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Tigers: Hitting fails Connecticut again in shutout loss

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 21, 2010 @ 11:02 PM

NORWICH — As the games in which Connecticut failed to score pile up, the frustration is mounting for its pitchers.

Saturday’s unlucky customer was Patrick Lawson. Lawson was solid, pitching 52⁄3 innings, allowing just one run and striking out eight batters in Connecticut’s 2-0 loss to Staten Island at Dodd Stadium.

The Tigers have been blanked in five of their last eight games.

“Maybe a little bit, but not too bad,” Lawson said of his frustration level. “I think we all have confidence in the hitters. We have bad games sometimes and they pick us up. Hopefully, it will come together soon.”

It’s a difficult tightrope routine for the pitchers, who can’t afford a mistake or risk losing the game.

Short-season baseball is a learning experience, so facing high pressure in every at-bat of every game can turn into a positive for the Tigers’ arms in the years ahead of them.

“Probably, yeah,” said manager Howard Bushong. “Our pitching, I have no complaints whatsoever. … The competitiveness and limiting the innings to one run, they’re doing a good job.”

The only knock on the four Tigers who took the mound Saturday were the eight combined walks. They also combined for a season-high 14 strikeouts.

James Robbins did his best to keep the game scoreless with a defensive gem in the third. With runners on first and second, Connecticut’s first baseman reached over the tarpaulin in foul territory and snagged a pop-up a row into the stands for the second out. The runner on second tagged up, but Robbins turned and fired a laser to third base, beating the runner for the final out.

The Yankees broke through against Lawson in the sixth.

Rob Segedin walked to lead off the inning and moved to third on Kyle Roller’s single. Roller tried to stretch his hit into a double, but Ryan Enos threw him out at second. Gary Sanchez followed with a sacrifice fly to center.

Staten Island added an insurance run in the eighth behind three walks and one hit.

Segedin singled to start the frame. Roller walked and both advanced on a wild pitch. But after Logan Hoch struck out the next two batters, he walked Chris “Cito” Culver to load the bases and Garrison Lassiter to force in a run.

Connecticut (30-31) had few opportunities to score, but failed to take advantage of them.

In the fourth inning, Alexander Nunez led off with a single and was promptly thrown out trying to steal second. The same fate awaited Robbins, the next batter in the lineup, when Julio Rodriguez failed to swing on a hit-and-run.

Tigers: Hitting fails Connecticut again in shutout loss - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers cancel series finale

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 22, 2010 @ 10:48 PM

NORWICH — Citing the rain throughout the day Sunday, the Connecticut Tigers canceled their scheduled game against the Staten Island Yankees at Dodd Stadium.

It was the final game of their three-game series, and won’t be rescheduled.

The Tigers next play Tri-City at 7:05 p.m., today at Dodd in a two-game, home-and-home set. Connecticut will play the ValleyCats at 7 p.m., Tuesday in Troy, N.Y. Rayni Guichardo (3-3) will start for Connecticut tonight.

Local Roundup: Tigers cancel series finale - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Big loss continues slide at wrong time for Tigers

By MARC ALLARD

mallard@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 23, 2010 @ 11:04 PM

NORWICH — It’s not the way you want to go into four of the most important games of the season.

The Connecticut Tigers have now lost six of their last seven after a 10-2 defeat at the hands of Tri-City on Monday night before 797 soggy fans at Dodd Stadium.

The Tigers still have 13 games left, but the next four are against Stedler Division foes on the road. Connecticut completes a home-and-home series against Tri-City tonight at 7:05 p.m. The ValleyCats, after Monday’s win, lead the Tigers by a game and a half for second place in the division.

On Wednesday, the Tigers begin a three-game set at the Vermont Lake Monsters, the first-place team in the division, who lead Connecticut by three games.

“We’ve tried to make them understand that this is an important time of the year for them,” said Connecticut manager Howard Bushong, who sported a bandage on his ear after getting clipped by a foul ball shot into the Tigers’ dugout Monday.

“No matter what has happened before, it doesn’t matter, it’s over, and we have opportunities here, but they have to play,” he said. “It’s to the point where you let the kids play and you find out what they can and can’t do. I like to think we can do a whole lot more than what we’re doing right now.”

