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Single-A Baseball: Yankees win 2nd straight over Tigers

By Staff reports

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Jul 29, 2010 @ 11:21 PM

The Staten Island Yankees have put the brakes on the Connecticut Tigers’ three-game winning streak, beating the visitors, 6-3, on Thursday in Staten Island, N.Y., a day after winning a one-run game.

The Yankees’ (20-16) starting pitching dominated for the second straight game as Nik Turley didn’t allow a run for the first five innings until the Tigers (20-18) finally got to him in the sixth, scoring three runs.

Meanwhile, the hosts scored two runs in the second and one each in the third and fourth off of starter Clemente Mendoza (2-4) to hold an early 4-0 lead. One of Connecticut’s three errors allowed a run in the second and Luis Parache’s solo home run in the fourth added to Staten Island’s lead.

The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning marked by John Ashenbrenner’s RBI single, an RBI groundout by James Robbins and a throwing error to third base that scored Ryan Enos.

But the Yankees countered in the bottom half as Casey Stevenson’s two-run double widened the gap. Chase Whitley struck out two in the ninth to earn his 10th save of the season.

The Tigers and Yankees finish their three-game series tonight a 7 p.m., with Patrick Lawson (0-0, 3.22 ERA) for Connecticut going against Mike Gipson (2-0, 3.38).

Single-A Baseball: Yankees win 2nd straight over Tigers - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Single-A Baseball: Extra-base hits help Tigers capture win over Yankees

By Staff reports

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Jul 30, 2010 @ 11:04 PM

The Connecticut Tigers salvaged one game of a three-game set in Staten Island, N.Y. with a 7-1 win over the Yankees before a crowd of 7,171 Friday.

Extra-base hits were the key for the Tigers (21-18) as they had four of them including a pair of home runs.

Connecticut started the scoring early as it picked up two runs in the top of the first inning off State Island starter Mike Gipson (2-1).

P.J. Polk — who had two hits in five trips to raise his average to .295 — reached on an error and later scored on James Robbins first RBI of the game. Robbins moved to second on the second error in the inning for Staten Island, which committed three in the game, and scored when Gipson uncorked a wild pitch.

Staten Island (20-17) halved the lead with a run in the bottom of the first, but Eric Roof got that back in the top of the second with his second home run of the season.

Connecticut essentially put it away in the fifth inning when it added three more runs. Polk slapped a ball to left field that was good for his seventh double of the season. He didn’t wait on base long as Ryan Enos followed with his third triple of the season and Robbins went one step further, hitting his second home run of the season.

Connecticut added one more run in the seventh when Robbins (2-4, 3 RBIs) was hit by a pitch and later scored on a Matt Perry RBI single.

The Tigers return home tonight for a doubleheader against Tri-City beginning at 5:05 p.m. at Dodd Stadium

Single-A Baseball: Extra-base hits help Tigers capture win over Yankees - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers split doubleheader, but they're ready to settle in at home

By MARC ALLARD

mallard@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Jul 31, 2010 @ 10:18 PM

NORWICH — The schedule makers haven’t done a ton of favors for the Connecticut Tigers this season, but August is something they can look forward to.

The Tigers will play 20 of their 30 scheduled games in August at home, including 23 of their last 35 overall.

“The more the merrier,” Connecticut manager Howard Bushong said of the upcoming home schedule. “I like to be here as much as we can because we play pretty well here.”

Indeed they do, most of the time.

The Tigers split a doubleheader with the Tri-City Valley Cats on Saturday, winning the opener, 2-1, but falling in the nightcap, 3-1, in front of 1,620 fans. The split means the Tigers have now won 12 of 17 games played at Dodd Stadium this season.

“The kids like it here and I love it here,” Bushong said. “Maybe we can make up some ground.”

The mixed result still helped the Tigers (22-19) in the New York-Penn. League standings courtesy of a Vermont loss to Lowell. The Tigers are now just two games back of the Lake Monsters.

“It’s a huge advantage,” Connecticut first baseman James Robbins said in reference to the upcoming schedule. “We’ve been on the road the whole last month. It’s going to be nice to be in one spot after traveling all the time, maybe we’ll catch up on some rest.”

Bushong played the role of gambler in the opener where his team had to make the most of its four hits against Valley Cat pitchers Carlos Quevedo (3-2) and Adam Champion.

Down, 1-0, Julio Rodriguez — who had two hits, half the Tigers’ total — singled sharply up the middle to lead off the fifth inning. Les Smith followed with a line drive that dove under the glove of second baseman Kike Hernandez and into right field, which moved Rodriguez to third. Smith moved up to second base when the throw went into third base.

Shortstop Brett Anderson saw six pitches before lofting a fly ball to left field so that allowed Rodriguez to tag up and tie the game.

Chao Ting Tang followed with a short fly ball down the left field line that outfielder Wilton Infante snared about 15 feet from the infield dirt.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we had a shot,” Bushong said, “but I also saw how we had been swinging the bat, so we gambled.”

It paid off.

Smith tagged and sprinted for home and Infante uncorked a throw that would have found the stands on the first base side near the Tigers dugout had the netting not been there.

Connecticut starter Rayni Guichardo (3-2, 4.15 ERA) did the rest as the left-hander went six innings, giving up just six hits and one run.

“Guichardo was outstanding, I couldn’t have been more pleased with him,” Bushong said. “He worked ahead most of the time.”

The one inning in which he didn’t, Guichardo paid the price.

The Connecticut pitcher walked the lead-off man in the fifth inning, Adam Bailey, but he was picked off first and Infante flew out. Ben Orloff drew a two-out walk off Guichardo and Hernandez doubled down the left-field line to account for the Valley Cats’ (18-23) only run. Tyler White finished up in the seventh inning to record his second save of the season.

Second game

The Tigers’ bats were quiet in the opener and they didn’t get any louder in the second game.

Connecticut mustered just five hits and could only put two of them together. Ryan Enos, who had two hits in two at-bats, singled to open the fourth and scored when Robbins took a David Martinez (3-2) pitch to the opposite field, left-center, for an RBI double.

“I don’t know what it was, they mixed it up pretty well and there are times when we swing at bad pitches, they kept us off-balance,” Robbins said of the meek offensive output.

The Valley Cats got all the runs they needed in the second inning off Connecticut starter Miguel Mejia (2-1) who was making his first start of the season.

Daniel Adamson singled, but a groundout and a fielder’s choice left Tri-City with Bailey at first with two outs. Shortstop Jacke Healey took Mejia’s first offering, a fastball, deep to left field for a two-run homer, his third of the season. The Valley Cats added an insurance run in the fifth inning when Orloff singled, stole second, went to third on an error and scored on a groundout by Hernandez.

The two conclude their brief two-day series today at 1:05 p.m., at Dodd Stadium. Righty Josue Carreno (2-4) will go for the Tigers against right-hander Bobby Doran (1-3) and the Valley Cats.

