Additional photos can be found here :::
Following the games last weekend, the Milford Monsters were able to move into first place with the Bridgeport team dropping down to second. The Banditos ended up tied for third place and somehow they are tied for third place with none other than the New Haven Rookies, who are their opponents this week. You couldn't have really planned this game any better if you tried. Two teams with the exact same winning record and only three weeks left to go in the season? These are the games you have to see!
J.D. Tyler was back on the mound for the first game and he gave up just one run in the top of the first. All of the outs in that inning though were strikeouts. The top of the second ended with runners on first and second but the Rookies' batter struck out looking. Not only was the first game like this, but the second was as well: a lot of batters left on base and tough for either team to score. This game was about the pitching because when the final score is 2-0 you know it isn't about the hitting from either team. Two runs might not seem like a lot to climb out from under but when you're facing the pitcher the Rookies had on the mound it was no easy task.
In the bottom of the fourth the Banditos got a runner to third which made it feel like they would score and cut the lead in half but this just wasn't going to happen in this game. To the credit of the Banditos though, the Rookies felt like they could have scored a lot more runs if it was not for the pitching of J.D. Tyler and the defense of the team. In the top of the fifth inning there were two strikeouts and then a pop up near home plate. There were- for both teams- those quick three up and three down situations.
The play of the game came at the very end in the top of the seventh inning. The Rookies sent a runner to home and he was out. With only one out and up two it was an okay chance to take, but then their other base runner went from second to third and the throw from home to second was in enough time to turn the double play and end the game for the Rookies. While the Rookies won the first game 2-0, it could have easily been the other way around with the Banditos winning 2-0 and that's what made it such a great game. Both teams did a lot, the Rookies just did a little bit more.
This first game ended at 11:50- which was fast for a game that started at 10:00- and for the first time I heard the umpire say "It's 11:50, guys. We have ten minutes. Be back by noon" I always thought they took longer breaks: fifteen or twenty minutes, but Ceppa isn't the same run home in between games that Maloney is so I stayed in the bleachers. In contrast to the cold wind of last week, this game started off cloudy and at a temperature which was neither too hot nor too cold. I suppose if you were playing you could work up a sweat but in terms of just sitting there it felt perfect. By the second game though the sun came out and I wondered whether or not I should have brought sunscreen because it started getting hot.
The second game was similar to the first in the way that it was close, but it was also a different type of tension between the two teams. Dan Livingston started out pitching for the Banditos and the Rookies were able to put up three runs in the bottom of the third. These would be the only runs the Rookies would be able to score until the final run in the eighth inning. A.J. Hendrickson came in to pitch for the Banditos in the fifth inning and he held the Rookies right up until the end.
This game was different because we saw the Banditos score one run in the fourth, then again in the sixth and finally in the seventh they tied the game forcing the Rookies to either score or go to extra innings. The thing I learned about the Rookies, watching them play all this time, is that they're fast. They only were able to walk it off because they hit a shot to left-center that landed in a way that made it difficult to play. If their runners were just slightly slower, they would have been held at third or thrown out at home. Throughout both of these games the New Haven Rookies used that speed to their advantage.
Perhaps the key play in this game was a base hit by J.D. Tyler which saw Ricky Marrero slide into the Rookies' shortstop, knocking him down and making it so he couldn't catch the throw. This scored an important run for the Banditos and perhaps changed the tone of the game for the Rookies, if only temporarily. It would be that same Rookies player though who hit the shot to left-center to walk it off, in a sense of redemption.
This coming Sunday the Banditos go to Naugatuck to face the Cheshire team and then the following week they finish their regular season at home against the Owls. There is still a lot of baseball to be played before we get to the finals and that bid for the championship looks to be an exciting race as well.