That’s especially true offensively. The Tigers mustered just seven hits and have been outscored, 26-8, over the last seven games.

“It’s not time to press yet,” Ryan Soares said of the lack of offense. “Even (Monday night), we squared up on some balls, got unlucky in places, and we’re bound to get a game where it all comes together and we just put up a big number.”

That big number was in the other dugout. Tri-City picked on the normally reliable Connecticut pitching staff early.

Rayni Guichardo (3-4) got the early hook. The starter threw just 33 pitches before Bushong lifted him with one out in the second inning.

Guichardo, who hasn’t exhibited the best control at times this season, walked three batters in the first inning and two of them scored without the benefit of a hit. Ben Orloff came home on a wild pitch and Tyler Burnett crossed the plate on a Michael Kvasnicka RBI groundout.

Chris Wallace took Guichardo’s second pitch of the second inning more than 401 feet to center field for his first home run and just his fourth hit of the season for Tri-City (31-30) to make it a 3-0 ValleyCat lead.

“He couldn’t throw a strike. Shoot, that’s the bottom line,” Bushong said of the decision to lift Guichardo. “We’re trying to stay in this thing, and I thought it could have got really, really bad. Both (pitching coach) Jorge (Cordova) and I thought that, and we had a chance to shut it down.”

Miguel Mejia did that for the next three-plus innings, and the Tigers crawled back into the game.

Alexander Nunez had a two-out double in the fourth and was knocked in by James Robbins to cut the deficit to 3-1.

Connecticut (30-32) then narrowed Tri-City’s lead to one in the fifth when Josh Ashenbrenner singled, went to second on a wild pitch, to third on a passed ball and scored when Soares, who had walked, delayed his steal between first and second, drawing the throw to second. Ashenbrenner scored before Soares was tagged out.

“We were just trying to create a run,” Soares said. “I took off, just wanted to draw the throw, and we got the job done.”

Bushong said, “We have to squirm for runs, almost have to beg to score, but we got back in it.”

Tri-City, however, scored twice in both the sixth and seventh innings and thrice more in the eighth to end any hopes the Tigers may have had. Adam Bailey had a solo homer and a three-run double to do most of the damage for the ValleyCats.

Josue Carreno is scheduled to pitch tonight in Troy, N.Y. against Bobby Doran and the ValleyCats

Big loss continues slide at wrong time for Tigers - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers: Connecticut defense falters in loss

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 24, 2010 @ 11:20 PM

TROY, N.Y. — The offense, or lack thereof, has been the culprit in the majority of Connecticut losses in seven of the past eight games. The pitching was to blame on Monday night and on Tuesday night, it was the defense’s turn.

Connecticut committed five errors, two in the bottom of the 11th, and lost to Tri-City, 5-4.

The loss dropped Connecticut three games back of Vermont in the Stedler Division of the New York-Penn, league. Tri-City moved within a half-game of the lead with the win as the Lake Monsters game with Lowell was canceled.

Ben Orloff drew a walk off Tigers reliever Ramon Lebron with two-out in the bottom of the 11th. Orloff then stole second and went to third on an infield error by Connecticut. The lead-off hitter for the Valley Cats scored the game-winner on a second infield error.

Connecticut (30-33) outhit Tri-City 14-6 with four batters, P.J.Polk, James Robbins, Alexander Nunez and Julio Rodriguez each getting a pair. Polk, Nunez, Rodriguez and Eric Roof all had doubles in the loss.

The Tigers move on to play at Vermont in a crucial three-game series beginning tonight at 7:05 p.m.

Tigers: Connecticut defense falters in loss - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers use big inning to hold off Lake Monsters

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 25, 2010 @ 11:06 PM

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Offense and defense both turned around for the Tigers as they ended a three-game slide with a 6-5 victory over the Vermont Lake Monsters on Wednesday.

Ryan Enos and Alexander Nunez each drove in two runs and Brennan Smith earned his first win of the season by striking out two in five scoreless innings.

The Tigers had to hold off a furious rally by Vermont, which scored all its runs in the final three innings, including three in the eighth and one in the ninth.