Tigers split doubleheader, but they're ready to settle in at home - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers' Carreno shuts down ValleyCats in win

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 01, 2010 @ 11:00 PM

NORWICH — Josue Carreno is like most teenagers. He enjoys relaxing, going to the beach and fishing.

But lately, the right-hander from Porlamar, Venezuela, is pitching much better than his age would suggest.

Carreno, who turned 19 in late June, allowed one run on three hits and two walks over six innings to pace Connecticut over Tri-City, 3-1, on Sunday at Dodd Stadium. The game lasted an economical two hours, one minute.

In his first year playing in the States, Carreno is maturing rapidly. His first two seasons in professional baseball — both with Detroit’s Venezuelan League team — were successes. Carreno posted sub-3.00 ERAs in both campaigns and improved his strikeouts per inning ratio. This season, he’s nearly at a 1-for-1 clip, just part of the reason the Tigers organization is excited about the future of this promising prospect.

“His stuff is good,” Connecticut manager Howard Bushong said. “He’s starting to pitch a little better, he’s starting to locate a little bit better. He’s just growing up, that’s all it is. This guy’s got a chance to be pretty good, I think.”

Bushong said the Detroit organization is “accelerating” Carreno, whom improved to 3-4 with a 4.37 ERA.

Armed with a two-seam fastball, curveball and changeup, Carreno has been in high gear as of late. In his start prior to Sunday, he blanked Lowell for five innings, giving up two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. Getting his curve in the strikezone becomes an effective out pitch because batters will chase it.

Speaking through teammate Clemente Mendoza, Carreno credits improved focus, working on pounding the zone to create contact and throwing strikes as keys to his improvement. Even with the language barrier, Carreno finds his American journey exciting.

“It’s nothing,” Carreno said. “It’s the same — I just play baseball.”

He still gets himself into deep counts, something the Tigers want to see change. Of the 23 ValleyCats batters he faced, seven saw at-bats of five or more pitches. Nearly as many, six, saw two or fewer pitches.

Connecticut (23-19) gave Carreno all the support he would need in the first inning. P.J. Polk (two hits, one run, RBI) reached on an infield single to open the inning. With a straight steal on, Ryan Enos poked the ball through the hole between first and second, advancing Polk to third. A passed ball moved up Enos and Alexander Nunez’s grounder to second scored Polk. Josh Ashenbrenner followed with an RBI single to center.

The Tigers added an insurance run in the seventh. Ryan Soares reached on a throwing error at shortstop, stole second and came home on Polk’s two-out line drive to left.

“He did a great job,” Polk said. “He was very aggressive, came at his hitters. He didn’t get behind much and basically blew them away with his stuff. He did a great job.”

Tim Mowry, who was promoted from the Gulf Coast League Tigers, pitched two scoreless innings and Logan Hoch earned the save.

The lone run scored against Carreno came in the second inning. A leadoff ground-rule double, which got stuck in the right field bullpen followed by a two-out single, was all that Tri-City could muster.

Earlier in the season, a shaky inning would have led to a multi-run implosion. But the maturation process has taught Carreno a lesson in poise that will serve him well as he progresses in his career.

“I think this guy is going to go as far as whatever he wants to do in baseball,” Bushong said. “I think he has a chance, I really do. He has good size (6-foot-1, 212 pounds), he’s a hard worker — he’s a great kid. I’m really proud of him.”

Tigers' Carreno shuts down ValleyCats in win - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Spinners brush back punchless Tigers

By TIM EHRENS

tehrens@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 02, 2010 @ 10:58 PM

NORWICH — There was plenty of tough luck to go around at Dodd Stadium on Monday.

Two hits weren’t going to get the Connecticut Tigers anywhere, not even against the worst team in the New York-Penn. League, the Lowell Spinners.

But that’s exactly what the Tigers put up. It spoiled an otherwise quality start from Brennan Smith, who took his third loss of the season in the Tigers’ 6-1 setback to the Spinners. Connecticut (23-20) had just one hit through the first eight innings before finally scoring in the ninth when the outcome of the game was all but sealed.

“We’re not swinging at good pitches right now,” said Connecticut manager Howard Bushong. “We’ve got to hit the ball in the zone and do a better job at it.”

For the first five innings, the game was setting up as a pitcher’s duel between Smith and Miguel Celestino, the Lowell pitcher who came in with an ERA just 0.19 points below Smith’s at 2.57.

That all came apart in the sixth when Lowell (11-33) scored three runs and broke the game open on a play in center field that was mere inches away from being just another out.

Jose Iglesias launched a hit to shallow center field and the Tigers’ P.J. Polk charged, stretching out to make the diving catch. He missed and the ball jetted to the back wall, allowing the two runners on base to come home and Iglesias to reach on a triple.

“He (Iglesias) hit it very well,” Polk said about the game-changing play. “I thought I had a beat on it, and I just didn’t get there. I was trying to be aggressive. It was very close. I thought I had it all the way.”

The frustration didn’t end there. With one out, Miles Head hit an RBI double that plated Iglesias, and Smith hit his second batter of the game before settling down and retiring the next two batters to get out of the inning.

It was just one of those days for Smith, who was coming off his best outing of the season, an eight-inning, complete-game effort against Tri-City on July 28. Like Monday, he suffered the hard loss.

“I just missed my spots and we got behind in (the sixth inning). They just got a rally going,” Smith said. “You don’t let it bother you, I guess. You just keep pitching, and hopefully, (your team will) score runs. We’ve been playing good defense so, hopefully, they keep making good plays behind me. The hits will start coming.”

The Tigers tried to play small ball in the fourth inning, getting the leadoff man, Polk, on with a walk. He stole second base and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt. But a strikeout and a lineout ended the inning before Polk could come home.

“There’s nothing to do when you’re down,” Bushong said. “First of all, we didn’t have baserunners. Without baserunners, you can’t do much. I think we were one over the limit going into the ninth.”

Celestino continued to dominate the Tigers, surrendering only one hit — a Matt Perry single in the fifth — in his six innings of work to get his first win of the season. Perry was subsequently caught stealing to end the inning as Connecticut had a total of five baserunners in the game.

“I think we just need to work on better pitch selection,” Polk said. “Sometimes we get pitches that we can’t actually drive, so I think we just have to learn from this game and the past couple of games where we haven’t been scoring much. We’ll be fine.”

Lowell extended its lead in the eighth, scoring three more runs on four singles and a double, all given up by reliever Sean Finefrock. Seth Schwindenhammer, David Renfroe and Joantoni Garcia each had an RBI in the inning.

Connecticut scored its lone run in the ninth off of a Ryan Enos RBI single that plated Ryan Soares, who reached on a fielding error at first base.

The teams play again at 7 p.m., today at Dodd Stadium.

