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 Bulls 15 Run Primetime Outburst  

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.