at Boston University’s Department of Journalism. “We are storytellers; it’s that simple. As long as that remains the focus, all the other issues and challenges will work themselves out.”
Despite the hurdles to building a “real connection” between reporters and the players and coaches they interview, Halloran shares one final piece of advice for all journalists:
“Ask a lot of questions. That’s probably the best way to become familiar with the players and coaches. They’ll recognize the familiar voice, notice the familiar face, and they’ll know if the reporter is someone who’s done their homework.”
Tune in weeknights at 6 pm on WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston for Halloran’s latest sports segment. Follow him on Twitter @BobWCVB to find his latest opinions on the latest New England sports news.
This year’s contest will be a battle between the Sugar Cookies and Snickerdoodles, with players from the Boston Men’s Baseball League, Boston Amateur Baseball League, Commonwealth Amateur Baseball League, Yawkey Baseball League, and Boston Park League invited to participate. To play, players must arrive at the ballpark with one unwrapped toy that will be donated to the Toys for Tots program, which the Marines will collect prior to the first pitch.
According to South Shore Giants outfielder and event organizer Brett Rudy, the WinterBall game has collected approximately $84,000 in toys over the 21 years since the event began. Approximately 40-50 players sign up to play each year.
“It’s always a great feeling to give to those less fortunate, especially to a charity like Toys for Tots which has been around for a very long time,” said Waltham Cutters’ catcher Dan Field. “It’s pretty awesome to see a member of The Marines come down to the event every year and collect all of the toys, knowing they are in good hands and will eventually be delivered to those less fortunate children on Christmas.”
“It never gets old, knowing that you are giving back, and making a difference for local kids who are less fortunate than we are,” said Rudy.
Last season, the game was decided by a battle between father and son in the bottom of the 5th inning. John “Smokey” Moore entered the game to face his son Zack Moore, who promptly “roped” the ball into the right-field gap for an inside-the-park home run.
“I was ecstatic my last pitch I ever threw was a home run to my son,” said John “Smokey” Moore. “Couldn’t have asked for a better ending of my pitching career.”
Thanks to Zack’s home run, the Santa’s Stompers defeated the Roaring Chestnuts, 6-5.
This at-bat was a rematch between father and son, who last faced off in the 2010 Winter Ball game. Zack flew out to right field in that matchup. Both father and son have been playing this game for 15 years together and John was previously a Toys for Tots recipient in 1975 at the age of eight.
This year’s contest will begin at 10 a.m. with batting practice, followed by the U.S. Marines collecting toys before first pitch at 11 a.m. Visit the Winterball 2021 Facebook pageto sign up to play in this Saturday’s contest in Malden. All participants are encouraged to wear festive attire.
On July 22, 2016, Bob Halloran was one day away from celebrating his 53rd birthday. Each year he celebrates his birthday by completing the number of pushups that matched his age.
Halloran decided to push himself to do 63 pushups that day. He recalls getting to 10 or 11 pushups when he felt a “pop” behind his right eye. He recalls not feeling any pain in the immediate aftermath but noticed a headache developing the next day. He assumed it was just a migraine and continued going to work as a Sports Anchor/Reporter at WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston.
“I come from a family of nurses and I said to him, ‘You should go to the doctor, that could have been an aneurysm,’” said Eileen Curran, Bob Halloran’s wife. “Bob said he felt fine.”
The headache became increasingly worse as time went on and eventually caused him to stay up all night. This led him to schedule a doctor’s appointment on July 28.
Before he could arrive at the appointment, Halloran drove to the first day of New England Patriots’ training camp to film a news package for WCVB-TV Channel 5. After completing the midday live report and package for the evening newscast, he hopped in the car to head to his appointment.
Unfortunately, Halloran never made it to his appointment. He pulled off Route 138 in Canton, Massachusetts to stop at a Dunkin Donuts for an egg sandwich and coffee. As he pulled out of the parking lot, he started to pass out and eventually drove off the road into a large bush. He is unsure how long he was unconscious, but when he regained consciousness, he was surrounded by EMTs and an unknown bystander who had brought him an ice-cold bottle of water.
“I’m an idiot who doesn’t know anything about aneurysms and when I had this really bad headache, which I don’t get headaches, I should have listened to my body and not waited five or six days to respond,” said Halloran. “I should have been to the hospital much more quickly and maybe that would have had even better results for me. Or I just got really lucky that, even though I wasn’t smart and proactive, things worked out.”
Halloran was transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton in Milton, Massachusetts. A CAT scan confirmed that Halloran had suffered a brain aneurysm. Dr. John Mahoney, recommended that Halloran should be transported to Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston.
“The thing that kept going through my head while driving to the hospital was – he was conscious — that’s a good sign and I need to get him into Boston, as Milton Hospital is a community hospital,” said Curran.
Dr. Mahoney recommended Beth Israel because Dr. Chris Ogilvy, the Director, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Brain Aneurysm Institute was one of the “top doctors” in the world. Dr. Ogilvy concluded that the initial “pop” behind Halloran’s right eye, was a small tear instead of a complete rupture of the aneurysm. The complete rupture happened on July 28.
His wife recalls the first two and half weeks in hospital being “grueling” as Halloran was in the ICU, where doctors inserted a pump into his head to drain liquid that was building up inside of his brain.
“He doesn’t remember a lot of his time in ICU, which actually is a blessing, because I wouldn’t want him to remember that horrible pain,” said Curran.