Spinners brush back punchless Tigers - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers still can’t wake up bats in loss to Spinners

By MARC ALLARD

mallard@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 03, 2010 @ 11:07 PM

NORWICH — Have they hit the wall?

Following a two-hit performance Monday, the Tigers mustered just three Tuesday, and Lowell swept their two-game set with a 1-0 win over the Tigers before 1,152 at Dodd Stadium.

“Our kids work at it, but, dang, there has to be some aggression in there,” Connecticut manager Howard Bushong said. “We’re just so passive here lately, and I haven’t seen that out of them.”

The Connecticut Tigers are a young club, many players are in their first year of professional ball and coming off their collegiate seasons to boot. In addition, they’ve only had a couple of days off since the season started in June. It’s a recipe for tired ballplayers with lifeless bats.

“I don’t think anybody’s not tired with any team,” Connecticut third baseman Josh Ashenbrenner said. “I would say it’s a funk. Everybody just needs to relax and play baseball like they know how.”

It’s a funk Bushong said he’s confident the team “will break out of at some point.” Obviously, Bushong is hoping “some point” comes pretty quickly.

There were only two highlights for the Tigers on Tuesday: Clemente Mendoza’s pitching and Ashenbrenner’s defense.

Mendoza (2-5) came in with an earned run average of 6.59 (now down to 5.84), which is largely deceiving because he gave up nine runs in an inning and a third in his third start of the season. Since then, Mendoza has been effective — he allowed just three hits in seven innings Tuesday.

“He always goes out there and gives us a quality start every outing. The thing that worked for him (Tuesday) was his changeup,” catcher Eric Roof said. “He loves going to it, and I noticed before the game that it was really working, so we went to it a lot.”

The right-hander made just one pitch he would like back, a 1-1 mistake to Lowell left-fielder Brandon Jacobs in the second inning.

“He left the ball up a little bit,” Roof said.

Jacobs hooked it over the left-field foul pole for his third home run of the season and the only run of the game.

“(Mendoza’s) pitching very well for us right now, gets us deep in the game, gives us a chance to win. Sometimes you have to do something for him,” Bushong said.

Ashenbrenner made two sparkling plays early in the game.

First, he snagged a ground ball well behind the third-base bag with his back toward first. He quickly turned and fired a strike across the diamond to nail Bryce Brentz at first base to end the first inning.

“I backhanded it and just kind of threw it and looked later,” Ashenbrenner said with a smile. “I surprised myself almost.”

He followed that up with another fine defensive stop to open the second when he dived to catch a ground ball by Miles Head that appeared to have left field written all over it, got up and threw out the Lowell first baseman. Head slapped a similar ball Monday that Ashenbrenner also dove to his knees for, and managed to throw out the Lowell first baseman.

“I talked to him about it, he’s a little bitter. He accused me of robbing him twice — it’s funny,” Ashenbrenner said.

What’s not funny was the offense. The Tigers didn’t have a hit until the fifth when Roof had a one-out single to right off Lowell winning pitcher Keith Couch (1-3). Ashenbrenner added a two-out single in the seventh inning and Chao-Ting Tang had a base hit with two out in the eighth.

“I don’t think we’re hitting the wall,” Roof said. “We’re allowed in this league to have 30 guys on the roster, so you have a lot of guys on the bench and a lot of guys in the bullpen. We have a lot of fresh guys. I think it’s just a funk, sometimes you can’t explain it. (Today) we could come out here and get 10 hits — hitting’s contagious.”

Notes

The Tigers were down to 12 pitchers on the roster Tuesday after left-hander Antonio Cruz was sent up to Low-A Western Michigan. Cruz pitched in nine games for the Tigers and was 0-1 with a 2.08 earned run average. In 13 innings of work, Cruz allowed just 10 hits and struck out 12 with six walks.

Tigers still can’t wake up bats in loss to Spinners - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers sweep doubleheader from Renegades

By JOE PEREZ

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Aug 04, 2010 @ 10:24 PM

NORWICH — Miguel Mejia went five innings, allowing one run, to help Connecticut take both games of a doubleheader with Hudson Valley in a 2-1 win Wednesday night at Dodd Stadium.

Mejia's outing was significant because the Tigers managed just two hits. They took advantage of four Renegades errors.

Connecticut won the opener by an identical 2-1 score.

Tigers sweep doubleheader from Renegades - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers top Hudson Valley, take over division lead

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 05, 2010 @ 11:06 PM

NORWICH — Posted on the clubhouse wall at Dodd Stadium is a list of approved bat manufacturers. So when the umpires took Connecticut shortstop Ryan Soares’ bat following an eighth-inning single because it was produced by a company not on Major League Baseball’s list of valid bat makers, it added on to what was already a difficult inning for Soares.

Minutes earlier, it was his throwing error on a routine play in the top half of the frame that allowed Hudson Valley to tie the game at 2.

Fortunately for Soares, his teammates were there to pick him up. The Tigers beat the Renegades, 3-2, Thursday night at Dodd Stadium and in the process moved into sole possession of first place in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division. Vermont, which lost to Auburn, 7-4, fell a half game behind Connecticut.

Connecticut (26-21) goes for the sweep of Hudson Valley tonight at 7 p.m.

After a four-minute delay while the umpires checked out the bat, Londell Taylor smoked a two-out double to left-centerfield. P.J. Polk (3-for-5) then doubled down the left-field line to put Connecticut up for good.

The Tigers looked like they were going to win in the seventh when second baseman Alexander Nunez’s defense set up his bat for what proved to be a short-lived lead.

It was a moment made for ESPN’s SportsCenter, that is if there were television cameras present. But it was highlight reel-worthy nonetheless.

Deadlocked in a 1-1 tie and with Hudson Valley having loaded the bases, Nunez made a diving stop to his left to get the final out of the fifth inning at first to preserve the tie. What he did next broke it.

His two-out RBI triple scored Polk, who singled and reached second on a fielding error by Dio Luis.

Much like many of his teammates, Nunez had been struggling offensively as of late. In his previous nine games, the 21-year-old had just three hits, walked once and struck out nine times.

Hudson Valley struck first, capitalizing on two errors by Connecticut. Elias Otero’s grounder was poorly thrown by Josh Ashenbrenner at third. While standing on first, pitcher Rayni Guichardo’s pick-off attempt went wide and allowed Otero to advance two bases.

Guichardo was in position to escape the inning unscathed, but Alejandro Torres’ bloop single to left drove in the run.

Guichardo struggled keeping the Renegades off the bases throughout his five innings of work. Only in the first did no one reach. But after stranding a runner in the second, he walked off the mound in the third and fifth innings with the bases loaded and with two on the bags in the fourth.

The Tigers tied the score in the fourth.

Nunez singled and stole second. James Robbins walked and Ashenbrenner was hit by a pitch. Brett Anderson then hit a sac fly to center, scoring Nunez.

