Baseball Review //
GHTBL Playoffs Round 1
Wallingford Cardinals, 7
Record-Journal Expos, 9 /
Rainbow Graphics, 0
M&T People's, 1
August 9th, 2022
Palmer Field, Middletown CT

Official Box Scores :::

Additional Photos :::

While the Hartford Colts took on the East Hartford Jets and the South Windsor Phillies took on the Vernon Orioles in East Hartford at McKenna Field as makeup games from Monday, the Record-Journal Expos kicked things off at Palmer Field in Middletown against the Wallingford Cardinals.   In their regular season meetings, the Expos had swept the Cardinals but this was the playoffs and as the Cardinals seemed to make in their statement on Sunday night against the Bristol Greeners- who also swept them in the regular season, but were eliminated by them- anything can happen. 

It was hot out there.  Just sitting in the stands made me sweat.  But the players somehow played through it and put up a ton of offense as this game didn't really have many innings without action.   Even if it was just two runners getting on but nothing coming of it, there always felt like there was something happening in this game where you had to pay attention or you might either miss a play or a run.

The Cardinals struck first, going up 1-0 early in the first inning.  No one would score in the second inning but by the third the Cardinals would put up two more runs via an Evan Wilkinson homerun, giving them a 3-0 lead.   The bottom of the third inning, however, started with back to back walks.   This lead to Sebby Grignano hitting a nice shot up the middle to score the first Expos run of the game.

Jason Sullivan walked on to load the bases and then AJ Hendrickson doubled in two runs to tie the game at three.  Kyle Hartenstein walks to load the bases again and then Shaun Remillard also takes a walk to give the Expos the go ahead run and after three innings the Expos now lead the Cardinals 4-3.

The top of the fourth saw another offensive explosion by the Wallingford Cardinals.  With the bases loaded and one out, Evan Wilkinson dropped a bomb to center field, which was a double and cleared the bases.   This put the Cardinals up 6-4 and it just felt like this game was going the way of the back and forth lead.

For the Expos, their fourth inning began with a lead off single by Nhasean Murphy.  Sebby Grignano walked on and then Javon Malone bunted and loaded the bases.   Jason Sullivan hit right past second base as one run would score and the bases would remain loaded with no outs.  AJ Hendrickson sent a ball to left field- almost over the fence- and the game was once again tied, this time at 6-6.

As the Cardinals change pitchers, the first pitch thrown hits Kyle Hartenstein and the Expos are up 7-6.  Shaun Remillard flies out to center but Jason Sullivan scores and it's 8-6.  Will Kszywanos hits a shot to left field to score AJ Hendrickson and it's 9-6.   This is where the Expos score would stay, having their two offense innings in the third and the fourth.   Evan Wilkinson would drive in one more RBI for a final score of 9-7.

There should be two takeaways from this game.  First off, the pitching of Jeff Massicotte across six innings and then Charlie Hesseltine to come in and close it out in the seventh.  Yes, the Cardinals scored seven runs, *but* the Expos scored more.   There have been so many games that have ended 4-3 or lower scores and this game just goes to show right here that the Expos can score as many runs as needed to outscore their opponents and the pitching can hold the opposition back.

The second takeaway here is that much like in the game Sunday night, the offense of the Cardinals just exploded.   If the Cardinals were in the second game of the night they would have probably won that because it was such a low scoring game.  Knowing that the Cardinals are going to meet the Rainbow Graphics tonight at 8:00 pm (McKenna Field, East Hartford) just goes to show that the Graphics should be worried.  The Cardinals almost beat the Expos and I don't think the Graphics will be able to escape the Cardinals tonight.

Around 9:15 pm the second game started and it only lasted until a little bit after 10:30 to give you an idea of how that game went.   The pitching of Ryan Callanan of the Rainbow Graphics and Camden Murphy of M&T People's just made this such a quick game because both teams were shut down offensively.   Across seven innings, Camden Murphy only allowed one hit and that really just says it all.

This game really all came down to the seventh inning, as it was tied 0-0 and looked like extra innings.  Justin Miller began the inning with a lead off double when a throw went past first base.   This might have been the error which cost the Graphics the game, but I don't think it was.  Next up was a good old fashioned HBP and then Felix Lupia executes a perfect bunt that moves the runners to second and third.

At this point I must once again remind you that I am not a baseball coach or anything.  Mickey Mantle once said that baseball is easy when you view it from the stands (something to that effect, I'm paraphrasing here) and I tend to agree.  But my next point is just how I feel and maybe not how all of baseball feels.  With Willy Yahn coming up to bat, runners on second and third, no outs, the Graphics made the decision to intentionally walk Willy Yahn.   To me, this is a poor decision.

I understand why hitters will be intentionally walked.  It draws the force at any base and essentially means that if the ball is hit, the runner on third must go home.   However, what if that batter who is intentionally walked ends up striking out or just simply popping up?  I feel like one of the worst case scenarios is they single and then you hold the runner at third and load the bases anyway.   But why not take that chance when at least if you put the ball into play it could lead to an out.

Also, and I do not say this lightly, but after Willy Yahn in the order comes Brendan Lynch and if you are looking for a power hitter to drive a shot to deep right field with no outs, as a sac fly if you will, then who could be better?  It's one thing to think about this play simply as a "Loading the bases intentionally is a good idea to force the runners", but if you're thinking of it in terms of not wanting to pitch to Willy Yahn because of his OBP then you damn sure don't want to pitch to Brendan Lynch either.

So, Brendan Lynch hits that infield single and the throw to home is not in time as Justin Miller just makes a fantastic slide to avoid a tag and People's walks it off 1-0.   I'm not saying that this game would've ended differently had the bases not been intentionally loaded, but it's something that we'll never know and it just feels like every time a team intentionally loads the bases it backfires on them.

As these two teams switch places tonight between Palmer Field and McKenna Field, just looking at the scores shows that the Record-Journal Expos should have the advantage over M&T People's, while the Wallingford Cardinals should also use that seven run offense over the Rainbow Graphics as they were held scoreless and to only one hit.   The Expos will likely face Eric Malinowski, who held them to no runs at Dunkin Donuts Park, but this is the playoffs- it's different now.

On the other side of the Connecticut River, the Hartford Colts defeated the East Hartford Jets in what is possibly the upset of the tournament now.  The Colts were always on that cusp of being in the Wild Card game while the Jets were tied for first place to end the regular season.  Having the Jets down in the Losers Bracket so soon must feel like a huge blow to them and now they're facing the end of their season tonight against the South Windsor Phillies.

The Hartford Colts are a team that, much like the Wallingford Cardinals, have all of the right pieces to win this whole thing it's just a matter of all of those right pieces being in the right place at the right time.  As the Colts face the Vernon Orioles tonight it will be interesting to see if they can once again pick up the victory, as they look to pick off the top teams in the regular season, one by one.

Perhaps the most intriguing story going into tonight though is at McKenna Field as two teams will have their seasons come to an end.   The South Windsor Phillies battle the East Hartford Jets at 6:00 pm and both of those teams know about doing what it takes the survive elimination.  The Wallingford Cardinals then meet the Rainbow Graphics at 8:00 pm and the Cardinals have the chance and skill to make it back up to the Winner's Bracket.  

I'm not sure anyone would have predicted the playoffs to go this way so far but that's what makes it so exciting.  If the Jets do beat the Phillies tonight and the Colts beat the Orioles then the two teams who always seem to be in the finals will meet in the Loser's Bracket tomorrow night- and it will be largely in part due to the Colts.  Anything can happen and after tonight, two more teams will have their seasons come to an end.


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