Additional photos can be found here:
The Banditos and Monsters faced off in the semi-finals of the post season with the winner going on to face either the Bridgeport Marshals or the Bristol Greeners and the losers going home until next season. Milford isn't that bad of a drive- it's about a half hour away- and The Academy is a field I had never been to before but for obvious reasons because of the name of where it is I also had to listen to The Academy Is... on my way to this game, specifically their album "Almost Here".
Within the first two at bats I knew where I was sitting was no good. There are bleachers next to the dugouts and I was on the first base side sort of behind home plate at first. I couldn't get good photos during the game from there though. I looked around and saw a high point near some steps which you use to get down to field level and so I set up shop up there all game so as to take photos from over the fence. I didn't realize it at the time but this move would become quite vital during the final innings of this game.
This was a good old fashioned pitcher's duel with Dan Livingston on the mound for the Banditos and Tim Brown on the mound for the Monsters. This was, in fact, the same match we saw when these two teams faced each other in the regular season at Ceppa Field. But this Banditos team was also not the same as the one they saw back at Ceppa as there were in fact more players here for this game.
With bases loaded in the top of the first, the Banditos scored their first run on a sacrifice fly. It would take the Monsters until the fourth inning to tie the game with a deep shot to left-center which ended up as a double and brought in that all important tying run. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Monsters players number 4 hits a deep shot to center with Willy Yahn on first base. It looked like it would be caught but dropped, which brought Willy Yahn all the way home for the Monsters to go up 2-1. The hitter, number 4, tried to also come home as the throw went passed home plate but he was called out.
Top of the 8th, Monsters up 2-1 and JD Tyler hits a shot that sends Cisco all the way home. However, this would become the focal point of this game from that moment onward as the umpire made the call at homeplate an out. The Banditos argued it. The Monsters celebrated it. But, really, no one was right. Was it a bad call? Absolutely. Could anything be done about it? Likely not.
As someone who is objective, if that had been an out at homeplate I would be the first to admit it. I'd say it was a good call and to jus accept it. However, while running, Franciso Asencio extended his arm around the catcher and touched homeplate before the catcher could get a tag on him. This was best in view from the first base side. In fact, I think one of the only people who might have had a better view of this than me was Scott Iwaniec, who was right down there because he was on deck and came to the first base side to witness it all.
Now, you could argue that Scotty is biased because he plays for the Banditos so you assume he will side with them. I love baseball. That's it. I side with what's fair and what's right. From my vantage point, I believe I was the most qualified to make that call and also the most impartial as well and I am 100% certain that Franciso Asencio was safe at homeplate. But, the question I then thought about as I drove home was what does that mean for the game?
You can easily state the Banditos were not at fault for this call but I don't really fault the Monsters for it either. For one thing, I wouldn't expect any of the Monsters to step up and say "Hey, you know what ump, that was a bad call, can you overturn it?" because that just doesn't seem like something that anyone on any team would do. Furthermore, I'm not even sure that had the Monsters decided to say something to that effect if the umpire would have even changed the call based on their pleading.
So then what do you do? Do you blame the umpire? He's just doing the best job that he can. Now, granted, this was the situation: I watched the entire time with great detail as Franciso Asencio ran home. I thought based on where he was and with the throw that the catcher would have tagged him before he ever made it to the plate. That didn't happen. I also noticed that the umpire stayed near the pitcher's mound and never once tried to move closer to homeplate to get a better view. But do we fault the umpire for that? Perhaps this is a call which could have been prevented had there been two umpires. Still, I've seen plenty of terrible calls in games with two umpires.
The one thing I do know after watching this game is that Franciso Asencio was safe and the umpire made a bad call. What no one knows is what would have happened had that call been reversed- if it even could have. Would the Banditos have kept the momentum and gone up 3-2 to win it? Would the Monsters walk it off 3-2? You can't say either way but the game was so close in that respect that either team could have still won the game as that would have been the tying run. And, I feel, yes, ultimately, Cisco was safe but once the umpire made that call I don't know what could have been done to change it.
To me, the Banditos played their best not just during this game but during this season. As did the Monsters. With only four teams left going into today you had to anticipate this sort of tension as these were the top teams playing to go to the finals. It's high stakes and in the end someone has to lose. Umpires have been making bad calls forever and there were several other bad calls during this game alone which affected both teams. You just have to think that as much as it stings that call could have gone the other way and it could have been a crucial play that was called wrong and upset the Monsters.
I went into this game knowing I was going to see a hell of a game (which I did) and knowing that I was going to see two of the best, if not the two best, teams in the Nutmeg State Baseball League, which I also did. This is type of performance you expect from both teams and the Monsters just happened to have things in their favor on this day. It wasn't a 10-0 blowout and I don't think anyone expected that because the Banditos didn't get this far to lose that badly. It was a tough loss but it was not a terrible loss. That's the important thing to remember.