Tigers top Hudson Valley, take over division lead - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Hudson Valley crushes Connecticut, 12-0

By MARC ALLARD

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Aug 06, 2010 @ 09:52 PM

Norwich, Conn. — Hudson Valley handed Connecticut its worst loss of the season, 12-0, Friday night before 2,125 fans at Dodd Stadium. Elias Otero had four hits including a pair of doubles and a triple and knocked in two runs to lead the Renegades to the win. Connecticut (26-22) had just two hits in the game, a single by Alexander Nunez in the fourth inning and a triple by P.J. Polk in the ninth.

Hudson Valley crushes Connecticut, 12-0 - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Single-A Baseball: Tigers drop league leaders

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 08, 2010 @ 11:24 PM

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Connecticut struck for four runs in the third inning Sunday, giving starting pitcher Clemente Mendoza all the run support he would need in the Tigers’ 6-3 win over Brooklyn.

A couple of recently named New York-Penn League All-Stars served as catalysts. Catcher Julio Rodriguez (3-for-5) hit a two-run homer and Ryan Enos stole home in the third inning.

After P.J. Polk reached on an error, Ryan Enos’ single moved Polk to third. James Robbins’ one-out single drove in Polk and moved Enos to third.

With Josh Ashenbrenner at the plate, Enos and Robbins execute a double steal, with Enos scoring on his swipe of home.

After Ashenbrenner grounded out, Rodriguez’s bomb to left capped the scoring.

Mendoza (3-5) went six innings, allowing two runs on six hits and a walk. Logan Hoch earned his fourth save with one run over three innings.

Connecticut plays the rubber match against the Cyclones, the league’s best team, at noon, today.

Single-A Baseball: Tigers drop league leaders - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Single-A Baseball: Tigers end series with loss

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 09, 2010 @ 11:14 PM

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Ryan Enos and Josh Ashenbrenner each scored a run as the Connecticut Tigers ended their series against the Brooklyn Cyclones with a 5-2 loss Monday afternoon in front of a crowd of 7,346.

The Cyclones scored first in the third inning against Connecticut starter Patrick Lawson. Justin Schaeffer and J.B. Brown each hit RBI singles to drive in Will Cherry and Cody Holliday. Brooklyn added another run in the fifth.

Connecticut (27-24) responded late, getting its first run in the sixth inning. Enos doubled and reached third base on a passed ball before Alexander Nunez’s sacrifice fly to left field scored Enos to make the score 3-1. Brooklyn (35-16) came back with two runs in the bottom half of the frame.

The Tigers attempted a comeback in the ninth, when Ashenbrenner led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on Julio Rodriguez’s groundout. Ryan Soares reached on an error and Ashenbrenner scored.

Lawson (2-1) threw five innings, allowing four runs on six hits, and took the loss.

With the loss, the Tigers fell a full game behind leader Vermont, whose game scheduled for Monday was cancelled, in the Stedler Division standings. The Cyclones continue to lead the New York-Penn League from their perch atop the McNamara Division.

The Tigers head to Jamestown, N.Y., to open up a three-game series with the Jammers at 7:05 p.m., today (radio: WICH 1310 AM).

Rayni Guichardo (3-2, 3.63 ERA) takes the mound for Connecticut against Jamestown’s Rhett Varner. The Tigers return to Dodd Stadium against Auburn at 7:05 p.m., Friday.

Single-A Baseball: Tigers end series with loss - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Single-A Baseball: English lessons help Tigers perform on and off field

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John Shishmanian/Norwich Bulletin Jackie Shutsky, left, an English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher, instructs Connecticut Tigers Alexander Nunez, center, and Julio Rodriguez on Aug. 5 at Dodd Stadium. Many Tigers are from Spanish-speaking and other foreign countries and the Detroit organization provides classes to teach them English.

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 10, 2010 @ 11:06 PM

NORWICH — High above the field at Dodd Stadium, Clemente Mendoza has an odd vantage point of the field he calls home.

On this day, Mendoza isn’t taking the field as a starting pitcher for the Connecticut Tigers. Instead, he’s learning how to view baseball — and life — differently by learning English.

The Venezuelan is one of six Tigers participating in the team’s English for Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL, class. The classes are conducted in association with the Norwich Department of Education.

With baseball featuring many players new to the United States, the Detroit Tigers are one of the franchises providing their players with an education in English.

Much like he would on the mound in his starts, Mendoza takes charge in the classroom.

Outgoing, friendly and further along in his understanding of English, Mendoza encourages his teammates in a situation that can be frightening for some.

“When you’re Latin, you don’t know English, so you’re afraid to speak to somebody,” Mendoza said. “You don’t like to make mistakes and that’s the reason people don’t learn English fast, because they’re afraid to make mistakes.”

Of those in the class, which meets as often as the schedule allows, three are from the Dominican Republic (Rayni Guichardo, Julio Rodriguez and Alexander Nunez), two are from Venezuela (Mendoza and Josue Carreno) and one is from Taiwan (Chao-Ting Tang).

Back to class

The players receive roughly 20 classes per season, as mandated by Connecticut’s Major League affiliate in Detroit. Throughout Detroit’s farm system, only the Double-A and Triple-A affiliates do not have ESOL classes, but that is predicated on the needs of those teams.

Taught by Jackie Shutsky, an adult education teacher with the city, the Tigers’ class structure encourages confidence and interaction with the players still developing language skills.

There are textbooks, homework assignments and computer programs to assist in studying, as well as real-life situations in which the players can test their knowledge.

Because most of the players in the class haven’t been in a classroom setting in usually a few years before turning pro, class management is sometimes the biggest challenge. But so is the players’ tendency to speak their native language.

“That is difficult, they really fall back on it when they don’t understand something or when they’re asking each other something,” Shutsky said. “And it’s hard because they are a team and they’re so ingrained. It’s that piece (that) is so different than the classroom. In the classroom I can say, ‘No Spanish, only English.’ Here, they are such a team.”

Detroit Tigers International Player Programs Coordinator Sharon Lockwood oversees the classes throughout Detroit’s organization. She spent the previous decade in a similar capacity with the Cleveland Indians.

She mentions current big leaguers such as Victor Martinez, Fausto Carmona, Ramon Santiago and Jhonny Peralta as just a few who have benefited from these classes.

Star student

But it is Mendoza who she raves about.

“He just loves American things — the music, he loves shopping, communicating; he’s a communicator,” she said. “With guys like that, they’re naturally going to try to make that step.”

A year ago, Mendoza was hesitant to participate in English interviews, often asking for help. Now it is he who helps.

When Carreno speaks to the press, he seeks out Mendoza for assistance.

He knows how difficult it can be to work on baseball and English. The key, Mendoza said, is practice.

“You have to try to speak with coaches and teammates, so you have to practice your English every day,” said Mendoza, who added that verbs and pronunciation are his biggest hurdles.