Connecticut used a five-run seventh to build its lead, with Nunez and Enos each driving in their runs with singles. Josh Ashenbrenner singled and Ryan Soares and Chao-Ting Tang started the rally with walks to open the inning.

Tigers use big inning to hold off Lake Monsters - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers pull to within one game of first

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Aug 26, 2010 @ 10:31 PM

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Connecticut Tigers pulled within a game of first place in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division after a 7-3 win over the division-leading Lake Monsters on Thursday.

The Tigers offense got going early thanks to a two-run homer by left fielder Ryan Enos. Connecticut added three more runs in the third inning. Alexander Nunez drove in one run and Julio Rodriguez brought home two Tigers, both with singles.

Starter Clemente Mendoza (6-5) allowed three runs in six innings of work. Miguel Mejia closed the door on Vermont by not allowing a hit over the final three innings and striking out four batters.

The teams close out the series at 7:05 p.m., tonight.

Tigers pull to within one game of first - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers move into tie for first in divison

By STAFF REPORTS

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 27, 2010 @ 11:05 PM

BULRINGTON, Vt. — The Connecticut Tigers are pushing for a New York-Penn League playoff berth. They’ll come home in a great position to earn one.

James Robbins drove in three runs and Ryan Soares had three hits and two RBIs to spark the Tigers to an 8-2 victory over Vermont on Friday and move into a virtual tie with the Lake Monsters atop the Stedler Division.

The Tigers (33-33) open their final homestand of the season today against Brooklyn (7:05 p.m.), the first of six games that could decide their playoff fate. By sweeping the Lake Monsters (31-31), they now join them atop the division, one game ahead of Tri-City (32-33).

Four teams make the playoffs: The three division leaders and a wild card. If the Tigers can’t win their division, they’ll likely have to contend with Batavia — the current leader in the Pinckney Division at 38-27 — Jamestown (38-28) or Williamsport (37-30) as well as Hudson Valley (33-31) or Staten Island (30-31) out of the McNamara Division for the extra berth.

Limited offensively for the better part of the last month, Connecticut had 10 hits and scored in five different innings Friday, including three times in the third. Robbins hit a two-run home run in that frame and Eric Roof’s double to left field scored Josh Ashenbrenner.

A Ryan Enos groundout scored another run in the sixth and a throwing error later in the inning helped scored Chao-Ting Tang.

Ashenbrenner scored again in the seventh and ninth, all despite getting just one hit.

Patrick Lawson (3-3) pitched a one-hitter and overcame six walks to give up two runs in 5 1/3 innings for the win. Two relievers held Vermont hitless, but all told, Connecticut pitchers walked 12 Vermont batters.

Tigers move into tie for first in divison - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Things get ugly late for Tigers in shutout

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 28, 2010 @ 10:40 PM

NORWICH — During the sixth inning of a one-run game, the Tigers’ Rayni Guichardo turned to Julio Rodriguez and extended his left index finger to thank his catcher for throwing out a would-be base-stealer at second.

Keeping a potential second run off the board can prove to be the difference in a close game.

But on the next pitch, Guichardo served up a solo home run to Blake Forsythe, which helped seal Brooklyn’s 10-0 win over Connecticut on Saturday night at Dodd Stadium.

The game provided a possible playoff preview. Both the Tigers and the Cyclones began play atop their respective divisions in the New York-Penn League.

As sure as the seasons change, however, the Tigers’ bats are prone to prolonged lapses in contact. It was no different against Brooklyn, whose starter kept the Tigers off balance.

“It wasn’t even fair (Saturday). He dominated us,” Tigers manager Howard Bushing said of Yohan Almonte. “Hats off to him, don’t get me wrong. That guy was really, really good.”

Connecticut (33-34) exhibited little patience in facing Almonte. The Tigers failed to collect a walk and 12 times they put one of the first two pitches into play. Almonte went the distance, allowing six hits, no walks and striking out five, including the last two batters.

“He had good stuff (Saturday)” shortstop Ryan Soares said. “He mixed it up well and kept us off guard. He had his changeup working.”

Justin Schafer led off the third inning with a double and, after moving to third on a ground out, scored on a sac fly to center.

