BY DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI Sports
(PITTSFIELD, Mass., May 30, 2011) — A pitcher’s best friend is a double play, but when the team turns one like the Rockland Boulders did at Beloved Wahconah Park (BWP) during the Memorial Day game against the Pittsfield Colonials, it’s more than friendship. It’s a blooming marriage.
The Boulders turned the DP in a most unusual way in the bottom of the 7th of an eventual 10-2 Colonials’ loss. Trailing 5-2, C’s leadoff batter Rafael Cabreja rifled a double to left center. Johnny Welch grounded to short, Cabreja staying at second. Billy Mottram then singled to right. The inning had promise written on the fat part of the label.
However, manager Jamie Keefe — living up to his base-running philosophy — played it aggressively. Boulders’ right fielder Tommy Giles fielded the ball like an infielder and threw a rocket strike to catcher Todd Jennings. The throw had Cabreja beat. The runner tried to dodge the tag then get the ball loose, but Jennings made the tag. As the throw went through to the plate, Mottram tried to take second, but the alert catcher threw him out, shortstop Bridges Hunt applying the tag. Bing, bang, boom: Just like that, promise had turned to the precipice of doom.
9-2-6 DP Seals C’s Fate
Instead of first and third with one out, the Colonials had run themselves out of an inning. Game, set, and match.
After the game, Keefe said he made the call to send Cabreja.
“Raffy had a ood jump, and I thought it was the right call. I’m sending [runners] pretty much all day. That’s the way we want to play it. Be aggressive. No question, though, it took the air out of us.”
True to his word, even down 10-2 after the five-run Boulder eighth, Keefe had runners wheeling. In the bottom of the eight and ninth, Quentin Davis and Danny Bomback took second on defensive indifference. The Planet agrees with the call. If the base is there, you take it. It sends a signal that the team never feels like it’s out of a game and that every run might count. They do.
Hodges Goes Eight in Crisp Start
Rockland starter Casey Hodges went eight dominant innings, keeping the Colonials’ hitters off balance with a mix of pitches playing off a crackling fastball. Hodges gave up a run in the first and a run in the second after the Boulders nicked C’s starter Pat Moran for a couple runs in the top of the first.
The Colonials plated their first run when Rockland third baseman Ryan Mollica failed to come up with a backhand snare of a ball hit by Angel Molina. Bomback scored from second on the error. In the bottom of the second, the Colonials tied the game at two. Johnny Welch tripled high off the Coors sign in left center and scored on Scott Knazek’s sacrifice line out to left.
After that, it was all Boulders and rocky going for Pittsfield. Moran pitched well until the sixth inning, when he gave up three runs. Keefe said Moran was tiring in the warm, full sun.
“Pat gave us a good five innings, but the heat caught up to him,” Keefe said.
In the three-run Rockland sixth, number nine hitter Dustin Smith singled, went to second on a groundout, and scored along with Mollica (single to right) on a two-out three-run home run by cleanup batter Seth Smith. That made it 5-2, and when the Colonials ran themselves out of an inning in the bottom of the seventh, the game turned.
To make the point definitive, Rockland roughed up Colonials’ reliever Yosandy Ibanez for five runs in the top of the eighth, when Ibanez failed to record an out. The Havana, Cuba native gave up a walk, two singles, a hit-by-pitch, and another single. T.J. Wink got the three outs in the eighth and finished the ninth.
Five hundred sixty two fans attended the Memorial Day game. Next game is tomorrow night at 7 at BWP between the same two teams. Starting pitchers will be Chad Paronto for the Colonials and Bobby Blevins for the Boulders.
COLONIALS MEMORIAL DAY COLOR
BY DAN VALENTI
* Regardless of where they finish in the standings, the Pittsfield Colonials will lead the league in at least two categories: food and press guides. Chef Mike Roller is handling the varied menu at BWP this year, and it ranges from fine dining in the 1791 Club to regular ballpark fare at the concessions stands. As for press guides, Colonials play-by-play man and PR director Chad Cooper has put together a handsome, spiral bound guide that gives you the low down on every man on the roster. The only other team in the league with what you could call a press guide is New Jersey. The Planet can’t judge theirs, because they had none available in the opening series at BWP.
* Nice touch when the team twice honored Memorial Day, in between innings in the fourth and seventh.