In a recent class at the Yard Bar and Grill on the second floor of the stadium, the players sit around a table, discussing their homework assignment before moving on to the next lesson.

On this occasion, the Tigers were participating in role playing. Each took joy in watching the others perform their scripted parts.

The friendly ribbing between players helps them get added practice in the new language.

For this close-knit group, any reason is a good reason to tease — in English.

Necessary skill

For Rodriguez, who recently turned 21, the classes have heightened significance.

As a catcher, Rodriguez needs to be able to convey thoughts to his coaching staff as well as that night’s pitcher.

There’s no guarantee any of those people speak Spanish, so if Rodriguez, who was recently named a New York-Penn League All-Star, wants to continue to progress, he must learn English.

He is in his second year of classes and said it has become easier.

“It’s nice to communicate with the pitcher and manager,” Rodriguez said. “So if the manager goes to the mound, the pitcher is Latin and knows no English, I translate for the pitcher.”

Rodriguez uses phone conversations and chatting with friends via the Internet to improve his English.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” Connecticut manager Howard Bushing said. “Last year, when we had Rodriguez, he could hardly speak any English. And he’s put the effort in between last year and this year. He’s doing great, he’s communicating well.”

Character-driven

A player’s ability to thrive while learning a difficult language, Lockwood said, has a lot to do with their character. The more outgoing and motivated a person is, the more likely they are to succeed in grasping English. The frequency in which a player has to speak English can also determine success.

Norwich Board of Education Chairperson Charlie Jaskiewicz, who attended the class, said it takes three years to learn conversational English and five for scholarly English.

As a player’s career progress, the classes aren’t tailored to what level in the minors he is at, but the individual level at which he understands English.

Beginning this season, Detroit has implemented Comprehensive Adult Student Assignment Systems testing, or CASAS, to accurately measure listening and reading comprehension.

It isn’t the only means by which Lockwood determines what level to place each player, but it provides her a guide.

As it turned out, the curriculum she chose for the Tigers is the same one used by the city.

It’s not uncommon for players to not want to attend class, but as Lockwood points out, once they get into the swing of things they see the benefits.

“I don’t know of any of them who want to go to class,” she said. “Well, there may be a couple of them who secretly want to go to class, but they wouldn’t dare admit it to their teammates. … I find that as classes go on, they are into it and the light is going on, and they’re asking questions.”

Only now they can ask in two languages instead of one.

Single-A Baseball: English lessons help Tigers perform on and off field - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers edged on run in 7th

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 10, 2010 @ 10:41 PM

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — Connecticut reliever Miguel Mejia looked like he was going to escape a dangerous situation in the bottom of the seventh inning.

It never happened as the Jamestown Jammers handed the Tigers their second consecutive loss, 5-4, on Tuesday night before 2,083 at Diehtrick Park.

With the score tied at four, Mejia walked Brent Keys to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning, and Daniel Black followed with a single to left to put runners on first and second.

But Connecticut’s All-Star catcher, Julio Rodriguez, caught Keys attempting to steal third. Black advanced to second on the play, and Mejia got back into trouble when Todd Muecklisch reached base on another walk. Ryan Fisher — who finished with four of the Jammers’ five RBIs — followed with a ground-rule double, his 17th two-bagger of the season, to knock in what proved to be the game-winning run.

The Tigers (27-25) had taken an early lead against Jamestown when Ryan Enos and Chao-Ting Tang singled to lead off the game. Alexander Nunez laid down a sacrifice bunt to move up both runners, and Josh Ashenbrenner drove in Enos with a groundout. Rodriguez followed with another ground ball to knock in Tang.

Jamestown responded with four runs in the fifth inning, three of those coming off the bat of Fisher on his eighth triple of the season.

The Tigers chipped away with one run in the sixth and seventh innings. Nunez came home on an error in the sixth inning, and Londell Taylor and Nunez executed a double steal with Taylor stealing home on the play.

Connecticut plays Jamestown at 7:05 p.m., tonight.

Tigers edged on run in 7th - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers rap out 10 hits to end mini-skid

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 11, 2010 @ 10:57 PM

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — A late drive further cemented the Connecticut Tigers’ lead over Jamestown on Wednesday, propelling them to an 8-3 win over the Jammers and ending a two-game slide.

Londell Taylor smacked a two-run, sixth-inning home run, and P.J. Polk and Chao-Ting Tang each scored twice for Connecticut. The Tigers collected 10 hits, including triples from Tang and Alexander Nunez, and doubles from Polk and Josh Ashenbrenner.

The Tigers (28-25) wasted no time as Polk (2-for-5) hit his double in the first inning and groundouts from Ryan Enos and Nunez brought him home for the game’s first run.

Connecticut added another run when Polk singled and stole second before Nunez’s RBIs single drove him in.

The Jammers (31-21) responded with a pair of runs, but Tang (2-for-4) singled, stole second and made a mad dash for home on Ryan Enos’ flyout in the fifth inning.

Taylor’s two-run home run into right field in the sixth inning and Nunez’ run on Ashenbrenner’s RBI single in the eighth put Connecticut up, 6-1.

Jamestown came back with a run in the bottom half of the eighth, but Connecticut plated another two in the ninth.

Starting pitcher Josue Carreno (4-5) took the win after striking out six batters, walking two and allowing one run on six hits in six innings.

The two teams complete their series at 7:05 p.m., tonight with Brennan Smith (0-2, 2.70 ERA) throwing for Connecticut.

Notes

Connecticut added RHP Ramon Lebron on Tuesday from the Gulf Coast League Tigers. He went 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 11 appearances in the GCL. Lebron started the season with West Michigan and went 4-5 with a 6.85 ERA in 13 starts.

Tigers rap out 10 hits to end mini-skid - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers: Connecticut demolished in blowout

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 12, 2010 @ 11:08 PM

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — The Tigers suffered a debilitating 14-0 loss at the hands of the Jammers on Thursday one night after an 8-3 rout of their own in the same place Wednesday.

Connecticut got only one hit on Jamestown’s home turf, a single from Julio Rodriguez in the seventh inning. It had four other base runners, three by walk and one by error.

After Brennan Smith gave up four runs in the first, he and the Tigers appeared to have settled down, throwing up zeros the next three innings. But the Jammers added two more runs against Smith in the fifth, ending his night.

Recently promoted hurler Ramon Lebron fared no better than his predecessor. Lebron yielded three runs in one inning of work.

Logan Hoch entered in the seventh, facing four batters and surrendering two hits and two walks. All four runners scored.

Tim Mowry took the least amount of damage, pitching the eighth with just one run scored.

Connecticut returns home tonight to face Auburn at 7:05 p.m. at Dodd Stadium.

Tigers: Connecticut demolished in blowout - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers' game postponed; fan fest planned

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 13, 2010 @ 01:26 PM

The Connecticut Tigers won’t be at Dodd Stadium tonight, but fans still can be.