On November 1, Halloran returned to WCVB-TV Channel 5 after 13 weeks recovering. In an exclusive interview EMass Sports, Bob Halloran explains his motivation for returning and what he learned from his time in the hospital.
“This could happen to anyone so I would say to everyone – if you have a horrible, excruciatingly painful headache – go see your doctor,” said Curran. “If your doctor says it’s stress or a migraine, go see someone else. You need to get a CT scan – it could save your life.”
According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, 1 in 50 people have an unruptured brain aneurysm. In addition, Halloran wanted to remind everyone that 50% of cases with ruptured aneurysms are fatal.
“People who suddenly have a headache like they never had before should recognize this is a serious issue and get to a hospital as quickly as possible,” said Halloran.
Since 2003, the Carolina Panthers have defeated the New England Patriots in three of their five matchups (including the postseason).
Three of those contests were won in the final seconds, with all three being won by four points or less. WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston Sports Anchor/Reporter Bob Halloran ranked his three most memorable nail-biting contests between the two teams and how he reacted to each game’s memorable finish ahead of today’s matchup.
#3: 2017 Week 4 at New England
New England started their defense of their Super Bowl 51 title, by surrendering 95 points in the first three weeks posting a 2-1 record in that time span. They would fall behind 30-16 early in the fourth quarter before Tom Brady led back-to-back touchdown drives on their final two possessions leaving just over three minutes on the clock. The game was tied 30-30.
Unfortunately, Tom Brady would never see the ball again, as Cam Newton led the Panthers on a 10 play, 46-yard drive into Graham Gano’s field goal range. Gano nailed a 48-yard field goal as time expired to complete Carolina’s 33-30 victory in Foxboro. Newton finished with 360 total yards and four touchdowns (one rushing). Receivers Devin Funchess and Calvin Benjamin finished with 11 receptions for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
“I’d say the offense was equally to blame for getting the Patriots into a 14-point hole,” said Halloran. “They were able to climb out of it with a touchdown, followed by a Panther three-and-out possession, and then another touchdown by the Patriots tied the game at 30-30 with 3:09 to go. That’s plenty of time for any NFL team to move the ball into field goal range. The Panthers did convert two third downs on their final drive, so the Patriots had their chances to stop them, but failed.”
New England’s defense would allow 20 or more points just twice in during the rest of the regular season and would defeat the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars at home in the playoffs before facing the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 52. They would surrender 538 yards of offense against backup quarterback Nick Foles, losing 41-33 in the process.
#2: 2013 Week 11 at Carolina
The play that stands out from this contest is the non-call on the pass interference against tight end Rob Gronkowski in the end zone as time expired. As the announcers pointed out, there was a lot of contact with Gronkowski by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly in the end zone and a flag was originally thrown, making it appear as if a pass interference penalty would be enforced. Unfortunately, it was picked up and the game was over. Instead of getting a free play at the one-yard line, safety Robert Lester’s interception stood as called.
“The ball was obviously in the air, and Kuechly bearhugged Gronk to keep him from stopping and going to get the ball,” said Halloran. “A better throw would have made it a more obvious call because I think the refs could make the case that it wasn’t a catchable ball, but I don’t agree with that assessment.”
This was Cam Newton’s first matchup against Tom Brady and he led the Panthers on a 13 play, 83-yard drive, before firing a 25-yard touchdown to Ted Ginn Jr. with 59 seconds left in the game. He finished the contest with 271 total yards and three touchdowns. Tom Brady threw for 296 yards but finished with just one touchdown and an interception.
The Patriots would win six of their last seven games, before falling to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship.
#1: Super Bowl 38
“If I’m ranking these games, the Super Bowl has to be number one simply because it’s the Super Bowl,” said Halloran. “It’s striking that a guy like Jake Delhomme, with an otherwise uneventful career, could go toe to toe with Tom Brady and hold his own pretty well.”
The game began with the first 10 possessions ending with a combined nine punts, a fumble, missed field goal, and a blocked field goal. The Patriots scored touchdowns on the final two possessions and held a 14-10 lead at halftime.
After a scoreless third quarter on both sides, the fourth quarter would turn into a shootout that featured a combined 37 points in six drives. Antowain Smith, DeShaun Foster, Muhsin Muhammad, Mike Vrabel, and Ricky Proehl all scored touchdowns knotting the game at 29 apiece with 1:08 left on the clock. However, this was not Tom Brady’s first time leading a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl.
In Super Bowl 36, he led a nine-play, 53-yard drive to set up kicker Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard game-winning kick to earn the franchise’s first Super Bowl as time expired. Against the Panthers, he only needed to go a distance of 37 yards on six plays, thanks to a kickoff out of bounds by Panthers’ kicker John Kasay.
Brady’s longest play of the drive set up was a 17-yard strike to receiver Deion Branch that set up Vinatieri for a 41-yard kick. After having two missed kicks earlier, with one sailing wide right and the other being blocked, Vinatieri split the uprights right down the middle on his final kick to hand his team a 32-29 victory.
Tom Brady earned his second Super Bowl MVP honors finishing a then Super Bowl record 32 completions for 354 yards and three touchdowns. Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme finished with 323 yards and three touchdowns.
Delhomme would finish his 11-year career with a 56-40 record, 126 touchdowns, and 101 interceptions. Conversely, Tom Brady enters week nine of this season with a 236-71 record, 606 touchdowns, and 196 interceptions on route to winning a record-setting seven Super Bowls and five Super Bowl MVPs.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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 Banquetis scheduled to take place on October 27 at 7 p.m. at Game On! Fenway.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.