GHTBL Playoffs: From Friday (8/11) Until The End

Each game is linked underneath it to the official box score and photos can be found in numerous albums throughout Facebook.

August 11, 2023

Rainbow Graphics and South Windsor Phillies

M&T Bank and East Hartford Jets

Friday night at Palmer Field in Middletown started off with the Rainbow Graphics and South Windsor Phillies.   The Phillies put up three runs right away in the first inning, but the Graphics answered right back with three runs of their own.   This was such an interesting night because both the Rainbow Graphics and Vernon Orioles were facing elimination and they were the teams who finished the regular season tied for first place.  This game also gave me the pleasure of one of the older gentlemen yelling at the umpires and calling them "jerkoffs".   It's the little things sometimes that pop me.

In the sixth inning, Stanley Cipkas hit a huge three-run homerun over the left field wall to put the Graphics up 6-3.   After four scoreless innings it felt like this could've sealed the fate for the South Windsor Phillies but they were not going down without a fight.   In the seventh inning, the Phillies put up five runs of their own and went up 8-6 over the Graphics.  It looked at one point like this game might stayed tied forever, then I thought the Graphics were out of reach and then it felt like the Phillies won it.

The Graphics tied it up in the seventh inning, 8-8 and I thought they were going to walk it off in that inning but we went onto the eighth inning.   The Phillies offense seemed to be shut down by the pitching of Travis Salois who would hit a two run homerun of his own in the bottom of the eighth inning, a deep shot over the right field side, and that would walk it off for the Rainbow Graphics.    The Phillies might've been eliminated in this game, but they put up a helluva fight and I think that needs to be recognized.

Following this game M&T Bank took on the East Hartford Jets.   I'm not sure why but this game, to me, felt like it was going on nearly forever.   The Jets put together a string of hits to score two runs in the first inning and that was all they really needed, though they'd score one more before the game was over.  

I'm going to say this now because I feel like it needs to be said, but when you watch the playoffs and you see all of these different teams, you realize that the only thing the umpires are consistent at is being bad.   There are times when you see a pitch just outside and it's a strike.  Then, that same pitch is thrown again and it's a ball.  It makes no sense to me but I suppose that is the error that comes with being human.

During this second game, M&T's Gunnar Johnson was hit by pitch and not only could you hear it but you could also see it.   The umpires said it didn't happen and after the inning Gunnar Johnson asked the umpire if he wanted to see the bruise on his arm.   This will become a theme among the playoffs and I just think it's a shame that not just for Gunnar Johnson and M&T Bank but for all of the teams and all of the players these terrible calls get made and then afterwards the umpire is just like "Ooopsie"  (I recall the Kyle Hartenstein grandslam at Ceppa Field, but I haven't seen that umpire since)

This game also ended with Brandon Fry yelling at the umpire and getting thrown out of the game.  Some of the Jets fans nearby were wondering why he was so upset about the calls of strikes and balls when he swung at that final strike, but it wasn't about that *one* pitch, it's just been an ongoing issue.   The only thing I can say is that it has affected both teams during games and it doesn't seem like the umpires are playing favorites but still, no one wants to strike out watching a ball roll by them in the dirt.

August 13, 2023 

Rainbow Graphics and Vernon Orioles

Saturday was a scheduled night off and then on Sunday the Rainbow Graphics took on the Vernon Orioles in a battle of the two teams who finished the regular season tied for first place.   Few teams complain or have fans that complain like the Vernon Orioles do so this was a strange game because the different fans were mixed across the spot behind home plate and at one point the Orioles fans behind me threatened to move because I yelled at the Orioles' coach.

In a game that had more than one hit by pitch, the Orioles hit Graphics' batter Stanley Cipkas.  As Cipkas was taking first base the Orioles dugout was ripe with "That didn't hit him!", and I even think their coach was the leader of saying that.  Cipkas paused and told the dugout he would show them exactly where it hit him if they'd like and they got a little quieter.

Now, here is an example as to why I don't like the Vernon Orioles fans (sorry not sorry)   Everyone wearing orange supporting the Orioles were all up in arms, convinced that Cipkas was not HBP.   The umpires had a meeting about it and ruled that he was, in fact, HBP.  As soon as the umpires said that, what do the Orioles fans behind me say?  "Oh, well he leaned into it.  I saw him lean into it".

Less than five minutes ago you swore the ball didn't hit him and now you're saying you not only saw the ball hit him but you saw him lean into it!  I'm at these playoffs to see good games and this was a good game so it's not about me taking sides or liking one team over the other.  I just think that some of these fans need to realize how ridiculous they sound when they change their stories so quickly.  

After the Orioles fans were so excited that they got one run in the first inning, the Graphics put up four runs which was in part due to a three run triple by Tyler Repoli.   Another thing I don't understand but don't care enough to understand is why once the Orioles went down 4-1 the fans were telling them every inning to "hold them"?  Hold them at what-- the lead?  That doesn't seem smart to me, but I guess you can yell out whatever you want.

And, I know I know, I don't go to a lot of sporting events and not even really anything outside of baseball much, but there are much more toxic fanbases in other sports and at other levels.   I won't name names because it's only what I've heard, but the Orioles fans are far from the most toxic fan base out there.    Even if I question their logic at times, I do enjoy their passion for their team.

