By Joshua Macala
raised || by || cassettes
Baseball is such a wild game. After watching a GHTBL game on Wednesday in the rain, then being rained out on Thursdaynwith the sun shining, I thought for sure this would be the game without rain. A big, dark cloud came over Ceppa Field but it didn’t threaten any rain at first. Part way through the game, that same cloud opened up and the rain went from a drizzle to near downpour. Yes, for the second time in week I was caught in the rain watching a baseball game.
The Record-Journal Expos and East Hartford Jets both came into this game undefeated. The Jets had played one more game than the Expos, so the Jets were 3-0 while the Expos were 2-0. What’s notable about their records? Well, had the game not been postponed due to weather the night before, the Expos may have beaten the Bristol Greeners, so both teams could have gone into this game at 3-0. But this rain really has been something else this week and it amazes me that the baseball continues during the deluge.
In the top of the first inning, Jets shortstop Jeff Criscuolo made it to third base but after two strikeouts from Expos ace pitcher Justin Marks the inning would come to an end without any runs. The bottom of the first inning was a different story entirely for the Expos. Kyle Hartenstein was walked onto first base. Jason Sullivan hit a huge double to put the runners onto second and third. And then AJ Hendrickson came up to the plate and smashed a three run homerun.
Knowing where that ball went over the fence near left field, I was looking for it near the road but couldn’t find it. Someone was sitting on the road in their car and there was another random person just walking by. I assumed at that point perhaps someone had just been like “Oh! A baseball!” and picked it up. But I followed what I felt like was the flight path and sure enough I found the home run ball that Hendrickson smashed. It was across the street and in the yard of the house there.
The rest of this game was a stalemate. Jets pitcher Cole Lalli seemed to have two modes: either throwing all strikes and thus a strikeout occurred or throwing all balls and thus, a walk. It was either hard down the middle or it was bouncing in front of the plate. Both teams played a tight defense leading up until the final portion of the game. The top of the third saw two great catches by Will Kszywanos and Justin Marks, while runners got on base for both teams but were unable to score. Marks stuck out the side in the fourth inning – and into the fifth, two more strikeouts probably made him the player of this game.
The Expos scored another run in the bottom of the fifth making it 4-0 (they ended up needing that insurance run). The Jets then plated a runner in the top of the sixth as Charlie Hesseltine would come in to pitch. As the game headed into the bottom of the sixth, the rain picked up. The rain started off where you just felt some droplets and it wasn’t too big of a deal, but it quickly grew consistent. If you were in it for a minute or so you’d be soaked. Nearly everyone in the stands took cover where they could and somehow the game persisted. I’m always worried about the ball being able to be gripped in the rain, but the Expos and Jets played on.
At one point, one of the Jets lost control and their bat went flying because it was wet. This felt like one of those signs that playing in the rain was a tad dangerous but no one was stopping the game. The umpires were getting as soaked as the players! In the bottom of the sixth it felt as if the inning was cut short and I felt like the game was either going into a rain delay or being called early but apparently there were three outs. The Jets put up a run in the top of the sixth and had the momentum they to have a chance at winning.
In the last inning, with the score at 4-1 in favor of the Expos, Charlie Hesseltine had a hard time controlling his fastball. At one point, the ball even got away from catcher AJ Hendrickson. It was a bit of a mess and back-to-back doubles scored two more runs, putting the game at 4-3 and the Expos still leading. The last out came as a strikeout and it sealed the fate for the Jets, who were quite amused in the dugout with the way this game was going. While the rain was also making it darker and hard to see, it was making it just so difficult to control the ball and I think that was really the story of the end of the game here.
Now let’s be realistic. The Expos were at home. If the Jets managed to either tie this game or go ahead, then the Expos would still have their final at bats and the Jets would have been the one’s pitching in the rain. It seemed like it was a lot easier to hit the ball while the rain was coming down than it was to control a fastball. The rain actually started to let up a little bit before the game ended, but it certainly did feel like a factor in the end of this game. A 3-0 game turned into a 4-3 final after the rain and it made for an exciting ending.
With the Orioles taking a 1-0 loss to the Jets, this game was actually a battle between the last two undefeated teams in the GHTBL. By winning this game, the Expos now are solely in first place and the only team yet to face defeat.
In the week ahead they’re looking at two opponents they’ve already beaten, the Wallingford Cardinals, in Wallingford on Wednesday night and the South Windsor Phillies will come back to Ceppa Field on Friday, June 10th. However, before all of that the Rainbow Graphics come to Ceppa Field for the next Expos game on June 7th, which could be interesting because the Graphics have a history of being a tough opponent for the Expos. Rainbow Graphics are also 3-1 on the year so it should be a good game to watch.