Graphics-Jets Box Score:
Phillies-Steel Box Score:
Additional photos can be found here:
Sometimes something as simple as where you sit can dictate how you view a baseball game. On Thursday night, the GHTBL Playoffs opened with the Rainbow Graphics taking on the East Hartford Jets. I felt somewhat like I didn't have a horse in the race, not really concerned with either team winning or losing, but we were sitting on the Rainbow Graphics side because it's just where we always sit at Ceppa Field. Fun Fact: We sat on the side of both Rainbow Graphics and South Windsor Phillies, who had the Expos usual dug out, and both of those teams ended up being away.
This game started off with a two run inning by the Jets. The Graphics responded with one run of their own during the top of the second- when Quentin and I went to go get ice cream- but then the Jets just kept coming back. Two more runs in the third put the Jets up 4-1 (though someone nearby said they had a 3 run first inning and were up by one more run but that proved to not matter) and the game felt like it was slipping away from the Graphics. The Jets had found their groove both pitching and hitting, just putting the ball into play and moving runners across the bases. The Graphics began to fall apart, missing those easy plays and looking defensively like they did throughout the regular season.
And then it happened. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Jets' player Jim Schult hit a three run bomb to center field. The Graphics changed pitchers after giving up five runs, but then their new pitcher gave up two more runs and after four innings the score was 11-1 and it felt like the Graphics were going to lose. What made me start cheering for the Jets was a nearby Graphics' fan who said of the Jim Schult homerun "That wasn't a homerun!" Sir, it cleared the fence out of play in fair territory. If it wasn't a homerun, then what was it?
Did I want the Rainbow Graphics to lose because they beat the Expos? No. I wanted the Rainbow Graphics to win. I wanted them to show the fight they did against the Expos and more. I wanted them to really take it to the Vernon Orioles because that's who they would meet if they won. I was really just looking for either of these two teams to make a strong case as to why they were the better team to face the Orioles and potentially knock them out of the winners side. I feel like the East Hartford Jets made enough of a case here, in a 11-5 win, that they are ready for the Orioles.
The Rainbow Graphics battled back in the sixth inning with a two run homerun by Eric Brainard followed by a solo homerun by Marcus Fry. They went to virtually the same spot as that Jim Schult homerun and yet the fan who was critical earlier had nothing to say of it. This fight shown by the Graphics made me feel much more confident in the Jets being the ones to face the Orioles in the next round because it didn't feel like the Jets beat a last place team- it felt like the Jets beat a rather good team.
The second game in this doubleheader was quite the opposite of the first. Where the first had many runs scored through much exciting offense, the South Windsor Phillies and Ulbrich Steel put on a clinic of pure pitching. This game came down to that will of who would crack first as there were very few hits. During the fourth or fifth inning I said that whoever scored first would win as this game was just one of those games where it felt like it was impossible for either team to score.
In the top of the fourth inning there was a close call at first base, but then there was another in the top of the seventh during a double play attempt. Neither of these really factored into the outcome of the game though. In the eighth inning a flyball to left field looked as if it was caught by an Ulbrich player but then ended up on the ground- he somehow dropped it- and that opened up the runs. A throw from third to first which missed its mark would plate the fourth and final run for the Phillies.
Nick Hock pitched 7 2/3 innings for the Ulbrich Steel, giving up those runs through no real fault of his own, and had those two plays been made this could have been a different game. But that's what this was about. Who was going to make that mistake first, who was going to crack first and give that little bit of room for the other team to pounce on and take advantage of so that they could score a run or four.
To the credit of the South Windsor Phillies, Andre Jose pitched the full eight innings, allowing only three hits and striking out fifteen. During their game in Wethersfield against People's I believe I saw Andre Jose come in to pitch an inning of relief, but I wasn't really sure going into this game how he would do or if he would outlast the Steel. I must admit that I was wrong in thinking that because not only did Andre Jose last the complete game he was throwing hard strikes right up until the last batter.
By winning their game, the South Windsor Phillies get a night off and wait to see who their next opponent will be in an elimination game at Ceppa Field on Saturday night at 7pm. That opponent will be determined tonight at McKenna Field as the Rainbow Graphics try to avoid elimination against People's United Bank, who haven't played since Sunday. After that game, we go into the upper bracket for the Vernon Orioles vs. East Hartford Jets, the winner of which advances to the finals of the tournament.
There is a lot at stake tonight as whoever wins between the Orioles and Jets gets to sit comfortably and wait for everyone else to eliminate each other just for the chance to face them and also have to defeat them twice to claim the title. I don't know where I will be sitting at McKenna Field yet, I might try and mix it up and actually sit on the Jets' side (since it is their home field) but I will definitely be rooting against the Orioles.