Titans open FCBL playoffs at home against North Shore. Story by John Nestor
TORRINGTON - The Torrington Titans are back in the postseason and certainly have to be considered armed and dangerous.
Boasting a pitching rotation that features the league's best one-two combination, the Titans open their quest for the Futures Collegiate Baseball League title on Friday when they host the North Shore Navigators in Game One of a best-of-three semifinal series.
Top seeded Nashua visits the Brockton Rox in the other semifinal. Nashua and North Shore both host Games Two and Three (if necessary).
Torrington's strength all season has been its starting pitching and that is why the Titans will have a chance in any series they play. The Titans will go with Opening Day starter Alec Palioca (Wheaton) in Game One and follow up with Tyler Dierke (Kenyon) in Game Two.
Palioca (5-2, 1.07 ERA) has not given up more than two runs in any of his starts this season and his losses have come in a 2-1 game to Seacoast and a 1-0 loss to the Navigators on August 2 when he pitched a complete game. He is 1-1 in two starts against North Shore this season, allowing two runs - one earned - with 16 strikeouts and one walk in 15 innings.
As good as Palioca has been this season Dierke has been even better. The FCBL's pitcher of the month for July, Dierke (7-1, 0.61 ERA) leads the FCBL in wins and ERA. He has won six straight decisions and has allowed one run in his last 46 2/3 innings.
With pitching like that the Titans have a legitimate shot to make some noise in the playoffs.
"Our pitching has been great all season," Titans coach Misha Dworkin said. "We know those guys are going to do well, it's just a matter of whether or not we can get our offense going."
The offense has been a problem at times for the Titans but it is not without talent. Torrington set an FCBL record for runs in a game in a 22-6 victory over the Navigators earlier in the season and Conor Bierfeldt (Western CT) and Ryan Plourde (Fairfield) are among the top hitters in the league.
Bierfeldt is one of the FCBL's top MVP candidates and has had a tremendous homecoming season. The former Torrington High star is sixth in the league in batting average (.329), third in home runs (nine), and second in RBIs (39). Plourde has been outstanding as well, hitting .311 with 15 doubles, four home runs and 29 RBIs.
Torrington makes things happen on the basepaths as well as it leads the FCBL in steals with 116. Jordan Serena (Columbia) is tied for the league lead in steals with 27.
"I expect us to do well," Dworkin said. "The games should be great, hopefully the bats wake up. We've been playing good, now we just have to step it up."