MEN’S RECREATION LEAGUE
Maybe, it was because first-place Gasmasters and second-place Mud Dogs knew the regular season was coming to a close, and the most important games on the Wood Bat A League schedule were still to come.
Or, it could be that familiarity brings with it...Well a healthy respect with a heavy dose of barbs thrown around between the longtime rivals.
So, the fact that Gasmasters (18-1) completed a sweep of the Mud Dogs (12-7) with an 11-8 decision had little effect on the mood when the contenders for a postseason title met on Friday at East Village Park.
“We are 3-0 against them,” Gasmasters’ manager B.J. Schmitt said of his club’s 10-9, 17-10, 11-8 wins. “Unfortunately, in the playoffs they have gotten the better of us the past few years.”
The Mud Dogs’ Bobby Kealey agreed. “We haven’t beaten them yet. I’m sure we’ll meet again in the playoffs. We battled back today, but they made some great plays (on defense).”
Eric Christensen sparked Gasmasters’ offense and was a Mud Hens’ rally killer from his position in left-center field. He singled in Anthony Santacroce, who had led off the game with a double, in a three-run first. Christensen drilled a two-run home run to deep left field to make it 5-2 in the second.
Mud Hens’ Tom Behrendt, Bruce Maler and Tommy Roy came back to the bench muttering after Christensen consecutively robbed each of a base hit in the third inning with stellar plays from his position in left-center field. Christensen in turn, went into the gap to catch a drive going away from him, made a full-out dive on a sinking liner, and went to the fence to make a leaping grab.
“Why do we keep hitting it to him,” was the collective call from the bench area.
The Mud Hens scored four runs in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh. They had the tying run on first with the bases loaded when Travis Teta got the last out on a fly ball to right fielder Dan Matosian.
Matosian brought about the game’s only lingering controversary when he made a diving catch of Behrendt’s fly ball in foul territory to open the Mud Hens’ sixth. After a long debate, that didn’t slow the talk until two batters later, the umpires ruled that he had left his feet in the field of play and the out call stood.
Maler singled before Matosian’s next outstanding play was a no-doubter, as he came in quickly to take a hit away from Roy. Then a hit parade started.
Chad Cahoon singled inside the third base bag. Anthony Lazzara’s base hit loaded the bags for Ben Grace, who singled in a run. Alex Fresa had an RBI single and Mickey Moreno reloaded the bases with a hit.
Taylor King, who showed good range to make a handful of fine plays in left field, kept the inning going with an RBI single.
It was 11-6, when Santacroce, Gasmasters’ shortstop, made a fine diving stop to his left of Mike Brunswick wicked grounder and got the force out.
Behrendt, Maler and Roy had singles to open the home seventh. Cahoon’s sacrifice fly plated one run. Lazzara and Grace singled, and it was 11-8 before the last out was recorded.
Down 3-0 in the bottom of the first, Behrendt doubled, Maler singled and Roy walked. A run scored on Cahoon’s 6-4-3 double play ball to Santacroce. Lazzara followed with an RBI single.
Joe Smeraglino and Mike Benoit had back-to-back doubles to take the score to 6-2 in the Gasmasters’ third. Craig Champman singled in another, before Mud Hens’ second baseman Fresa turned a double play.
Gasmasters’ put four runs in the book in the fourth. Christensen, Joe Czarnecki (double), Benoit, Zack Vidmosko and Teta had the run-scoring hits.
“We make sure we wear the Orange and Black because we all grew up in Shelton and we want people to know,” Schmitt said. “We’re from different age groups, but still Gaels. Eight teams make the playoffs, with the top two getting a bye. It will be interesting.”
Leading Gasmasters were Mike Benoit, Brett Chapman, Craig Chapman, Eric Christensen, Joe Czarnecki, Dan Matosian, Anthony Santacroce, B.J. Schmitt, Joe Smeraglino, Travis Teta and Zack Vidmosko.
The Mud Hens were led by Robert Baker, Bruce Maler, Taylor King, Tommy Roy, Mickey Moreno, Anthony Lazzaro, Bobby Keaney, Dan Fresa, Mike Hough, Ben Grace, Chad Cahoon, Mike Brunswick and Tom Behrendt.