Additional photos can be found here :::
This tournament actually started the night before with the KHA team knocking out the Great Barrington Millers. The KHA team would come to Sharon to play the Great Falls Gators while one town over the Orioles were playing the Crushers with the winner coming to Sharon to face the winner of the Gators-KHA game. We figured it would be easiest and the best games to see to stay at Sharon the whole time because the first place Orioles vs. the last place Crushers felt like it wasn't going to be as much of a game as the KHA team might have put up a fight against the Gators since they had the momentum from winning the night before.
At one point this was all going to start at 10:30am and be three games in one day and at that time I was looking for nearby food and such and there isn't much. The best way to describe where Sharon is would be to think of when we drove to Amenia only we don't go over the New York border. And that whole drive we didn't pass anything except for gas stations and Dunkins so it was going to be tough finding food and such near this field so we planned ahead and brought a lot of food ourselves.
What made this first round game exciting was that you thought that the Gators would be able to easily defeat the KHA team but you might also think based on their records that the Millers would have beat them as well. The Gators and Millers would have been a good game, but somehow KHA pulling out what I would call an upset made this game seem more important. In fact, in the top of the first the KHA team had bases loaded but the Gators managed to get out of it without any runs scoring.
The first two runs that the Gators scored were in the bottom of the first inning. After a walk, Willy Yahn hit a double to put runners on second and third. This would lead to two ground outs to first base which had the runners advance and score. These were tough plays- and these were what is part of what I like to call smart baseball- because if you hit the ball near second base and the runners on don't have to go, your play is at first. You get the forced out and that's just fundamental. No one would have thrown to home and tried to get that out. So it was a lot like sacrificing an out for a run and was very much a chess move.
For the next three innings, Bobby Chatfield and Chris McGrath pitched what felt like hitless innings. There might have been runners on, but the innings just went by fast and it felt like neither team was able to do anything. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, with two outs, Willy Yahn was able to score to put the Gators up 3-0. In the top of the sixth the KHA team would put runners on and then on an infield grounder have a run score but that would be it. There was some trouble during the top of the seventh where it looked like the KHA team could have scored but it never happened. Both pitchers were in for the complete game and both pitched their absolute best.
While the first game ended around 1:45pm, we waited only a short time before the Orioles started showing up because they defeated the Crushers 7-1. About an hour in between games and then the finals of the championship tournament were under way. The Gators had Jeff Kersten on the mound while the Orioles starting pitcher was Adam Antonini. This game was also interesting because the Orioles had Will Ramos on their team and in the two times we had seen the Orioles during the regular season we didn't see him play for them. It felt like they were calling in the big guns for the playoffs.
The Gators were away for this game and the runs came in right away in the bottom of the second inning for the Orioles. After two HBPs the Orioles first baseman hit a shot that turned into a double and those two runners were able to score. With another run on top of that, the Orioles went up 3-0 early on and held that lead until the top of the sixth inning when Willy Yahn hit an absolute bomb out of left field to put the Gators on the board and it became a 3-1 ball game.
What happened in the bottom of the sixth inning might have been the key moment of the game and of course it involved Will Ramos. After getting on base, Will Ramos stole second. He was then hit in by the Orioles number 22, which would put the Orioles up 4-1. This was such a key play- this one additional run- because had the Orioles not done this in the sixth inning then they would have at least gone to the bottom of the seventh and possibly extra innings.
In the top of the seventh, the Gators tried to come back. They put up two runs and came within inches of tying the ball game, but the Orioles were able to hold them and win it all. This game was tense because there was always that chance where you felt like the Gators could have that one burst of offense that would put them right back in it and it didn't come until the very end, but wow if there was ever a way to get that close to winning a game I'm not sure if I've seen it. The game ended 4-3 and it wasn't a dominant win for the Orioles as the Gators fought right up until the last out.
This was the end of the baseball season this year for me. It was funny because it feels like it's also the end of summer, but we're in November so we should be far beyond that, but it was in the 70s and sunny for these two games. It's crazy to think that the leagues got a late start and I still got to see roughly fifty games within the last six months. Now I'm not sure how to spend my time but I'll wait and hope for the best in the spring with the possibility of colleges (and Yale *fingers crossed*) starting up and playing baseball again.