Ramon Lebron came in for the Tigers in the seventh and proved unhittable, striking out the side. That performance turned into a distant memory an inning later. Lebron struggled, allowed a home run to Jeff Flagg, and four of the next five batters reached base en route to a six-run inning. Five of those runs belonged to Lebron.

Brooklyn’s Darrell Ceciliani added a two-run triple in the ninth to close out his team’s 15-hit onslaught.

Notes

Gates open early today — 11:30 a.m. — with the Thames Valley Base Ball Club set to play a game in accordance to rules of 1861. Also, the first 500 fans will receive a Benedict Arnold bobblehead, courtesy of the New London County Historical Society. The Tigers and Cyclones will play at 1 p.m. Brooklyn LHP Angel Cuan (5-0, 1.91) faces Tigers RHP Josue Carreno (4-6, 4.47). … Former Detroit Tiger and member of the 1968 World Series championship team, Dick McAuliffe will be present and signing autographs. … Monday’s game is “Football Night.” Former New England Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan will make an appearance and fans are encouraged to wear clothing representing their favorite football team.

Things get ugly late for Tigers in shutout - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers: Focused Connecticut drops Brooklyn

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 29, 2010 @ 11:26 PM

NORWICH — Former Detroit Tiger Dick McAuliffe knows a thing or two about playing for a pennant.

The seventh-place finisher in the 1968 American League MVP race and one of that season’s World Series victors visited Dodd Stadium prior to Detroit-affiliated Connecticut’s 6-3 win over Brooklyn on Sunday.

What would he tell the Tigers’ cubs, who are tied for first place with Vermont in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division with seven games remaining?

“Just hustle like a son of a gun,” he said. “Keep your mind working whenever you’re out on the field. Before the ball is about to be thrown, think about, ‘If the ball is hit to my left, if it’s hit to my right, if it’s hit up in the air. Know what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.”

The Tigers did just that, jumping on the Cyclones in part because Connecticut capitalized at every critical juncture.

For the second time in as many days, Connecticut came face-to-face with one of Brooklyn’s top starters. On this occasion, it was Angel Cuan, who entered the day third in the league in ERA and strikeouts. It’s a matchup that as recently as last week would have been unfavorable for the Tigers.

But several of the players said that during its recent three-game sweep of Vermont, the team accepted it needed to relax on the field. That, along with facing Cuan in a potential playoff matchup, brought the best out of Connecticut.

“I think when you know you’re going up against a pretty good pitcher you focus in a little bit more before the game,” said Matt Perry, who went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. “I think we were aggressive early in the count against the fastball, not letting him get to his offspeed, which is his best asset.”

With two on and two out in the first inning, Josh Ashenbrenner’s drive to center couldn’t stay in the glove of a sprinting Cory Vaughn for the early lead. The Tigers added single runs in the next two innings for a 4-0 advantage.

Tigers starter Josue Carreno pitched well, facing one batter over the minimum in four of his five innings. His fourth inning was bumpy, starting with a lead-off walk. That was followed by a double and a three-run blast by Vaughn.

Carreno picked up the first out, but proceeded to load the bases before getting a pair of fly balls to end the inning.

Miguel Mejia closed out the game with four innings of one-hit, six-strikeout relief. Mejia did it while throwing just 39 pitches.

“That’s the best I’ve seen him. ... His stuff is dominating,” Tigers manager Howard Bushong said.

Connecticut picked up two more runs in the sixth on an RBI single by Perry and a sacrifice fly by Ryan Soares.

Brooklyn and Connecticut wrap up their season series tonight at 7:05 p.m. Brooklyn sends RHP Jonathan Kountis (0-1, 6.55) to the hill against Connecticut RHP Brennan Smith (1-5, 3.66). It is also Football Night at Dodd Stadium, and former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan will be signing autographs

Tigers: Focused Connecticut drops Brooklyn - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers left stranded in loss, but still in playoff hunt

By MARC ALLARD

mallard@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 30, 2010 @ 11:00 PM

NORWICH — The unlucky Tigers left 13 men on base, and it proved to be their undoing Monday night.

