Additional photos can be found here :::
This was the final regular season Sunday for the Banditos and although they already clinched a playoff spot, these two games would still determine their place in the rankings and as such other teams places as well, which would ultimately go to decide who will versus who next week. I remember last season going to only the last two games of the Banditos season- I believe- but I've been to so many more this season and it's just been so much fun. I can't imagine what my Sundays are going to be like when I don't have baseball on them anymore.
The first game of this doubleheader was very much what I would like to call the game of the week. It was a strong pitching game from both sides but also the defense was on point. In the first inning, JD Tyler hit a single and then was able to score on a double by the next batter, AJ Hendrickson. A passed ball was difficult for the catcher to find and this helped AJ Hendrickson to go from second all the way to home. This would really set the tone for the game as after this there wasn't a lot happening in terms of runs being scored.
In the top of the third inning the Owls put together some small hits to score one run, but it was the only run they would score. Still, being up 2-1, this game felt rather tense as it could've broken open at any moment for either team. That didn't happen though because the pitching was just too good. JD Tyler ended the third inning with bases loaded on a strikeout. The fifth inning also ended with a runner on third and a K by JD Tyler. And if you were keeping track, the sixth inning also had bases loaded for the Owls and JD Tyler ended it with a strikeout.
The pitching on both sides was really great to watch. The Owls' pitcher put on a really good show and other than those two runs he gave up in the first inning, he didn't give up another run until the sixth inning. My uncle and I were discussing how most major league pitchers have an ERA of at least 2.something, so you're bound to give up some runs as a pitcher. If this game was against any other team perhaps the Owls would have won it.
Jason Sullivan also should get a nod as both defensive and offensive player of the game for the first one. Not only did he pull off a beautiful double play in the second inning but he also did it again in the seventh to end the game. At the bat, he hit a shot down first base side into that spot where it's not easy to retrieve the ball and that ended up as a triple for him, which also happened to score Ray Thayer in the sixth inning for the third and final Banditos run.
For everything that the Owls did in the first game for pitching it seemed to fall apart for them in the second game. The Owls used several different pitchers and none of them ever seemed to find their groove. In the first inning alone, the Banditos put up five runs which seemed like a difficult deficit for the Owls to come back from. There were some walks but the Banditos were just hitting. It felt good to see them swinging the bats again. Sometimes the ball would fly out to left field, but it felt like (unless they were walking or HBP) every batter was making contact.
By the sixth inning it felt like the Owls could stage their comeback with runners on first and third, but it never happened. Dan Livingston pitched the complete game shut out and in quite glorious fashion it all ended on a strikeout as well. These were two well earned victories for the Banditos and the Owls put up a fight so it wasn't just a crushing defeat where you felt bad watching the other team.
This shapes things up interestingly for the playoffs. Someone said the playoffs would be a single elimination nine inning game. My theory through a lot of this season was that many teams had one strong pitcher and another pitcher who was either not as good or they didn't have a second pitcher and so a lot of teams went .500~ish. For the playoffs to be a single game though, a team like the Owls has a much better chance of winning if they just keep using the first pitcher they had today. Then again, the game is also going to be nine innings and those two extra innings do make a difference.
I'm not certain as I type this who the Banditos will face in the first round of the playoffs but they say they are hosting and that means it could be at Ceppa Field. The way the bats came alive in the second game of this double header and with the pitching the Banditos have, I'm not sure anyone can stop them at this point.