Additional photos can be found here :::
Summer is upon us as the GHTBL is back. Things kicked off at Muzzy Field for a double header with the Bristol Greeners hosting the Hartford Colts and then the South Windsor Phillies. While the Bristol Greeners are themselves a new team to the GHTBL they have been around before (I saw them play last season in the Nutmeg State Baseball League) but the Hartford Colts are a new team so this was not only Opening Day for them but it was their first regular season game as a team.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving to Muzzy Field is that both of these teams are wearing black. The Hartford Colts could have black uniforms on the road and white at home- something like that- but isn't it weird for both teams to be the same color? It's a little confusing too. The only time I saw the Bristol Greeners before they played at home (though not at Muzzy) and they were green. I assumed that having the Bristol Greeners play at home with the word GREEN being in their name meant that they would be green. I was somewhat disappointed by that.
This first game between the Colts and Greeners really felt like a pitching duel. Now, being that this was the first game of the season and I don't know much about the Bristol Greeners, the way the game went made me wonder whether both of these teams were really good or if they were both just in that under .500 way that if they faced a different team they'd just be blown out of the water. It's a reasonable question but I think the second game proved that the Bristol Greeners are an above .500 team and since they felt so evenly matched here with the Hartford Colts I will predict that the Colts will do great things this season as well.
When I think of the Hartford Colts, I realize that they have a mix of players from the Ulbrich Steel (because that roster got huge), players from other teams throughout the GHTBL and then just players who are new to the league. One name that I saw on the roster which stood out to me though was Matt Fusco, who has played for the Record-Journal Expos as long as I've been watching the GHTBL. The funny thing is, during the only inning when any runs were scored during this game it was because of Matt Fusco. A walk, a bunt and then a deep shot to left field gave Matt Fusco a triple and the first run of the game.
Jonathan Pyne hit a single next and Matt Fusco showed his speed, running home and beating the throw to make the game 2-0 and that's where it would stay. The Colts relied on the pitching of Nick Hock, who was most impressive in his debut as a Colt here, while the Greeners pitching also seemed to hold the Colts at bay a little bit. This was just truly a pitching game where one team had to slip up and let the other score or else it would still be going on. To be a new franchise like the Hartford Colts and win your first game has got to be a great feeling and I'm really excited for the Colts.
The second game between the Phillies and Greeners told a different story. I was expecting that if the Phillies were a first place type of team then they should easily be able to rock the Greeners. But the Greeners struck first and hard, though not without their own faults throughout this game. I'd normally say that the Phillies lost because the Greeners were the better team, but I feel like even though they won there is a lot to be learned here by the Greeners going forward. This game was a little bit of a mess.
I realize it's the first game of the season so there are more games ahead but these are the types of things which need to be worked out before the season starts. The Greeners struck early with runners on second and third, two outs and a single up the middle scores them both. It's the first game of the season and having two runs scored on you isn't the worst thing that can happen. In the fourth inning there were lead off back to back doubles then the runner stole third and home on a passed ball to put the Greeners up 4-0. With the lead, you would think that the Greeners were having their moment to shine. This is when I started to see them fall apart.
With no outs in the fifth inning, the Phillies manage to get runners on first and third. At this point, the starting pitcher for the Greeners issues a walk to load up the bases. It's a 4-0 game but the tying run is now at the plate with no outs and the Greeners seem unaffected. The Phillies hit a ball up the right side which pulls a Buckner and two score. Greeners don't flinch. A fly ball drops in right field and the Phillies score another run. It's 4-3 now. The Greeners managed to pick off the Phillies runner trying to go from second to third, but a hit up the left side drives in another run and it's a tie ball game.
Obviously you know that the Greeners would go on to win this game, but let's talk about instead how they blew a four run lead by not bringing in another pitcher. When you have a pitcher issue a walk and that loads the bases, that could be when you want to put someone in the bullpen, get someone warming up. Then, when two runs score and you can see your lead slowly slipping away, you should pull your starting pitcher. But, instead, the Greeners let their starter wash away all the offense the team had put up until that point and let the game be tied when finally he came out in the fifth inning.
What's weird for me is that this feels like it could have been prevented. You could have held the Phillies to two runs, perhaps, if you had only changed pitchers. As someone watching the game, the fact that they didn't was just frustrating. But the Greeners would go on to score their fifth and final run on a sac fly which would get them the win. The way that this happened though, that the final plays unfolded to give the Greeners the win, just feels so much like it could have just as easily happened to the Phillies and then this is a different result. So, I hope that the Greeners take this as a victory in the record books but something to learn from overall.
Next week the action returns with three exciting games on June 2: The Phillies host the Steel, the Orioles visit the Jets and the Jewelers come to Muzzy to play the Greeners which is the game I might end up at just because I love Muzzy Field. The league standings now also see the Hartford Colts in first place at 1-0, the Greeners in second at 1-1 and the Phillies in third at 0-1. On June 3 the GHTBL tests my loyalty as the Expos have their first game of the season against the Steel (in Cheshire) while the Jets play the Colts in the first GHTBL game at Johnny Taylor Field. I wish I could be in two places at once, but sadly I must make a choice. Which game will I choose? Find out next week!