NECBL: Valley Blue Sox hovering near first place at season’s midpoint

By HANNAH BEVIS 

Staff Writer 

Published: 07-07-2023 7:17 PM

HOLYOKE — The summer season is short but moves at a breakneck pace, and the Valley Blue Sox are suddenly midway through their regular season after a fairly impressive first half. 

The Blue Sox were a half game back of the Bristol Blues in the NECBL’s West Division entering Friday’s action; both teams have 12 wins but the Blue Sox (12-13) have one more loss than Bristol (12-12-1).

The Blue Sox have won three of their last four games, two of those against the Vermont Mountaineers, the team with the second-most wins in the league (16). Those victories helped the team get some momentum back after a recent slump. Prior to their last four games, the Blue Sox had won just two of their last 10 games, something head coach Pedro Santiago attributed to difficulties driving in runners in scoring position.

“We weren't doing as good a job with guys in scoring position, being able to push those runs along, and that kind of came back and bit us a little bit,” Santiago said.

The Blue Sox could afford a slight dip in play thanks to a blistering start; Valley won eight of its first 12 games in 2023. The Blue Sox have enjoyed successes with both their offense and defense this season, but the standout unit has been the pitching staff. Because the team plays so many games in such a short timeframe, the roster includes 17 pitchers. No matter who steps up to throw that night, Valley knows it can rely on whatever arm is on the mound.

“The pitchers do things really well… everybody who gets up on that mound is somebody that's gonna be lights out,” Santiago said. “The whole pitching staff has been doing really, really good things. So I'm impressed with them.”

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Some of those are newcomers to the team, coming over from the Cape Cod Baseball League or just arriving in Holyoke later than some of their teammates. Returning pitcher Terry Murray has been impressed with the players who have arrived late, adding more depth to an already strong part of the team.

“Guys come from the Cape or just take a couple weeks off from the school season or whatnot. So we've gotten some new pitchers, new catchers, and it's great. They're all good guys and they fit in well,” Murray said. “So it's kind of one big happy family.”

Besides the pitching staff, the team has also managed to avoid injuries that can oftentimes plague NECBL squads. So far, the Blue Sox have had just one major injury, and Santiago said that’s a recent development. That could pay dividends for the team in the long run – oftentimes, the teams that do the best in the postseason are the ones who have managed to stay healthy.

Valley will look to keep its recent success going, and should send at least one player to the NECBL All-Star game coming up later in July. Last year, A.J. Guerrero was the lone representative for the Blue Sox at the All-Star contest, but Santiago has a few players in mind he thinks could make the team, though he wouldn’t say who for fear of jinxing it. 

The Blue Sox will host the Upper Valley Nighthawks in a doubleheader on Saturday at MacKenzie Stadium in Holyoke, with the first game slated to start at 3 p.m.

Hannah Bevis can be reached at hbevis@gazettenet.com. Follow her on Twitter @Hannah_Bevis1.]]>