* Robert Dickerson, the home plate umpire, called a low strike throughout the game that had many of the players shaking their heads. Dickerson was on the bases yesterday, where he blew two calls. The Planet asked C’s manager Jamie Keefe about the umpiring in the series, and the skipper took the diplomatic approach, saying they’ve been “pretty good overall.” TRANSLATION: “UIh, I’d rather not comment on these two games, where the umpiring has sucked.” Keefe said he was OK with the low strike, since he wants his hitters to go up to bat swinging.
* The 562 in attendance was a disappointment. The team has to understand, though, that on Memorial Day, most people have plans for get togethers, parties, family gatherings, and the like. Nonetheless, for the product the C’s are putting out, there needs to be at least double that number on this day.
* The Colonials staff has been excellent in the early going. The team is doing a boss job of ushering the first and third base grandstands, especially keeping kids from going crazy. All of the encounters between staffers and fans witnessed by The Planet have been friendly, helpful, and with bushels of smiles.
* IN-GAME ODDITY — We love the way the catcher frames the ball on a close pitch that the umpire calls a ball. He will hold the ball in the location for a couple seconds so that the ump can evaluate his call. Both catchers did it today. When the pitch is a ball, the catcher throws the ball back. We love the body language of the pitcher, as in Pat Moran, where he snapped at the ball with his glove then held the glove at the two- o’clock position for a second or two. No words are spoken but then gestures say, “Ump, you missed the call.”
* PREDICTION — Captain Colonial will not win one race this year in the base race. Each game, the C’s staff selected a young fan to race the Captain around the bases from first to third. Folks, don’t tell anyone, but the fix is in. Every time, the kid will win and get a free T-shirt.
* HAWKING THE ROOKIE AND THE VET — The Planet covered the game from the press box. When we went up to the box after the first inning to get some game notes, Hawk Herman of the Boring Broadsheet muttered, “Valenti’s here.” Damn straight, Valenti’s here. We think Hawk is sore for the friendly barbs we’ve been tossing at the BB. It’s tough love, though, since we don’t want him to be eating Josh Cutler’s dust by the time the season is over. We are here to prevent complacency!! Actually, The Planet tips our top hat to Hawk for helping Josh with some of the ropes in the early going.
* Before the top of the fifth, the team held a one-minute silent tribute in honor of deceased veterans on Memorial Day. All the park stood up in respectful silence … all except those seated in the left pavilion of the 1791 Club. They couldn’t be bothered for some reason. What makes us think: “They be Big Shots.” Maybe, but they’re little in our book. Next time, if they don’t get off their fat asses, The Planet will personally go out there and encourage them.
* The PA announcer and scoreboard operator are still getting the hang, but there are signs of improvement. The big gaffe with the PA came in the pitching change to Colonials’ reliever Yosandy Ibanez. No announcement was ever made. That can’t happen again.
* In the interest of absolute accuracy, we correct yesterday color note on “The Matt Girl,” who yells out for Matt Nandin every time he comes to the plate. She doesn’t yell “Let’s Go Matt” but “Go Matt.” At that volume, the one syllable makes a difference. The Matt Girl has become a cool tradition at BWP.
* One of the best moves seen on the field came in the eighth inning, when a swallow dive bombed in front of the third base grandstand to swoop up a bug for a meal. Speed, precision, accuracy, and intent: It was all on display for the couple-three fans who saw this, including The Planet.
* THE PLANET LIKES: The way Jamie Keefe is open to the press, win or lose … the Cookies and Milk service to help the Jimmy Fund … Millie Persip, the ancient one, not missing a game, even in the roasting sun … The energy level of Chris “CT” Torres … the way the fans were still cheering on the team in the ninth, trailing 10-2 … Being privileged to cover baseball on a lazy afternoon
* The game began at 2:04 p.m. and ended at 4:42 p.m.
* Edmondson and Nandin each went 0-4 from the 1-2 spots. When the table setters don’t get on, runs dry up. Each is hitting an even .300. Billy Mottram, the C’s leading batter in the early going, went 1-3 to dip to .421. ANgel Molina’s 2-4 afternoon raised him to .318. Scott Knazek continues to struggle, going 0-2 to dip to .071. Danny Bomback and Quentin Davis each stole a base.
* Through five games, the Colonials are averaging 780 fans. The Can-Am League average in this first week is 1,415.