People's-Graphics box score:
Jets-Orioles box score:
Additional photos can be found here :::
As we get deeper into the Playoffs, we see more teams eliminated and after this night we are down to our final four. These were perhaps two of the most pivotal games of the entire playoffs as the East Hartford Jets faced the Vernon Orioles for a chance to go into the finals of the tournament and the Rainbow Graphics were up against People's United Bank in an elimination round. When we got to McKenna Field we went onto the side we always do- which is the visitor's side, along the third base line- and it would prove to be the wrong side for the entire night.
The Rainbow Graphics took a rather large loss to the East Hartford Jets the previous night, so this was a big game for them because they had to really regroup and go back to being that team which defeated the Expos. I really do still stand by my idea though that the Graphics use all of their offense and defense in one playoff game every year to defeat the Expos and then they go back to looking like last place. For a lot of this game, it just didn't seem fair. Justin Morhardt was on the mound for People's and he only gave up three hits over six innings of scoreless Graphics.
To somewhat set the tone for the game, the first pitch thrown by Rainbow Graphics' starting pitcher Ryan Callanan was hit outside of left field for a homerun by Willy Yahn. Though we were sitting among the Graphics fans, I had to clap for that. How could you not? This brought upon a three run first inning for People's and the Graphics felt like they were in trouble early on. And then they began to fall apart. Not only was the hitting not there for the Graphics tonight, their fielding began to suffer as well.
In the fourth inning, People's put up five huge runs going through almost their entire order. They'd add another solo run in the fifth and two more insurance runs in the sixth. People's had dominant pitching by Justin Morhardt and just hitting to move the runners by Willy Yahn, Neifi Mercedes, Rami Jadallah and Ben Ryan. At one point during the game I said to myself "I need to look up who number 22 is-- he's a good hitter" and that's Ben Ryan.
The Graphics ended their season with an 11-0 loss but it could be the shot of adrenaline that People's needs to defeat the South Windsor Phillies tonight at Ceppa Field. The way that People's were hitting there were a few shots at McKenna which would certainly be homeruns at Ceppa. Tonight is really going to be an interesting game between the Phillies and People's, but more on that in a moment.
During the second game of the evening we were unfortunately sitting among the Vernon Orioles fans and I will say this: I'm not sure the Vernon Orioles are a bad team and that I don't like them so much as that I don't like their fans. When something goes their way, they love it. When something works against them, they turn into the biggest bunch of crybabies you'll ever see. So why is it that when the umpire calls a ball a strike when the Jets are pitching the Orioles' fans are all up in arms and ready to throw a tantrum, yet when it's the Orioles pitching they're all excited about it? You can't have it both ways: bad pitching calls affect both teams.
The East Hartford Jets are in a position to win this whole tournament this year. They put up three big runs in the first inning to set the tone for this game. After a few passed balls, the starting pitcher for the Orioles actually walked the first three batters to load the bases, which just seemed to help the Jets. This just seemed to discourage the Orioles- who were making excuses, players and fans both- and the Orioles just didn't seem like the team that beat the Phillies the other night.
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Orioles managed to get runners on first and second but the next three batters all struck out. The Orioles began making basic fielding errors and that coupled with their lack of hitting really cost them this game. There was a fan in the stands who said it just wasn't their night, but when you're in a tournament and this is the difference between going to the finals or having to battle your way back into the finals you better make damn sure it's your night.
As tensions rose during this game, something happened in between innings that I didn't see and in the top of the fifth the Orioles coach was tossed out by the umpire. I'm not sure what happened but the umpire just kept screaming at him to go home. This, of course, was not taken well by the Orioles players or fans. Many of the fans were crying about how it was a terrible call and that the ump was so horrible for doing that but you know what? It's baseball and umpires sometimes make terrible calls. But you suck it up and you use it to fuel your wins. You get them back by scoring runs and winning the game, not by whining and crying.
After the Orioles coach finally made his exit from the game the first pitch thrown by the Orioles hit the Jets' batter. The Orioles pitcher also had words with the umpire and so this lead many to believe that the pitcher threw this on purpose. The Jets dugout nearly cleared out and it was looking like we were going to have ourselves a basebrawl as the Jets players were even yelling back at the Orioles fans. (The Orioles players were not as vocal as their fans) The best part of all of this was the Jets saying the HBP was intentional and then the Orioles arguing it wasn't and someone- I'm not sure if it was a Jets player or one of their fans- said something like "Come on, you guys can't suck that much"
In the bottom of the fifth there was a crucial play where it looked like the Orioles could score a run but their base runner kind of stumbled going into home and was tagged out. In the sixth inning the Jets hit a deep shot to left field that scored three more runs and sealed the fate of the Orioles. There is such a thing as losing with grace and class but the Orioles don't do that. It also seems like once the Orioles begin to lose, once they feel like they're facing an uphill battle, they begin to slowly fall apart and things just get worse for them throughout the game. This will make the next two games in the playoffs very interesting.
Tonight, People's United Bank plays the South Windsor Phillies at Ceppa Field and this might be the most evenly matched game of the tournament so far. If People's plays like they did last night and the Phillies play like they did on Thursday, then People's could win this game. However, whoever wins this game tonight I feel really has a shot of eliminating the seemingly already defeated Vernon Orioles on Sunday. The Orioles are just not playing at the level they have when they won the tournament before and I feel like Sunday could really be their last game as both People's and even the Phillies have better teams right now.
Of course not to look too far ahead but whoever wins on Sunday still has to go face the East Hartford Jets on Tuesday night and defeat them twice to win it all. If the East Hartford Jets continue to play on Tuesday night the way that they have played for this entire tournament then they will win it all right then and there. So there are some really high stakes with three (maybe four) more games to go as whoever wins tonight at Ceppa should go on to defeat the Orioles and then have a tough task ahead of them against the Jets. If the Orioles do seem like they're losing on Sunday too we might see tempers explode even more than last night.