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Opening Day 2023 kicked off for the GHTBL in South Windsor, CT as the Phillies hosted the Record-Journal Expos. This feels like the unofficial start of summer, though school is not out yet for a few weeks, but it it also the first game of the season for both of these teams. On one hand, you want to think of this as the first game and as such things are still being worked out and maybe certain players haven't made it to the league yet. But then at the same time I think it is also important to get a win here to set the tone for the rest of the season.
The Expos made some moves in the off season, promoting AJ Hendrickson to manager while also keeping Charlie Hesseltine on as a pitcher. New names Ommy Velez and Max Giacco joined the roster and made an impact in this game, while Brandon Hernandez returned to the Expos as well.
This game saw Javon Malone, Sebby Grignano, Jeff Massicotte and Will Kszywanos return, who are all in their own way the heart of this team. The offense seems to be locked down in the way that fresh blood has been brought in, but it seems like the Expos have always struggled with pitching because they relied heavily on Hendrickson and Hesseltine. That doesn't seem to be the case this season and the rest of the league is going to need to be on their toes.
Tuesday night's game was pitched in full by JD Tyler, who made his GHTBL debut, gave up only one run and struck out six. Adding someone not only with the pitching skills of JD Tyler but also the offense and overall just being a team leader is something every team needs. Tyler brings that veteran experience and leadership that a lot of these new, younger players are going to need and it should all just fit together so well.
The Phillies struck first in this game, with a sac fly to right field to score the first run of the season. But after Javon Malone stole second base in the top of the fourth inning, a sac fly to center field sent him to third base. JD Tyler then laid down a perfect bunt to not only bring Malone home to tie the game, but everyone was safe.
The Expos offense opened up in the fifth, where they put up three runs and that was where the game would stay with scoring. It felt like, at that point, it was a hole that the Phillies couldn't dig themselves out from. Though there were innings when the Phillies threatened, JD Tyler and the Expos got out of it. At times it might have felt like the Phillies could've scored a run at most, but it didn't feel like they were going to get three.
With only one out left in the game, the Phillies met their end in a somewhat foolish run down that made little sense. It was one of those plays where the runner was trapped between second and third base, probably saw a way out of it but the defense was all over him so there was no easy way out. One of those early season things the team needs to work on perhaps.
In the other Opening Day game, the Rainbow Graphics put up an impressive nine runs over the Vernon Orioles, which might be considered an upset. The four other GHTBL teams have yet to start their season, though that will happen on Thursday except for M&T Bank who will continue to wait.
Perhaps the biggest move in the off season for the entire GHTBL was the loss of the Hartford Colts and Wallingford Cardinals but then they sort of merged some of the players who wanted to still play (while others went to different teams in the leagues) to form the Middletown Mets. The Middletown Mets make their GHTBL debut on Thursday right back in South Windsor against the Phillies.