Last Sunday the Banditos split their double header with the Southington Navigators while the New Haven Cardinals defeated the Windsor HellCats 20-1 and 15-0 (as per the CNMSBL website) This made it feel like either the Cardinals had a really great team or the HellCats had a really bad team, but I think it looks more like the HellCats are off to a rough start (They lost this week to the Southington Navigators as well) So I was excited going into this game because I figured the Cardinals would put up a fight but I didn't think it would be a complete blowout. In a sign of good things to come, this was the first time I saw the scoreboard turned on at the high school.
The first game was really a battle of wills, a tug-of-war if you will, neither team willing to give up an inch. Right away, first batter, Ray Thayer gets HBP. Ricky Marrero hit a single and then an RBI by Justin Poirier put the Banditos up 1-0 in the first inning. Though this was at Maloney, the Cardinals were the home team because apparently they don't have a home field right now (Don't get me started about New Haven as a city) In the bottom of the second inning the Cardinals would get a runner to third base but were unable to score. JD Tyler ended the fourth inning with a strikeout and the Cardinals just couldn't seem to get his number.
During the fifth inning with two outs, JD Tyler helped himself by hitting two Banditos in to make it 3-0. In the sixth with bases loaded, Jeremy Benique got the RBI to put the Banditos up 4-0. In the seventh Ray Thayer got a hit again and then JD Tyler doubled to send him home. Justin Poirier hit a shot to left field which everyone thought was out of here except for the left fielder of the Cardinals who made an amazing catch, then threw the ball back to get the outs because no one from the Banditos had tagged up. I thought that even if the ball wasn't out of the park for a homerun, it would drop over the head of the left fielder, so he gets props and the play of the day for making that catch and keeping the Banditos to only five runs on the game.
The Cardinals tried to mount their comeback, scoring three runs in a bottom of the seventh rally, and if you think about it- if the Banditos either hadn't scored those two runs in the fifth or one run in the sixth and one more in the seventh, then this would have been a different game. If you take away those two runs- in the one inning or the two innings combined- then this game could have been tied in the seventh and maybe even the Cardinals could have walked it off. But you also have to note that for most of this game, the Banditos were up 1-0. But the Cardinals kept getting into scoring position. This whole game was rather exciting because it was never really over, you never felt like you had a comfortable lead.
For the second game, Willie Rios once again took the mound for the Banditos while the Cardinals seemed to be in a similar pitching position- where they used a few different people. In the bottom of the first inning, the Cardinals made a questionable play by sending a runner on third base home when it wasn't a force. This runner was thrown out and the batter made it safely to first base. If the runner had held at third, the batter might have been out at first but at least you still have that lead runner on third. It was an odd choice by the Cardinals and one I don't think I would have made myself.
The Banditos had their own bit of baserunning troubles though as during the second inning a run would score at the bat of Alex Rivera, who was hoping for a double but got thrown out at second. He got greedy. Having one less out and runners on first and third would have benefited them there, but hey, baseball is a game of taking chances and sometimes they pay off, sometimes they don't. But it worked out on this day because both teams were taking those chances. The Cardinals had a big third inning- putting up three more runs and going up 5-1 over the Banditos. The Banditos would fire back though and somehow put up seven runs in the fourth inning. A HBP and at least one walk allowed for some of those runs while we also saw two RBIs by Ray Thayer to tie the game.
Bottom of the fourth, the Cardinals put up four big runs to not only tie the game but take the lead by one. While they had the game tied, they had the bases loaded so the Banditos were lucky to get out of that situation with the Cardinals only scoring four runs and not going up even more. In the fifth the Cardinals seemed to settle in with their pitching as they held the Banditos to just one last run in the seventh inning. However, the Cardinals also plated three more runs in the sixth inning for insurance, making it 12-8 going into the last three outs for the Banditos. In the bottom of the sixth, we saw runs score both because of a passed ball and a balk by the Banditos.
While I feel like both of these games were exciting, I feel like they were exciting for different reasons. In the first game, the Banditos were up 1-0 most of the game but their lead wasn't safe. You didn't know until the last out who would win. In a similar way, the second game kept me on the edge of my seat because apparently even being up by four runs or seven runs wasn't enough as either team proved they were capable of putting up multiple runs in one inning. It was a matter of the game being able to change that quickly, but that is also what makes baseball such a great game.