Tonight’s game between the Connecticut Tigers and the Auburn Doubledays is postponed and will be made up as part of a doubleheader starting at 5;05 p.m., Saturday. The Tigers’ team bus broke down in western New York while returning from their series at Jamestown, and won’t be back to Norwich in time for tonight’s game.

But fans are invited for a free Friday the 13th Fan Fest, highlighted by the regular Friday night fireworks show. Activities are planned on the field and concourse with gates opening at 6 p.m.

As part of the scheduled Halloween at the Ballpark promotion, fans are encouraged to dress up in costumes, and the first 500 children 12 and under receive a Halloween gift pack from iParty. Every child in costume can ‘trick-or-treat’ throughout the concourse for candy.

Fans will also have the opportunity to take batting practice at Dodd, and anyone who participates on the field is encouraged to bring a glove.

Any fan who comes to the fan fest will receive a ticket voucher to any future Tigers home game this season. Those with tickets to tonight’s game can exchange it for a ticket to Saturday’s contest.

The Tigers, in second place in the New York-Penn. League Stedler Division, play 15 of their final 21 games at Dodd.

Tigers' game postponed; fan fest planned - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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That management team should hold seminars for the rest of the minor league staffs on how to run their operation!

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After bus drama, Tigers split with Doubledays

By MARC ALLARD

mallard@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 14, 2010 @ 10:00 PM

NORWICH — There was one thing for certain Saturday night. The Connecticut Tigers were just happy to be home.

It wasn’t necessarily because of what happened on the field, where the Tigers split a doubleheader with Auburn, N.Y., winning the opener, 2-1, before losing in the second game, 1-0.

But the journey back to the friendly confines of Dodd Stadium was a long one.

The Tigers went 2-4 on their six-game road trip to Brooklyn and Jamestown, N.Y., but it was the voyage out to Brooklyn and the trip back from Jamestown in upstate New York that Connecticut manager Howard Bushong won’t forget.

“You really and truly don’t have any idea what that dang thing was like (Friday),” Bushong said with a shake of his head.

After the team got to Brooklyn, Bushong decided it was necessary to change bus drivers because the one who took the Tigers to New York was “making everyone car sick,” he said.

Then came Thursday night.

Connecticut general manager Andrew Weber got the first call from the team bus at 11:45 p.m. The Tigers, already hurting from a 14-0 loss to the Jammers, had run into more bus trouble when the vehicle began to overheat.

The bus company was called, but it being so late at night, a mechanic couldn’t respond right away. Once one arrived — and had difficulty opening the hood — it was discovered that not one but three belts had broken; the mechanic had only one on him and none in his shop.

Weber tried in vain to find a new bus and even tried to find a plane to charter. But it was to no avail, and the bus limped back to a different Jamestown hotel because the one the Tigers had occupied previously was now being used by the Vermont Lake Monsters.

Meanwhile, a new bus with two drivers was dispatched from Hartford and finally arrived at 10:15 on Friday morning in Jamestown. Weber made the decision to postpone, rather than delay, the Tigers’ Friday game with Auburn, and the team bus didn’t arrive until almost 8 p.m., that night.

“It was an absolute mess,” Bushong said. “From the start of the trip to the end, it was a mess.”

Weber said it was one of those situations where “you laugh, because if you don’t, you would be crying.”

But the Tigers made the most of it. Without a rain date for the scheduled fireworks, they invited fans for an off-the-cuff fan fest and also got in touch with ESPN, inviting it to broadcast “Baseball Tonight” live from Dodd Stadium. The network declined the invite, but was looking for a Friday the 13th-type story and the Tigers’ bus saga filled that need nicely.

Connecticut assistant general manager Eric Knighton was interviewed by phone by the national network, giving them a little national exposure, if nothing else.

“The coverage on Baseball Tonight was pretty cool,” Connecticut catcher Eric Roof said. “Our radio guy (Jon) Versteeg was talking about writing a book, and I told him this could be a perfect chapter.”

On the field Saturday, the saga was pretty typical for the Tigers: The pitching was solid, the offense almost non-existent.

Clemente Mendoza (4-5) went the distance in the opener, giving up just five hits in seven innings with six strikeouts.

“He was outstanding,” Bushong said. “That’s two or three outings where he’s back to being himself. He’s just done a fantastic job.”

As for the offense, Bushong wasn’t going to go there.

Connecticut (29-27) produced just six hits in the opener, including three in the third inning when it scored both of its runs. Julio Rodriguez and James Robbins followed a fielder’s choice by Ryan Enos and a two-out single by Alexander Nunez with RBI singles.

It was even worse in the nightcap. The Tigers mustered three hits — a triple by James Robbins in the first inning, a fifth-inning double by Roof and a ninth-inning single by Rodriguez.

“It’s baseball — some days hitters do well and pitchers don’t, and then pitchers do well and hitters don’t,” Roof said. “We’re not letting them down. We just would like to score more runs and get the win.”

Connecticut starter Patrick Lawson (2-2) struggled through the first three innings, but Auburn (22-33) capitalized only once, leaving seven runners on base. Jonathan Jones knocked in Steve McQuail in the second inning with the only run of the game.

The two teams complete their three-game series at 1:05 p.m., today at Dodd Stadium.

After bus drama, Tigers split with Doubledays - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers' offense fizzling entering All-Star break

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 15, 2010 @ 10:10 PM

Last update Aug 15, 2010 @ 10:33 PM

NORWICH — Sitting back in his chair in the home manager’s office at Dodd Stadium, Howard Bushong exhibited the look of a man down, but certainly not out. The Connecticut Tigers manager’s frustrated body language was the result of season-long hitting woes, which culminated with Connecticut’s 2-0 loss to Auburn on Sunday.

The three-hit shutout is certainly not how the Tigers wanted to go into the New York-Penn. League All-Star break. It wasn’t the loss that weighed heavily on Bushong’s mind, though. It’s that the Tigers’ Nos. 3-5 hitters — each heading to Staten Island, N.Y., for the league’s showcase game on Tuesday — were a combined 0-for-11 with 10 strikeouts.

“I would just like to see us have some quality at-bats,” Bushong said. “We’re not even getting quality at-bats for outs. I can accept if we’re hitting the ball hard to somebody — that happens. But we’re not even hitting the ball hard.”

Not unlike the economy, the Tigers have witnessed a series of warning signs that, having gone unchecked, have led to the team’s offensive production to hit rock bottom.

Connecticut has been shut out in three of its last four games. As a result, the Tigers (29-28) are mired in a three-way tie for the lowest batting average in the league at .235.

Of the teams that comprise the 13 minor leagues of Class-A ball or higher, only Jupiter of the Florida State League hits for a lower average (.231).

“You’re always a little frustrated when you’re not hitting well,” said James Robbins, who struck out three times. “Everyone right now is having a little bit of a tough time. Usually you have a couple guys (in a slump) but you have a couple guys who help carry the team. Right now as a whole, we’re just struggling a little bit.”