August 14, 2023

Rainbow Graphics and M&T Bank

This game started with M&T Bank going up 4-1 after the first inning and it felt like it might stay that way.   M&T Bank started slowly chipping back though, with big hits by Willy Yahn, Cooper Johnson, Gunnar Johnson and Justin Miller.   When the M&T offense is on, it just feels like it can't be stopped, but the Graphics also had that way of hitting the balls to spots where the defense just wasn't.

For M&T Bank, Camden Murphy started off giving up those four runs in the first inning but then settled down and held the Graphics to just one run after that, pitching a complete game.  Murphy was even dishing strike outs by the end of the game, showing that not only can he go but he can go the distance.

I would've been happy to see either team win this game.  I like them both and they've both come so far this year as teams.   One of those tell-tale signs for me also is that I know the names of everyone on each team, which is weird to think of happening outside of the Expos.  But someone needs to get the announcer a nap because he at one point called M&T Bank first baseman Brandon Fry "Jordan Fry" and I just hope he's doing well since his Orioles were eliminated.  

August 15, 2023

M&T Bank and East Hartford Jets

This was a rematch from Friday night in the playoffs where the East Hartford Jets won and earned their spot in the finals.   The weather on Monday night felt perfect for baseball while Tuesday was rainy and it looked like the game might be rained out.   The weatherman said: "It's muggy, but it's not hot" and that was the best way to describe the weather on this day.  

The East Hartford Jets had Darrion Williams on the mound and he went the distance, giving up the five runs that gave M&T Bank the win but this was not like what we have seen from M&T Bank in this tournament up until now.  M&T Bank had been stringing hits together to score runs but four of these five runs came from two homeruns.  This was great to see during the game, but it's deep thinking about how two homeruns changed the entire fate of this game.

Shaun Callahan blasted a three run shot over the right field wall while later on in the game Gunnar Johnson hit a solo shot over the left field side.  I do believe Gunnar Johnson is the only player in the playoffs to have hit two homeruns.  

The pitching of Eric Malinowski and Zachary Zajac combined to shut out the East Hartford Jets, who were not playing like they were in the post season during this game.   The Jets relied on minimal offense during the playoffs though, scoring only nine runs over three wins, with four being the most runs they scored in one game.   To defeat M&T Bank and become champions, they will likely have to put up more than four runs.

This was also the second game in a row where towards the end of the game the announcer turned Brandon Fry into "Jordan Fry".   I think it's on purpose now.

For various reasons, I've never made it this far into the playoffs before.  I've never even been to the finals game, as I went to last night.  This is going to be my first time being in that winner takes all type of game situation and it's quite exciting.   As I sit here, typing this hours before game time, there are many factors to take into play here.

On one hand, this could seen as the true rubber match, with the Jets winning last Friday and M&T Bank getting the win last night.   The teams are 1-1 in the playoffs against each other and this is the tie-breaker, which is kind of the point of this "if necessary" game.

At the same time, we have the fact that M&T Bank have won two games in a row- both Monday and now Tuesday- while the Jets were off since last Friday.   The Jets were undefeated in the playoffs up until last night, so it's going to be interesting to see if M&T Bank can shift the tide to not only keep the momentum in their favor but to keep it against the Jets.  

August 16, 2023

M&T Bank and East Hartford Jets

This was it.  This was the final game.   This was the "if necessary" one.   The Jets finished strong under the pitching of Jim Schult and he just basically did what he does and shut down the M&T Bank offense.    I didn't really have a dog in this fight, as they say, but I'm also not jumping up and down happy that the Jets won again.    But it was a good game, it was well played and the Jets just seemed to use a smarter strategy because they were able to have Schult pitch on the days they really needed him the most.

Now here is something I feel like needs to be said, and maybe it's just me and you should ignore it, but this made me rather uncomfortable.   In the seventh inning- the last inning of the game- with the Jets up 5-1 and M&T just looking like they weren't going to come back, Julian Gonzalez hit a three run homerun to give them their final 8 runs.   Adam Dadinos was on base and came in via the homerun, but he did so in a way which he was dancing and celebrating.

This in and of itself was weird to me because it felt like the game was tied and the Jets had just walked it off.  They could've shown a little bit more restraint, but it is what it is and I know certain leagues will penalize you for "showboating", but apparently the GHTBL does not.  Look, I get it.  You're caught up in the emotions of the game and all, so you decide to moonwalk into home off of a homerun you didn't even hit.  Fine.

What really confused me and made me uncomfortable was the fact that the first base umpire was over near the dugout celebrating and high-fiving the players.  I wish I was making this up, but it's what happened.   M&T Bank's coach made mention of it to the homeplate umpire who said something like "I'm not celebrating" and he said "Yeah but look at the other umpire, look at your colleague".  

I always felt like umpires were supposed to be impartial.  And I don't think there is a way that an umpire could've fixed a game for the Jets to win.   We don't need to stretch this that far.  But while the actions of the Jets were questionable, the actions of that first base umpire were just unprofessional.    I think I would've stood up and clapped and said good game to the Jets, which it was regardless, but this just sucked the wind right out of the sails and sort of tainted the ending of this game for me.   But, there's always next year.  


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