First game official box score :::
Second game official box score :::
Additional photos can be found on Facebook here :::
One of the wildest things coming out of these two games is that the Rainbow Graphics and Vernon Orioles both tied for first place in the regular season standings and both teams suffered losses in these two games. This playoffs tournament is not easy to predict because any of the four teams in the winners bracket could win the whole thing. The Rainbow Graphics, Vernon Orioles, East Hartford Jets and M&T Bank have all played exceptionally well this season. But now, the Orioles and Graphics have to go down to the losers bracket and work their way back up to win.
The first game really felt like a pitching duel and it did something I had not seen yet this season: the offense of the Rainbow Graphics was completely shut down. In the first inning, Jeff Criscuolo scored from second on a single and that put the East Hartford Jets up 1-0 right away. The pitching of Darrion Williams of the Jets was just fantastic as he pitched a complete game and gave up few hits.
In the sixth inning, Adam Dadinos hit a deep shot to right field which bounced off of something and came back into the field. The Graphics' right fielder was playing it as if it was a homerun and Dadinos started off slowly jogging as if he knew he hit a homerun but then he stayed put at second base. After some discussion amongst the umpires it was ruled a homerun. I'm not saying it wasn't a homerun but I just think it's weird when homeruns don't leave the ballpark. Still, this would put the Jets up 2-0 and the Graphics just couldn't find an answer to that pitching.
While the first game felt tense because the Jets were up but within reach- there was that feeling of one big burst of offense could change everything- the second game was a lot more fun as the offense of M&T Bank just exploded. Hindsight is everything, but this Vernon Orioles team did struggle to beat the last place Bristol Greeners the night before. I'm not sure what's going on in Vernon, but the Orioles don't seem to have their playoffs faces on.
Matt Curtis started the game for the Orioles and when I last saw him it was in a game where he nearly no-hit the Record-Journal Expos. This didn't even look like the same pitcher. The Orioles struck first in the first inning with a double by Ian Halpin and then Jack Halpin doubled him in. M&T Bank would answer in the bottom of the fifth with four runs of their own, putting them in a comfortable lead.
This game felt like it was about hitting and just consistently moving around the bases for M&T Bank. Willy Yahn singled on and Cooper Johnson hit a deep shot to center field (which I thought was going to be gone) and it turned into a double which brought in the first run of the game. Shaun Callahan singled in Cooper Johnson and in a fielders choice for Jordan Jeroszko, Gunnar Johnson was able to score the third run of the inning. Justin Miller singled in Brandon Fry for the fourth and final run of the inning.
The second inning played out similarly to this. Willy Yahn singled on, as everyone in the M&T lineup got an at bat in the first inning. A walk and then a HBP loaded up the bases. Shaun Callahan singled in both Willy Yahn and Cooper Johnson to make it 6-1. Jordan Jeroszko sac flied in another run, giving M&T Bank a three run inning and putting them up 7-1. Peter Kelley would hit a deep shot to right field in the fifth inning to score the second and final run for the Orioles. But another runner was trying to also come home and was thrown out! The Orioles took a gamble and it did not pay off.
Even though that offense was in the first two innings and it gave M&T Bank a comfortable lead, the rest of the game went by rather quickly and without event. The umpires seemed to know it was getting late and the game was taking too long so they started calling all strikes and outs to move the pace of play along. I'm not saying they actually did that, but it felt like it.
Eric Malinowski just threw a beautiful game for M&T Bank here. The pitching was right on while the offense was there to deliver. When you look at the teams that made it to these two games today, these four teams, they all have that part of the order where they just have hitters you need to watch out for and when they're all hitting in order and getting hits then that's going to add up to a lot of runs. None of the other three teams who played on this night had that same offense, had that same hitting power as M&T Bank did.
Now both M&T Bank and East Hartford Jets get a night off. The South Windsor Phillies (who eliminated the Middletown Mets) will face the Rainbow Graphics at Palmer Field at 7pm tonight while the Vernon Orioles will go on to face the Record-Journal Expos (who eliminated the Bristol Greeners last night) at McKenna Field. The Orioles-Expos game being an elimination game is pretty wild, though after tonight there will only be four teams left.
The bottom bracket seems to have a lot of work cut out for whoever makes it to the finals and eventually comes back up to the top bracket. It's going to be a long process for any team, whether it's the Graphics, Expos, Orioles or even if the Jets or M&T end up down there (which after Friday one of them will) and this just really feels like one of the most competitive post seasons I've seen in a while. It really does feel like any team left could win it, as the Top 5 Teams remain and all have their fair chance at being number one.