Robbins, along with Julio Rodriguez and Alexander Nunez made up the hitless middle of the lineup on Sunday.

What the Tigers haven’t done is make adjustments as the game progresses or simply not applied the game plan.

“Our kids just go with the status quo while the pitcher is making adjustments on them,” Bushing said. “We’re just going with the status quo. You can’t do that. You have to figure out what they’re doing and you have to counter that and we don’t.”

Bushong said the team has tried alternate methods of batting practice, including days where the team simply didn’t hit. Nothing has worked. The hope is the two-day hiatus from league play will reset the lineup and when the team takes the field at home Wednesday there is improvement.

Yet, with the offense not holding its own, Connecticut is just a game out of first place in the Stedler Division and 4 1/2 games out of the wild card because of pitching and defense.

Rayni Guichardo (3-3) was far from his best against the Doubledays, but he battled through five innings. Had it not been for one pitch in the second inning, the Tigers might have had a chance at picking up the win.

A two-out hanging slider on an 0-2 count to Auburn’s No. 9 hitter, Markus Brisker, turned into a bloop double that scored the only runs of the game.

“I felt good even though I didn’t have my pitches working,” Guichardo said through teammate Miguel Mejia. “I just tried to find my way out of every inning.”

Tigers' offense fizzling entering All-Star break - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers help AL win New York-Penn League All-Star Game

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Aug 17, 2010 @ 11:11 PM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — The American League scored three times — thanks in large part to the play of several Connecticut Tigers — in the bottom of the eighth to rally for a 4-3 win over the National League in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game.

Tigers first baseman James Robbins led off the inning with a double. Teammate Julio Rodriguez followed with a single. Another Tiger, P.J. Polk, drove in Robbins with a ground out.

After Rodriguez stole third, Trent Mummey and Connecticut’s Matt Perry walked. Tiger Ryan Enos tied the game with a sac fly and Jose Garcia followed with what proved the winning run.

Tigers help AL win New York-Penn League All-Star Game - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Connecticut Tigers VP applauds ‘a great season’

By MICHAEL GANNON

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Aug 19, 2010 @ 12:02 AM

Norwich, Conn. — Donald Cochran, of Oakdale, brought his niece and nephews, triplets Tina, Michael and Alex, 13, to Dodd Stadium on Wednesday night.

“We’re here for the first time this year,” Cochran said. “We’re just looking for a good time at the ballpark.”

And that suited C.J. Knudsen, vice president of operations for the Connecticut Tigers, just fine, with 12 home games left in the Tigers’ first season in Connecticut.

“It’s been a great season,” Knudsen told members of the Norwich Baseball Stadium Authority at a meeting at Dodd Stadium before Wednesday night’s game.

“You see people come out to the park, kids having a great time,” he said. “It makes all those 14- and 18-hour days worth it.”

The Tigers, a Single A, short-season affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, arrived from Oneonta, N.Y., in April, barely two months before the start of the season. They replaced the Double A Connecticut Defenders who left for Richmond, Va. They could extend their season a few games by qualifying for the New York-Penn League playoffs.

Knudsen said attendance has averaged between 1,300 and 1,400 per game, a far cry from the 691 in Oneonta last year, but less than half what the Defenders averaged in their last season. The Staten Island Yankees, due in this weekend, are expected to boost that average, as are the New York Mets’ Brooklyn Cyclones the following weekend.

Alex Cochran had been to Dodd as a small child to watch the old Norwich Navigators, while Michael said he is a Red Sox fan. Their sister, Tina, said she was just looking to have some fun.

“You build your base one fan experience at a time,” Knudsen said, promising the team will have an active off-season in promotion and community outreach. “It will be great to have seven, nine, 10 months to prepare for a season instead of just two.”

Connecticut Tigers VP applauds ‘a great season’ - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers: Connecticut's bats falter in shutout loss

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 18, 2010 @ 11:17 PM

NORWICH — The dry-erase board outside Connecticut Tigers manager Howard Bushong’s office reads: “19 games to make a difference.”

Make that 18.

The home stretch of the Tigers’ inaugural season in Connecticut got off to a bad start Wednesday, leaving them to lick their wounds in a 6-0 loss to Tri-City.

“They just need to know that; they know that, they know what’s going on,” Bushong said of the dwindling season. “They know what’s going on and hopefully they realize that some of these guys need to do something.”

Connecticut (29-29) looked more like a M.A.S.H. unit, with center fielder P.J. Polk leaving the game after the second batter, and pitcher Josue Carreno and first baseman James Robbins getting banged up on the same play.

Connecticut can ill afford to lose ground in the standings. It entered the contest one game behind Vermont in the Stedler Division, but are now just a half game up on the ValleyCats (28-29).

The standings, said Bushong, are not important to him at this juncture.

“I don’t even know where we are, I don’t even look at that,” he said. “I’m just trying to right this ship and get us going. I don’t care about any of that stuff. I care about us playing well.”

Even the two-game hiatus provided by the New York-Penn League’s All-Star Game couldn’t coax the Tigers’ bats out of their slumber.

Connecticut, which had three hits in its final game before the break, had just four against Tri-City.

“Shoot, I think we gave up three earned runs,” Bushong said. “The bottom line is, we give up one run we’re in trouble because we‘re not scoring anything.”

Walking wounded

Polk left after a one-out single hit to center field in the first. The ball took a bounce behind him and when he turned to retrieve it, he came up favoring his right ankle. The runner came around to score for the game’s first run.

“I’ll see how I feel in the morning once I get up, see if it swells up or see if it’s still sore,” Polk said, noting that his cleat got stuck in the ground when he turned to field the ball.

Then in the third inning, Carreno cruised through the first two batters, but took a liner off of the outside of his right foot. The ball ricocheted and the pitcher fired to Robbins at first, too late to get the runner. As trainer T.J. Saunders checked out Carreno, Robbins was on his back and in need of attention. The first baseman’s left knee collided with the knee of Kike Hernandez. Both remained in the game.

Carreno struggled to recover after being hit, allowing a two-run homer to the next batter, Tyler Burnett.

“A little bit,” Carreno said through teammate Clemente Mendoza of the liner affecting his pitching. “I didn’t have the same power.”

Burnett was followed by Daniel Adamson, who reached on an error by shortstop Brett Anderson, stole second and took third when Eric Roof’s throw from behind the plate went into the outfield. Michael Kvasnicka doubled to left to plate the third run.

Adamson added a solo home run in the seventh and another on an error and double in the ninth.

The teams meet tonight at 7:05 p.m. Tri-City sends right-hander Jake Buchanan (3-4, 3.92 ERA) to the hill against Connecticut righty Brennan Smith (0-4, 3.54).

