Additional photos can be found here :::
I like my baseball fields easy to find and this one did not disappoint- sort of. While the high school sits off of the main road which you can also take to get to Lake Compounce as well as driving past ESPN, when I got to where the entrance was the directions said to turn right but on the left there was a visible baseball field which you could see that players were there playing a game. There is also a field on the road, on the right, which was empty and I got really confused because baseball wasn't where it was supposed to be on so many levels.
Still, the field that sat on the road that didn't have baseball at it seemed wrong (I wonder who was playing across the street in uniforms though) and I drove into the high school parking lot, found cars, saw a Banditos player in uniform and knew I was in the right place. I'm not sure how one becomes an umpire, but I always seem to arrive at games at the same time as them, which made me feel better in this particular high school because it simply became a matter of following them to the field. Now, adjacent to the field in which the game was to be played on was another field (overgrown) and we had to walk through that to get to the game.
There is a hill which exists where you could sit in the shade but I felt like I'd be too far away. I set up camp in the bleachers on the Banditos side- the only bleachers there were, down the third base line, because the first base side was one you couldn't really sit on. Other fans were set up in the grass in chairs and on blankets and perhaps before next season I will invest in one of those chairs with a roof to protect me from the sun and rain. Somehow, behind homeplate there were also houses, which meant a lot of foul balls going into someone's backyard. Personally, I'd love to live next to a school and have foul balls in my yard, but only if I could sit in my backyard and watch the games as well.
One problem I had with this field- to fast forward a minute before we go back to the start of the game- was that there wasn't a clearly defined outfield. That is to say, you had grass up until a sidewalk and then it was the school. To me, it felt like at some point back there a fence should have been up to indicate when a homerun had been hit. In the fourth inning of the first game J.D. Tyler hit a huge bomb out to right-center and he made it to third for a triple but if they had proper dimensions established there is no way that wasn't a homerun.
This was an interesting set of games for the Banditos because it was their first time on the road and it was the first time I felt like they might lose a game. With Bristol being stifled by the pitching of J.D. Tyler in the first game, it felt like the Banditos also didn't know how to handle the Bristol pitcher, as it was a good old fashioned pitchers duel as the game remained scoreless through five. The Banditos also started this game with only eight players, at first having no one at second base, but Justin Kolesar came in just in time to bat. He also came in just in time to make a jumping, Derek Jeter-like throw to first to get an out, in what was clearly the play of the game in the first game.
In the third inning, Bristol had runners on second and third but they blew it. I felt like Bristol had some solid hitters but they didn't have enough solid hitters to string the hits together to make runs. In the bottom of the 4th, J.D. Tyler struck out the side while in the fifth they escaped without giving up a run with bases loaded and one out by throwing to home plate and then first. These are just the types of plays you don't think about and then you see them and it just amazes you like, how did they do that.
By the sixth inning, Will Kszywanos came in to bat. I could hear the Bristol coach ask him what his last name was, but I didn't hear Will's response. Will hit a huge double which started the rally which would win the game. The game had been scoreless thus far but after J.D. Tyler walked, Justin Poirer got a huge hit which brought both runners in to score. Scott Iwaniec would add two more RBIs to the inning, giving them the final total of 4 and giving Bristol only six more outs to try and top that.
In their final chance, Bristol scored one run which wasn't enough to win the game but it was the first run J.D. Tyler gave up this season. Having won their first four games by larger leads, it felt like the Banditos were lucky to get out of this one as they didn't have those big, offensive innings that they previously have. I also need to take this time to note that- because I feel like maybe I don't enough stress on this- these games take place in the hottest part of the day and many players are playing through both of them. For me, I drink one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade just watching these games. I can't imagine what the players go through. (If I had to run, I could not)
I found shade to hide in during the break between games and put on more sunscreen. There was a consistent breeze today though, so it didn't feel as hot. The bleachers were all overgrown with plants and such, so it wasn't really inviting for sitting in. But I went back there for the second game, hoping that the Banditos had the Greeners number and this game would be easier. It was not. The second game actually felt closer to a loss than the first, but one of the things I've always loved about baseball is stats and statistically speaking it isn't easy to win both games in a doubleheader, much less your first six games in a row.
Justin Kolesar started the second game for the Banditos and though he gave up a run in the first inning, he seemed to maintain steady after that. In the bottom of the second with the Greeners up 1-0, the tying run was walked in making it a 1-1 game. This lead to a play which the Bristol pitcher was obviously upset about because on a ground out at first, the Banditos scored their second run to put them ahead. It felt like the Bristol pitcher would have rather that throw went to home and, yes, that would have been the out and saved a run.
What I liked about this game was that the Greeners scored one run in the odd innings, other than the seventh. So they were going 1 run, no runs, 1 run, no ones. The Banditos put up two runs in the second and fourth, which made for this weird pattern of alternating innings of scoring, but also it felt like every time the Greeners put up one the Banditos would put up two until the sixth when the Banditos only had a one run inning.
For Game 2, the play of the game was in the sixth inning when Jason Sullivan made this spectacular diving catch to get the out and end the inning. At this point, the game was 4-3 in favor of the Banditos, but had that ball made it into the outfield, it would have been at least one run to tie the game but perhaps even two and just overall it would have been a much different game.
To the credit of the Bristol Greeners, this was probably the toughest test of the Banditos this season. Bristol came into this game 3-1, which is by no means a bad record, so you could sense this might be a tough game but I also thought that last week-- this time I was just proven right. These were just such good back and forth games though where neither team was ever really out of it so you really just had your eyes glued to the field up until the last out. The Banditos are now 6-0 and with next Sunday off they could recharge and become even more unstoppable.