OK, It must be the HDL Play-offs because the level of everyone’s game suddenly is bumped up to Mach 3.  All year long, the five HDL teams have played their scheduled games in a mostly relaxed atmosphere. But now that the Play-off games are finally here and these games mean which teams will continue to play in the final weeks ahead, the players are playing some serious baseball. Everyone, I mean everyone, is into their game. As a participant, and an observer, I admire the competitive spirit of our magnificent group of baseball players who represent the HDL. Allow me to explain what happened today to demonstrate what I am saying here. 

Game 1:  Peterbilt Cardinals 3 – Prudential Tigers 2

The Cardinals and Tigers played each other the last game of the regular season and it was nothing like today’s game.  Bill Gill started on the mound for the Cardinals while Travis Hill toed the rubber for the Tigers. Each team chose to only bat 9 players. (Actually the Cardinals only had 9 players so they had no choice.) The Tigers had 10 players and used Ryan VanDinter for defensive fill-in.

Replay Pause for this important message…

I need to interject a special point concerning the differences between the regular season and the Play-off’s as it relates to playing time and manager descretion.

During all Playoff series, team managers are not obligated to play all of their rostered players.  For as long as I can remember, the HDL Play-off games are competitively elevated for the best possible offensive production by only batting their best 9 players.  This practice creates more at bats for a team’s more productive hitters.

None-the-less, team managers have many options to use all of their available players according to where they can help the team gain an advantage.  For instance, the better defensive player or player with best mobility may find themselves only playing defense or serving as a courtesy runner. Players who are not in the top 9 batting positions can always be used as an alternating batter in one position of the batting order, or pinch hit for a player and starting player be allowed to re-enter that same batting order position later in the game.

In 2016 the HDL has gained a large number of new players and this point should have been announced last week when pre-playoff criteria was published.  My apologies if anyone was surprised by this tactic during games played today.  If anyone has a question about this special condition, please contact a league officer or a veteran to discuss. Remember, from one week to the next, teams are likely to be juggling game line-ups based on which players can attend every game during the playoffs. So keep coming out and letting your manager know you are ready to help the team. They will appreciate your positive attitude and understanding of the team’s goals.

Back to Opening game, 

Cards, Bill Gill, got Travis Hill to ground out to first base to start the game.  Then Cesear Cabrera blooped a “texas-leaguer” into right field for 1st base-runner. But on the next pitch to the next batter, Bill Gill picked off Cesar who was thrown out 1-3-6. Carlos Cabrera made the 3rd out to end the top of the 1st.

p1010823In bottom of first inning, Lowell Hinte beat out a ground ball in the hole at shortstop.  Kevin Nilsen followed with a sharp hit ball that fooled Carlos Medina playing 2nd base for Tigers. Lowell Hint scored on a passed ball.  With no outs and Kevin Nilsen on second, Travis Hill went to work to retire Cory Morgan(K), PW (F3), and Kurt Adkison (K) to end the threat.

In top of 2nd, Bill Gill K’d Quintell Myers.  Then Ricky Duggar hit a sharp ground ball to Larry Rutledge playing 2nd for Cards.  Rutledge (literally) kicked the ball to allow Duggar to reach.  Ricky stole 2d base.  When Carlos Medina singled, Ricky did not advance.  The Tigers next batter, Jason Mayrena grounded to short.  But Ricky Duggar was thrown out 6-5 trying to advance. Gill K’d Lee Nixon to end the threat.  

In bottom of 2nd inning the Cardinals catcher, Mike Morris, lead off the inning with a solid line-drive base-hit. Andrew Waddell was safe on a hard hit ball. When a pick-off throw got past the Tigers first baseman, Kurt Adkison scored as courtesy runner for Morris and Waddell ended up on 3rd base. Bill Gill walked and with no outs, Travis Hill got Rutledge to hit a line drive back to him and Travis quickly threw behind Waddell for a pick-off double play. Lowell Hinte got his 2nd hit of game but rally ended when Kevin Nilsen popped up to Nixon.

In top of 3rd inning, the Cabrera brothers went back-to-back, Triple-Double, to drive in the Tigers first run to make the score 2-1.  Good pitching by Travis in bottom of 3rd and good defense by the Tigers kept the score 2-1.

In Top of 4th inning, Bill Gill felt a possible “groin pull” and after walking the Tigers lead-off hitter, PW had to take over for Gill on the mound. PW hit Carlos Medina to put 2 runners on and no outs.  Jason Mayrena executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to put runners at 2nd/3rd. After Lee Nixon K’d, Carlos Canelo grounded out to 1st base. Score still 2-1.

In bottom of 4th, Andrew Waddell singled, Bill Gill singled with no outs.  The Tigers put on a shift anticipating Larry Rutledge was bunting.  But when Rutledge faked a bunt and pulled the bat back and shot the ball down the 3rd baseline, the table was set for a Kevin Nilsen’s RBI single to make the score 3-1. Back-to-back K’s of Cory Morgan and PW Burnett by Travis Hill was another example of how this Tiger team was trying to keep the score tight so all they needed was one good inning to turn this game around.  Only problem was they had to go through Mr. PW Burnett to make this happen and PW was not in any mood to cooperate as long as his defense continued to make plays. 

The final inning was a “nail-biter”

With score 3-1, the first two Tiger batters in top of 7th inning went F4-Strikeout. But Carlos Canelo’s infield single started a potential game tying situation. Canelo stole 2nd base and scored on Travis Hill’s single that was helped by a back-of-the infield raised lip deflection that caused the ball to slow down as it rolled into left field.  By the time Rutledge fired the ball into 2nd base, Travis was safe.  After a passed ball, Travis advanced to third base. Now the tying run was 90 feet from home.  The next Tiger hitter was the dangerous Cesar Cabrera.  With a 2-1 count, Cesar bounced a grounder to Cory Morgan at shortstop who fired the ball to Andrew Waddell at first for a bang-bang “OUT” call by base umpire that had the Tigers scratching their head, “REALLY!”  Final score 3-2: p1010831

A really intense first game that had all players hungry for more.  More Playoff baseball.  More sports induced adrenaline.  After the game I told my teammates that I was nervous the entire game.  Many of them agreed they knew exactly what I was describing.

Individual Stats: 

Multiple Hits:  Tigers: Cesar Cabrera (2/4), Four players with one hit each.

CardsLowell Hinte, Kevin Nilsen and Mike Morris (2/4); Five players with one hit each.

Pitching:  (Tigers) Travis Hill:  7 IP, 3 Runs, 10 hits, 6 K’s, 1 BB  (Cards) Bill Gill: 3 IP, 1 R, 4 Hits, 2 K’s, 1 BB; PW Burnett: 4 IP, 2 Hits, 5 K’s, 0 BB.

NOTE:  Recap of game between Lost Pizza Orioles and V-Brothers A’s will be posted separately.

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