Tigers: Connecticut's bats falter in shutout loss - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Single-A Baseball: Tigers' offense continues to struggle in loss

By TIM EHRENS

tehrens@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 19, 2010 @ 11:03 PM

NORWICH — Offense has been an issue for the Connecticut Tigers this season, but in the later innings of Wednesday’s game against Tri-City at Dodd Stadium, it looked like the bats were waking up from their slumber.

Connecticut hitters struggled through the first six innings but hit three doubles and scored two runs in the final three. The Tigers, however, experienced one key problem: Those players hitting the doubles weren’t coming home.

Despite putting up a valiant rally, Connecticut lost, 3-2, to Tri-City, its fourth loss in a row and second since the All-Star break.

Connecticut manager Howard Bushong was happy with the effort, but would have liked to see more from his team.

“We competed the whole time, but we left seven men on second base tonight,” Bushong said. “We can get them there, but we just can’t get them in. That’s the difference in the game. Somebody’s gotta step up and drive the run in when it’s there.”

Indeed, plate discipline was the crux of the Tigers’ problems in the first six innings. Eight batters swung on one of the first three pitches they faced and all were put out. Then there was the issue of putting a rally together.

Connecticut (29-30) scored runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to cut the deficit to 3-2. Both runs came home on RBI doubles with two outs, one by Brett Anderson and one by Matt Perry, and, in both instances, the ValleyCats (29-29) put in a new pitcher and struck out the next Tigers batter on three straight pitches.

“As a team, we’re struggling at the plate lately, and we’re working hard at it. We’re plugging away and hitting’s just one of those things — it’s contagious,” Perry said. “I think we’re on the cusp of breaking out. (Thursday), we showed some good signs of rallying and just putting better swings on the ball.”

Most of the pitches ValleyCat relievers such as Jack Frawley and Jorge De Leon used to squelch the Tigers’ attempted rallies were curveballs and changeups out of the strike zone, pitches Bushong was discouraged to see his players whiff at.

“The thing is, they strike us out without throwing an actual strike,” Bushong said. “If they’re throwing strikes and they’re striking us out, I can live with that. When they’re striking us out with pitches out of the zone, that’s not good.”

One positive for Connecticut was Miguel Mejia’s relief pitching. Mejia came in for starter Brennan Smith, who allowed all three runs on seven hits in his 5 2/3 innings, and shut the ValleyCats down the rest of the way. Mejia only struck out two batters, but he walked just a single batter and made a spectacular heads-up play in the seventh inning when he caught a vicious comebacker on the fly just off the mound.

“In the beginning, I couldn’t find the zone, but I just tried to throw well and pound the zone,” Mejia said.

Adam Bailey’s RBI double put Tri-City up, 1-0, in the second inning, and Marcus Nidiffer’s two-run home run in the fourth gave the visitors all the scoring they needed.

Notes

— P.J. Polk was not in the starting lineup a day after tweaking his right ankle in the outfield Wednesday when his cleat got stuck in the grass. Bushong said he’s fine with running straight, but he is having trouble moving laterally. He remains day-to-day for now.

— James Robbins started the game at designated hitter and appeared fine after his knee collided with that of a baserunner in Wednesday’s game.

Single-A Baseball: Tigers' offense continues to struggle in loss - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers: Connecticut wins before record crowd

By MARC ALLARD

mallard@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 21, 2010 @ 12:02 AM

NORWICH — It took a little innovation to get the Connecticut Tigers going Friday night.

After the Tigers scored just four runs in the last five games, two of those Thursday night, manager Howard Bushong decided he had to dip into his bag of tricks in the fifth inning Friday. His strategy helped the Tigers score a 4-2 win over Staten Island.

The win came before 3,213 fans, the largest crowd of the season to date at Dodd Stadium.

“It’s building one fan experience at a time, and, hopefully, it’s going to start to blossom here,” Tigers vice president of operations, C.J. Knudsen said. “It may be late in August, but the crowds are starting to increase.

“Having the Yankees in town helps, and we have the (Mets’ affiliate, Brooklyn) in next weekend. But the more people we can get in to see the ballpark, see New York-Penn League baseball and experience the Tigers brand, is outstanding. Hopefully, the memories (the fans) build over this hot summer will carry over the cold winter.”

The players also liked the crowd.

“You can sort of hear the buzz. Even when nothing’s going on, you can tell there’s a lot of people here,” Connecticut third baseman Matt Perry said. “It makes it a lot more fun to be out there.”

The Tigers (30-30) came into the game with the third-lowest attendance in the league, 35,107, averaging just more than 1,400 fans a game. There is, however, the possibility the Tigers could add another home date to the nine they have remaining, should they make the playoffs.

“If we make the playoffs, it would be outstanding,” Knudsen said. “It would give our fans a chance to see playoff baseball, give us another date, and the more fans we get to experience what we have, it could be pretty crowded in here come Opening Day 2011.”

The win helped in that regard, too. It pulled the Tigers back to within a game of Stedler Division leader Vermont, a 6-1 loser to Brooklyn on Friday, and broke a four-game Connecticut losing streak.

“We needed that in every way, and I was proud of the kids for finding a way to get it done,” Bushong said.

With the offense once again looking punchless against Yankee starter Kramer Sneed (0-2), Bushong decided to get things moving when he had the opportunity in the fifth inning.

With Connecticut trailing, 1-0, Brett Anderson led off with a walk and stole second. Bushong then asked Ryan Soares to bunt and Soares took it one step further. Sneed fielded Soares’ bunt down the first base line, but failed to throw the ball to first, which put runners on the corners for the Tigers.

Chao-Ting Tang tied the game with a ground ball to second base that scored Anderson. The rally could have sputtered when Sneed struck out Londell Taylor, but P.J. Polk — back after a two-game absence with a sprained ankle — sent a Sneed pitch into the left field corner for an RBI double. Bushong kept the pressure on Staten Island (26-30) when he sent Polk to third. The throw came in low, went into left field, and Polk quickly hurried home.

“Right now, we have to take (runs) however we can get them,” Polk said. “Small ball is kind of helping us.”

Alexander Nunez followed with a single and Perry executed a nice hit-and-run single before Yankee reliever Matt Jernstad got the final out.

“If we have the right people there, I like to play that kind of game,” Bushong said.

Perry knocked in the final run of the game, and finished off a 4-for-4 performance at the plate with an RBI double in the eighth inning. The perfect performance at the plate raised Perry’s average to .273 as he continues to break out of a midseason slump.

“In the middle of the season, there was a little fatigue setting in, especially for some of us college guys who have played a little over 100 games at this point,” Perry said. “I just kept plugging away, working really hard, just hoping it was a matter of time before I broke through.”

The Tigers and Yankees play again at 7:05 p.m., tonight. Patrick Lawson (2-2) is slated to pitch for Connecticut against Zachary Varce (1-5).

Tigers: Connecticut wins before record crowd - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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