BROCKTON – For Brockton Rox second baseman and shortstop Rob McCunney , Monday was supposed to be about the positives.
The Cohasset native was selected to his first Futures Collegiate Baseball League All-Star game in his second year in the league. He led the charge as leadoff hitter through the Rox’ recent 6-4 record over its last 10 games, which included a three-game winning streak heading into Monday.
The Fordham rising senior said that he was enjoying his final year of FCBL eligibility as much as he could, compared to last year, when an injury cut his playing time short.
“I broke my foot about halfway through the season,” McCunney said. “So, knock on wood, luckily I’m healthy so far this year.”
But in the top of the ninth inning of a 13-1 thrashing of the Rox at home, the Seacoast Mavericks put a speed bump in McCunney’s progress as he chased down a line drive to the right infield gap.
The Rox’ leader in runs scored (28) and doubles (11) dove to his left side, reaching full extension, but missed the ball and was slow to get to his feet. The game was temporarily stopped as he received medical attention and an escort to the dugout. The damage: a visibly dislocated pinkie finger on his right hand.
As his alarmed teammates expressed concern, McCunney quietly started to pack his equipment bag with one hand while the other hung still by his side.
Someone stepped in to help him collect his gear and McCunney walked down the tunnel into the locker room, the team’s morale dropping with every step he took.
“It was a rough night,” coach Jud Thigpen said. “Everything kind of snowballed. We made a couple of errors; we were at a low point as it was. It does deplete you all the way to the bottom.”
But Thigpen’s spirits didn’t stay low for too long. He heard from McCunney a few hours later, and the 2010 Boston College High graduate told the coach that his pinkie had been popped back into place without any complications and that he would be able to play in time for the all-star game last week.
Rox third baseman Ryan Tufts , a former BC High teammate, said McCunney has been a sparkplug for the roster all season.
Tufts is third in runs scored (17) and his .279 batting average puts him among the top five on the team.
Playing on the Rox is surreal for Tufts, a Bridgewater native who is headed to Virginia Tech to play baseball. He grew up going to friends’ birthday parties at Campanelli Stadium, where the team plays its home games. He said that at first it was weird when younger fans asked him for his autograph because he describes himself as “just a high school kid.”
At Campanelli, the carnival-esque game atmosphere regularly includes entertainment by first-year master of ceremonies “Ballpark” Frank Piekut , who dressed in a patriotic patterned vest and a fisherman’s hat on Monday.
Tufts scored the lone run in the loss, but said the result didn’t change his belief in his team’s ability.
“We want to get a ring at the end of the season,” Tufts said. “We want to be the last team standing. We’ve got to keep pushing and doing what we’re doing.”
Closer John Sheehan said that the “baseball gods” are on his team’s side as they make a playoff push in the final 16 games of the year. Sheehan (2-2), like McCunney, was also selected to his first FCBL all-star game this year after posting a 1.30 ERA with four saves. He won reliever of the league honors last season.
He came to the team last season after playing for the New England Collegiate Baseball League’s Lowell All-Americans.
As a veteran presence, he takes the opportunity to give advice if he sees something that could be tweaked, but is also open to accepting criticisms of his own game.
“Earlier this year, I was walking too many guys and was talking with the coaches and players,” Sheehan said. “I made a little adjustment with my shoulder and it’s benefited me greatly. You pick up little things everywhere you go.”
Moving forward, he said that his team’s destiny is in its own hands. But a little help from the baseball gods wouldn’t hurt, either.
“They’ll bounce you back,” Sheehan said. “But I think generally we try to appease them as much as we can.”
Schilling’s 16U team
to play World Series
Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s 16U Mass Drifters (Navy) softball team will be competing in the USSSA Girls’ Fast Pitch World Series II at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday.
The Drifters (33-8) are entering the tournament on a 12-game winning streak and will play three pool games with a guarantee of at least five games overall. Double elimination rounds begin Wednesday.
Bridgewater and Raynham outfielders Kelsey Leuenberger and Stacey Korotsky are again teaming up on the 12-person roster after both were members of B-R’s team that went undefeated (20-0) during the 2013 regular season.
Schilling, whose daughter Gabby s a pitcher on the team, said that his group has bred a certain level of expectations for themselves after finding success.
“They expect to win when they come to the ballpark. They believe in themselves and they believe they’re the best.”
Dirt Dogs’ Rocha is top Cranberry League rookie
Appearing in 15 games this season, catcher Bryan Rocha of the Cranberry League’s Brockton Dirt Dogs was named CBL Rookie of the Year. The Dirt Dogs missed the playoffs after finishing with a league worst 3-19 record, but Rocha led the team with a .436 batting average in addition to a team best seven doubles.