Additional photos can be found on Facebook here :::
Last night at Ceppa Field we saw two baseball games. It was not my first time seeing a GHTBL game go into extra innings, but it was my first time seeing it go to 14 innings, which is essentially a second game. It's funny because after Opening Day the six teams were divided by those who were 1-0 and those who were 0-1. Since this was Opening Day for the East Hartford Jets, they were somewhere between being undefeated and without a win, which made it all that much more interesting.
My dad and uncle both came to this game but my dad left at 7- about half way through- because he had something else he had to do and my uncle made it until about the tenth inning. Few people stayed until the very end, with more dropping with every inning. But the lights were on at Ceppa Field and we had ourselves a ball game. Despite the protests of Quentin (who was ready to go after 7, but found ways to entertain himself beyond) the only thing worse than seeing the Expos lose would have been leaving early and not seeing how it all played out.
Things started out like a normal enough game for the Expos. Nick Foell started pitching and after he allowed only two runs, the Expos put up a run in the bottom of the third to cut that lead in half. After a scoreless fourth for the Jets, the Expos put up two runs which gave them a 3-2 lead. This was a big back and forth game as the Expos then went from Charlie Hesseltine pitching to ultimately Hector Gonzalez closing out the game for at least five innings (and he got the win!) The Jets had to have had at twice as many pitchers.
Jonathan Walter hit a huge homerun during this game but one of the Jets also hit one, the difference being no one went to get the ball that the player from the Jets hit out into the street (which also hit a car driving by I think) With the Expos up 3-2 going into the 5th, the Jets scored two more runs, putting them up 4-3. The Expos then answered that with two runs of their own in the bottom of the 6th, putting the Expos up 5-4 and seemingly clinching the game without having to go to the bottom of the seventh.
Somehow, the Jets would put up two more runs in the top of the seventh, taking a 6-5 lead. It was all down to the bottom of the 7th and the pitcher for the Jets- who was wearing number 6- not only hit Joe Gulino in the head but he then went on to walk in the tying run, which forced us into extra innings.
I just want to say that there were more HBP in this game by the Jets than I have seen in quite possibly any other game I have ever seen and it was rather curious there was never a warning or anyone charging the mound. It didn't feel like they were doing it on purpose, but at some point you have to say enough is enough and get your pitcher some control.
Extra innings were the classic battle of what we call a stalemate. Both the eighth and ninth went scoreless. In the top of the 10th, there was a huge play which was blown by the homeplate umpire (Though the homeplate umpire stands behind the pitcher now) As a runner for the Jets wasn't on base, he was hit in the foot by a fair ball hit by the batter and thus, by the rules of baseball, should have been called out. After some discussion the umpire said he didn't see it well enough and just called the hit foul.
That wasn't the only blown call of the night by the umpires though. He warned several players and even the entire Jets dugout when they yelled about how he didn't get paid per inning and they just wanted to go home. In the 10th, both the Expos and Jets put up two runs and that would happen again in the 11th. It was frustrating but also the type of edge of your seat suspense that you watch baseball for as the Expos were able to match the Jets but not get that one additional run to defeat them and end the game.
In the 13th, the GHTBL did something I had never seen before. In the interest of speeding up the play of game, the Jets were given a runner on second but also one out. Don't get me wrong, having a runner on second is a huge help but it felt like also starting with one out was canceling that out in some way. The line of the night goes to number 55 on the Jets who took second base at the top of the 13th and declared "I got a double!"
As we sat through a pitcher for the Jets (number 9) who had no control and kept hitting batters, he drank some water and did some yoga to try and make it right. I wish I could say I was making this up, but as the game went on it got quite wild and weird. Out in right field, Charlie Hesseltine had two big defensive plays- one diving towards center and another at the end of the game falling backwards. Someone get him a golden glove.
After eleven innings the score was tied 10-10 and it stayed that way through thirteen, as no one scored in the twelfth either. The Expos got through the top of the fourteenth without the Jets scoring again, the third scoreless inning in a row, so they had only to score that one run still to get the lead and walk it off. Sebby Grignano (who got HBP at least twice) hit a nice grounder that he ran out at first to score Will Kszywanos (who started the inning at second) and effectively end the game. The Expos walked it off in true Expos fashion and when I checked my phone it was 10:42. We had been there for a little over four and a half hours watching this game.
For me, extra innings is always a fun scenario because you can see some really great (or really terrible) plays. The longer you stay, the more you become invested so the less you want to leave. When this game first started there was a good crowd. People actually showed up to this game still throughout it. Some people showed up during the fourth inning, for example, and by the eighth they left. Some people who had been there since the start left after seven or ten or eleven innings. But those of us who stayed from the start all the way until the finish are the ones who know we saw something truly special this July night which started hot but got cooler. Win or lose, we saw baseball.