Connecticut fell to the Brooklyn Cyclones, 6-1, at Dodd Stadium. The loss left the Tigers a game behind Vermont, an 11-3 winner over Aberdeen on Monday, in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division.

“No matter what happened (Monday night), we’re still in it,” Connecticut manager Howard Bushong said. “It’s up to us. We keep talking about what someone else did, I could care less what someone else did. It’s up to us, we need to play.”

Bushong shook his head as he talked about the missed opportunities. The Tigers (34-35) had men on base in every inning but the eighth. They stranded seven men in scoring position and left the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

“When you look up at the scoreboard and saw how many hits we had (nine), it’s kind of amazing we had only one run,” left fielder Ryan Enos said. “It was just one of those nights. I don’t think we were pressing necessarily, the hits just didn’t fall at the right time.”

Brennan Smith, who has pitched much better than his 1-6 record would indicate, held the Cyclones scoreless through the first four innings, but his defense let him down in the fifth.

James Schroeder and Wilfredo Tovar each had one-out singles and J.B. Brown added a two-out RBI single to give Brooklyn the early lead. But an infield ground ball that appeared to be an easy third out, turned into a two-run error to give the Cyclones a 3-0 advantage.

“(Brennan) did a great job, he pitched well,” Bushong said. “He pitched well enough to give us a chance to win.”

Connecticut answered with a run of its own in the bottom of the inning when P.J. Polk (2-for-4 with a double) singled to right field. Ryan Enos singled and an error allowed Polk to move to third. He came home on James Robbins’ sacrifice fly.

The Cyclones (45-22) added single runs in the sixth, eighth and ninth innings to account for the final.

The Tigers finish the regular season with six games against a team they’ve never seen this year, Aberdeen.

“It’s kind of odd to play six games in a row against the same team,” Enos said. “It’s going to be a challenge and with the race as close as it is now, it’s almost like it’s a six-game season and we’re playing one team.”

The first three games take place at Dodd Stadium tonight, Wednesday and Thursday before shifting to Aberdeen, Md., for the weekend

Tigers left stranded in loss, but still in playoff hunt - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers prevail in 11th, move within a half-game of first

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 31, 2010 @ 11:05 PM

NORWICH — With time running out, Clemente Mendoza made sure he and his teammates had at least a puncher’s chance at winning the Stedler Division and earning a playoff berth.

But it was one of the newest Tigers, Dixon Machado, who made sure Connecticut stayed in the hunt.

Machado’s two-out grounder with runners in scoring position was fumbled, allowing the shortstop to beat the throw at first and deliver a 2-1 win Tuesday at Dodd Stadium.

With Vermont losing twice to Brooklyn, and Tri-City beating Lowell, Connecticut stands a half-game out of first place with five games — all against Aberdeen — remaining.

Mendoza pitched eight innings and allowed just two hits (one was a bunt), which was nearly wasted until Alexander Nunez hit a game-tying home run in the ninth to force extra innings.

“I had Mendoza last year — he’s a professional pitcher,” manager Howard Bushong said. “His stuff doesn’t knock you over. (But) he knows how to pitch, he’s extremely competitive, he locates the ball — and he didn’t have his location early in the year. But he locates the ball, he holds runners; he does everything you want a guy to do.

“He’s done nothing but get better all year long.”

Mendoza was tangled in a pitcher’s duel with the Bruno Sanchez, who went six innings. The two combined to allow just five hits. Ashur Tolliver followed with two innings and Steven Mazur came on in the ninth for the save.

In his second-to-last start of the season, Mendoza has hit his stride. After posting an ERA over eight in July, Mendoza has become the ace of the Tigers’ staff. In six starts, Mendoza has allowed just eight runs over 40 innings for a 1.80 ERA. He has a 27 strikeouts, the most for any month, and seven walks, two short of his lowest monthly total.

“When you are the starter, you go out to win the game,” Mendoza said. “But I don’t care if I get the win. I just want the team to win to get into the playoffs. That’s it.”

The Tigers put the potential winning run on third in the 11th behind a Nunez single, a sacrifice by Josh Ashenbrenner and a groundout. The IronBirds intentionally walked Matt Perry to face Machado. Mychael Givens couldn’t handle the grounder and Machado just beat the throw to first, allowing Nunez to score the winning run.

