Official box scores can be found here:
Additional photos can be found here:
Every year the GHTBL plays a series of games at Dunkin Donuts Park. I remember when all four games happened on the same day and even when there were only two games so some of the teams didn't get to play here. This year, they are doing two double headers so every team gets a chance to play at one of the best baseball stadiums in the world.
The first game saw M&T Bank taking on Rainbow Graphics and depending on when you check the standings, these are the top two teams in the league. Rainbow Graphics have just been on this incredible run this season and remained in first place for as much as I've been checking because even though they've been the first to ten wins, they've also been the team to suffer the fewest losses.
Earlier in the week, the Vernon Orioles won a game which bumped them up to second place, but when it comes to winning and that idea of who is going to finish this season with the most wins, if you're not picking Rainbow Graphics you must pick M&T Bank, who have been up there going undefeated for a stretch with the Graphics. This really looked like one of the most exciting matchups on paper and it could be a preview of the tournament finals.
Right away in the first inning, the Rainbow Graphics struck with two runs as Tyler Repoli hit a double to center field to drive in Matt Costanza. This was followed by a nice hit by Travis Salois and then another double came to score the second run. After a fly out to center field there was a run down to end the inning and that was just poor baserunning by the Graphics.
The bottom of the first began with a Willy Yahn single. Cooper Johnson got on base which made it first and third. Brandon Fry hit a shot up the middle and the game was tied 2-2 just like that. And thus began the game of "Anything you can do I can do better". The Graphics put up a run in the second and so did M&T.
But let me take a moment here to point out that the single run in the bottom of the second inning was a solo homerun by Willy Yahn. It is not easy to hit a homerun in Dunkin Donuts Park and that ball went far. I'm not going to say how I know, but you'll just have to trust me and know that I have photos of where that ball landed and, of course, the ball itself.
What I got from watching this game- and this is where every team should pay attention- is that the Rainbow Graphics and M&T Bank are both very, very good at hitting right now. There was a time when you'd have maybe two or three strong hitters on your team, but right now, they both have players putting up solid hits and that's making the difference. And I don't mean just shots to the outfield that drop before the outfielder- they're putting the ball everywhere they can in play.
I know that the Vernon Orioles can also have this type of hitting power and with the Record-Journal Expos, when they're on they can as well. We also would see this hitting from the East Hartford Jets in the next game, and so I think that the playoffs this year are going to be more competitive than in previous years. I think the Mets could still surprise a lot of people and I'm fairly confident that the Phillies are cooking up something, not really worried about their season record and focusing on the playoffs.
This game was really a back and forth with no quick innings and outside of the Willy Yahn homerun I would say that Brandon Fry (who I remember from being on the New Britain Bees, even his baseball card signed by him!) was the most important player here, coming in here to pitch and keeping the Graphics at bay while also providing some key hits during the game.
The second game was the story of one bad inning for the Middletown Mets and you have to hand it to them for holding the East Hartford Jets for the rest of the game. Yes, this was a 8-1 ballgame but five of those runs came in the second inning. Without that inning, this could've been a different game but the Jets also just have that way of putting the ball into play and scoring.
With the bases loaded in the top of the second, Jeff Criscuolo doubled in three runs to clear the bases. Now this is where things feel like a nightmare because a HBP loaded up the bases again. A wild pitch scored another run. And a walk loaded up the bases again. Another run scores on a wild pitch. And then another walk would reload the bases before the Mets got out of the inning.
This was one of those innings where I had to check my notes and as it was happening it just felt like we were stuck in this time vortex where everything kept repeating. It was a strange feeling watching it from the stands so I can't imagine how the players on the field felt. It was like something out of The Twilight Zone and I just kept thinking "Didn't we just do this?"
Prior to this game, the Middletown Mets had just defeated the Rainbow Graphics, 8-3, and so as the Rainbow Graphics suffered back to back losses for the first time this season, it also makes you wonder what else the Mets might be capable of in the playoffs. I think the Mets are putting together a winning formula, as it is their first season, and by the time the playoffs come around we might see more games like Tuesday.
Really, one of the biggest things to take away from this night and two games is that all four teams showed their strengths (and some of their weaknesses) and when it comes to the playoffs, there is no certainty. The Jets and Orioles have been in the finals for quite some time, but we might see the Graphics, M&T or even the Mets make it there after the way this season is going. It'll be difficult to stop Rainbow Graphics or M&T Bank, but I think the playoffs might also be full of surprises.