“I just tried to do my job,” Machado said with serving as a Mendoza translator. “They think I’m not a good hitter, so I wanted to get the job done to win the game.”

Connecticut stranded the winning run on base in the 10th. Les Smith had a leadoff single, but he was promptly picked off the bag. At the plate was P.J. Polk, who eventually walked and was thrown out trying to steal second. Ryan Enos followed with a single that should have ended the game.

For eight-plus innings, Connecticut’s bats couldn’t solve Aberdeen’s pitching, and a RBI double in the ninth looked to be all the IronBirds would need.

But with one out in the ninth inning, Nunez homered to left off Mazur, tying the game at 1-1.

“He was behind in the count (1-2) and I was expecting a fastball,” Nunez said through teammate Miguel Mejia. “I got the fastball. I was ready for the fastball. If he threw an offspeed pitch, I was just going to react to it.”

Tyler Clark replaced Mendoza to start the ninth and surrendered a full-count walk to Givens. Austin Knight’s sacrifice moved Clark to third and Manny Machado, Baltimore’s top draft pick in June’s draft, doubled to the gap in left-center to plate the first run.

Tigers prevail in 11th, move within a half-game of first - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers keep pace with more heroics

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Sep 01, 2010 @ 11:06 PM

NORWICH — The Connecticut Tigers have become very good at being lucky.

For the second consecutive night, the Tigers rallied to force extra innings where they came away with the win.

On Wednesday, a little bit of providence gave the Tigers a dramatic 3-2, 10-inning win over Aberdeen at Dodd Stadium. It also kept Connecticut hot on the trail of Tri-City, which leads the race for the Stedler Division title by a half game with four remaining.

“I’m glad I work out,” said Tigers manager Howard Bushong, “because otherwise I wouldn’t be making it. And I guarantee this: I’ll keep working out after going through all this.”

As usual, the Tigers don’t make anything easy. They squandered several scoring chances, but pounced in the 10th.

Dixon Machado walked and Les Smith reached safely on his sacrifice bunt attempt. After P.J. Polk failed to lay down a successful bunt, he launched a 2-2 pitch to deep right-center where Zach Moore had tracked it down but lost the ball as it hit off his glove.

“I figured (pitcher Jose Barajas) would try to throw something offspeed, probably not come back with a fastball,” Polk said. “I just wanted to get good wood on it and try to move the runners. It ended up doing the job.”

Moore recovered and threw home to beat Machado, but catcher Joel Polanco couldn’t hold on after Machado hit him and home plate umpire Aaron Reynolds called Machado safe.

“I wasn’t sure of the situation but I thought the play was going to be close,” Machado said through teammate Clemente Mendoza. “When I crossed third, I knew I was going to be out, so I just crashed into him.”

The celebration began as Machado’s teammates chased him around the field.

For the second straight night, a new Tiger earned his stripes. Wilsen Palacios pitched four shutout innings in relief of Patrick Lawson. Lawson gave up two runs in the second, but the Tigers added solo runs in the seventh and eighth to tie the game.

Palacios joined the team Monday from the Gulf Coast League and it immediately paid dividends for Connecticut. He allowed three hits and struck out three.

“I don’t pay attention to the game situation,” Palacios said through Mendoza. “I just focus on the hitters and throw strikes.”

Game-saver

Connecticut recovered from an error to save a run — and the game.

Mychael Givens’ two-out double was followed by a grounder to second by Sammie Starr. Nunez misplayed the ball and appeared to have lost its location.

Aberdeen’s third base coached waved around Givens just as Nunez recovered. The second baseman fired a bullet to Rodriguez at home. The throw beat the runner, who tried to knock it loose from Rodriguez, but to no avail.

Had the game not turned out in Connecticut’s favor, it would have looked back on the ninth inning with what-could-have-been.

Alexander Nunez battled back from an 0-2 count to force a walk. With James Robbins at the plate, Nunez stole second base uncontested to put Connecticut in an ideal situation to pick up the walk-off win.

However, Robbins took a called strike three on a fastball down the middle. Julio Rodriguez’s grounder moved Nunez to third, but Brett Anderson struck out on three pitches to end the inning.

But after two come-from-behind wins, the Tigers’ confidence is at an all-time high heading into the final home game of the season tonight at 7:05 p.m.

“They truly believe that they’re going to make it,” Bushong said. “You know what? As long as they believe it, I believe it.”

Tigers keep pace with more heroics - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers complete sweep, enter final series

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Sep 02, 2010 @ 10:59 PM

NORWICH — The Connecticut Tigers found a solution for their lack of offensive punch: Pitching and defense.

Scoring the game’s only run in the first inning without registering a hit, Connecticut relied on four pitchers and a handful of defensive standout plays to complete a three-game sweep of Aberdeen on Thursday, 1-0. The home finale was played before 2,019 fans at Dodd Stadium. The Tigers end the regular season with three games at Aberdeen beginning tonight.

“We’ve got a legit shot at this thing and that’s huge,” Tigers manager Howard Bushong said. “That’s the fun part of it, that’s what makes it fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re in the position we’re in.”

Now, it’s a simple mission for the Tigers. They have to win one more game than Tri-City, which visits league-leading Brooklyn this weekend.

Connecticut (37-35) remained a half game behind Stedler Division-leading Tri-City. Any combination of four Tigers losses and ValleyCats victories will wrap up the division’s playoff berth for Tri-City. Vermont is 2 1/2 games out, and any combination of ValleyCat wins and Lake Monsters losses will eliminate them.

Rayni Guichardo went six innings but was taxed as he left two runners on base in each of his last three innings. Toward the end of his outing, Guichardo began to elevate his pitches, but catcher Julio Rodriguez was there to keep the righty on track.

If the pressures of taking the mound and having to be near perfect were getting to Guichardo, he didn’t let on.

“It’s OK,” Guichardo said. “If (the other team) doesn’t score any runs they won’t win.”

The lack of run support put the Tigers pitchers into bend-but-don’t-break mode. Several times, Connecticut found itself in perilous situations only to come away unscathed.

Aberdeen (32-39) left the bases loaded in the seventh after Drew Gagnier allowed singles to two of the first three IronBirds batters and then added a walk before picking up a grounder to second that ended the threat.

Logan Hoch surrendered a leadoff double in the ninth, but Miguel Mejia came on to record the final two outs for the save.

“I really trusted our pitching (Thursday),” Bushong said. “I thought our pitching was good and I felt good about it really the entire night.”

The defense has been a staple for the Tigers, who haven’t let their batting interfere with their glovework.

With two on and two out in the sixth, Aberdeen’s Jeremy Nowak took Guichardo’s final pitch deep to center, but Polk chased down the long fly at the warning track for the final out of the inning.

Third baseman Josh Ashenbrenner also made a couple of nice backhanded stops, robbing the IronBirds of potential extra-base hits.

“We had to help out our pitcher because they are always on top of their game,” Ashenbrenner said. “When we make errors, we’re letting them down. We have to play good defense; defense is all pride and that’s all it is.”

Taking advantage of catcher Dashenko Ricardo’s less-than-accurate throwing arm, the Tigers were off to the races in the first inning, stealing four bases en route to their lone run.

Polk walked and stole second. Ryan Enos followed with a walk and both runners executed a double steal.

Then with one down, Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Polk.

Tigers complete sweep, enter final series - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers' bats put team into first place

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Sep 03, 2010 @ 10:59 PM

ABERDEEN, Md. — Connecticut’s bats came to life in a 7-6 win over Aberdeen on Friday night, a victory that put the Tigers into first place in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division.

A win today combined with a loss by Tri-City at Brooklyn will clinch the playoff berth for the Connecticut. The Tigers have a half-game lead.

Connecticut put single runs on the board in the first and second innings before using a two-run Ryan Enos home run in the fourth for a 4-0 lead.

The IronBirds tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, but fell behind for good in the sixth.

Matt Perry (3-for-3) singled and advanced to second on Dixon Machado’s sacrifice bunt. Chao-Ting Tang then drove in Perry with a single to right.

The Tigers added a run in the sixth and two more in the eighth before holding off Aberdeen in the ninth.

If the Tigers secure the division title, playoff tickets will go on sale Monday at noon. They can be purchased at the Dodd Stadium box office or by phone. All tickets are $5 and are free for season ticket holders.

Tigers' bats put team into first place - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Tigers lose, fall into 2nd

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Sep 04, 2010 @ 10:38 PM

ABERDEEN, Md. — The Tigers put themselves in jeopardy of failing to make the playoffs Saturday with a 3-1 loss to Aberdeen.

Stedler Division leader Tri-City scored a narrow, 8-7 win over Brooklyn on Saturday, which means the Tigers must win and Tri-City must lose today for Connecticut to win the division and advance to the New York-Penn League playoffs.

Today’s game in Maryland is also the regular-season finale for the Tigers (38-36). The loss Saturday ends Connecticut’s four-game winning streak.

P.J. Polk led Connecticut’s offensive effort, going 2-for-4. He also stole a base, his 29th of the season, and got caught stealing for the sixth time.

Julio Rodriguez (1-for-3) scored the Tigers’ lone run on an error in the seventh inning. Rodriguez singled and moved to second base on a throwing error by Aberdeen pitcher Steven Mazur.

Matt Perry’s single to center moved Rodriguez to third. Rodriguez scored when Chao-Ting Tang reached on third baseman Connor Narron’s throwing error.

Tigers starter Brennan Smith (1-7) surrendered two runs on four hits, including a home run for the IronBirds’ (33-40) Mychal Givens.

The Tigers are sending Clemente Mendoza (6-5, 4.26 ERA) up against the IronBirds at 2:35 p.m., today (radio: WICH 1310 AM) against a starter yet to be named.

Tigers lose, fall into 2nd - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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Single-A Baseball: Tigers' playoff hopes dashed, season finished

By Staff reports

Norwich Bulletin

Posted Sep 05, 2010 @ 10:04 PM

ABERDEEN, Md. — Heading into the bottom of the 13th inning Sunday, Connecticut still had a fighting chance to win the Stedler Division and advance to the New York-Penn League playoffs.

The Tigers scored twice to start the final inning of their marathon game, but Aberdeen’s Manuel Machado smacked a two-run triple and then scored a run of his own to give the IronBirds an 8-7 victory and end the Tigers’ inaugural season in Norwich.

Connecticut (38-37) did not go quietly, however.

Josh Ashenbrenner (2-for-7, two runs) put the Tigers on the board in the first inning after singling on a ground ball and racing for home after a fielding error on Julio Rodriguez’s (3-for-7) ensuing single.

David Anderson’s solo home run off starter Clemente Mendoza sparked a four-run Aberdeen (34-40) second before Connecticut responded with two runs in the third.

James Robbins (3-for-6) knocked a double to score Ryan Enos (5-for-7, two runs) and Ashenbrenner. Rodriguez was tagged out at home on the play after an 8-4-2 Aberdeen relay.

The Tigers’ Matt Perry scored in the fourth to tie the score at 4-4, where it stayed until the 11th inning. Dixon Machado (3-for-4, two runs) broke the stalemate but Aberdeen followed with another run.

In the 13th, Dixon Machado and Enos scored on Enos’ and Ashenbrenner’s back-to-back singles.

Manager Howard Bushong complimented his team’s efforts.

“I was certainly proud of the fight in (my) kids today, but disappointed the results didn’t end up better,” Bushong said.

For half an inning, it looked like the Tigers could complete their improbable run to the playoffs.

Connecticut needed a win and for Tri-City to lose Sunday to win the division and advance to the playoffs. The Stedler champion ValleyCats played their part in that setup with a 6-5 loss to Brooklyn. Both teams will be in the playoffs which start Tuesday.

But Aberdeen’s triple in the last half of the frame sent the Tigers home empty-handed.

Single-A Baseball: Tigers' playoff hopes dashed, season finished - Norwich, CT - Norwich Bulletin

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I was looking over the boxscore and inning by inning recap for that final game. My AAT Ramon Lebron threw a couple decent innings of relief and one that wasn't so good. Damn.

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