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2011 Connecticut News Articles

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Tigers’ All-Stars enjoyed game experience.

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 17, 2011 @ 11:09 PM

NORWICH — One day after taking part in the New York-Penn League All-Star Game, the Connecticut Tigers’ participants were glad to have the opportunity despite the American League losing, 7-3, to its National League rivals.

First baseman Dean Green went 1-for-4 with a run and an RBI. He was also part of the winning team in the hitting contest.

“It was an enjoyable experience to go out and represent Connecticut as well as your family, your hometown,” Green said. “It was just a good opportunity to go out and showcase your talents and bring some pride back to the great state of Connecticut.”

Brennan Smith, among the league leaders in ERA, took the loss after allowing four runs in one inning in the game played in Lowell, Mass.

He hadn’t played in a showcase game since he was a child and said the poor performance isn’t what he’ll remember.

“It’s more about being there and hanging out with all the people you’ve been playing against all season,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. I looked at it as a day off because it was just having a good time.”

Fallen King

The full extent of Tigers third baseman Jason King’s injury was explained Wednesday. King, who injured his left leg running the bases Saturday in State College, Pa., the second-to-last game before the All-Star break, tore his ACL and is done for the season.

King was walking around Dodd Stadium with a cane and will undergo surgery in a couple of weeks. He was the Detroit Tigers’ fourth-round selection out of Kansas State in June’s draft. King, Connecticut’s No. 3 hitter, was hitting .251 with a team-leading six home runs and his 31 RBIs trailed Green by two for tops on the team.

Matt Perry will play third and Tyler Collins will slide into King’s spot in the lineup.

Scoring quirk

For the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader with the Yankees, the Tigers served as the road team. The game was a make-up contest from a July 8 rainout at Staten Island.

Tigers

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Tigers walk-off on squeeze play.

By JOE PEREZ

The Bulletin

Posted Aug 18, 2011 @ 09:12 PM

NORWICH — Javier Azcona laid down a squeeze bunt with the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the ninth, successfully scoring P.J. Polk to give Connecticut the 1-0 win over Staten Island on Thursday at Dodd Stadum.

Wilsen Palacios (4-3) pitched a complete game three-hit shutout. He has thrown 16 consecutive scoreless innings.

Tigers walk-off on squeeze play - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Late-inning heroics keep Tigers in playoff hunt

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Tiger's left fielder Tyler Collins makes a diving catch robbing a hit by Yankee's Ben Gamel in the first inning Friday at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. See more photos at NorwichBulletin.com John Shishmanian/ NorwichBulletin.com

By JOE PEREZ

The Bulletin

Posted Aug 19, 2011 @ 11:24 PM

Norwich, Conn. — The Connecticut Tigers are becoming masters of late-game heroics.

For the third straight game, the Tigers used a late-inning rally Friday to come away with a 4-0 victory over league-leading Staten Island at Dodd Stadium.

The recipe of superb pitching and clutch hitting has brought Connecticut (28-29) seven wins in its last nine games. It trails first-place Vermont by 11⁄2 games in the Stedler Division.

“You look at us from the beginning of the year, we lost so many games by one run and late in the game we could never come up with the big hit to win those games,” manager Andrew Graham said. “Now, the guys have stuck with their approach and are executing much better. Now we are seeing ourselves come out with the ‘W,’ rather than walking into the clubhouse with the loss.”

Connecticut scored four runs in the eighth inning, highlighted by a hustling Tyler Collins, who scored from second base on a ground out to short.

It’s the third time this season that Collins has taken such a gamble, but said after he succeeded the first time, the thought of doing it again has always been in the back of his mind if he reaches second base.

“We’re playing our odds because usually a first baseman will receive the double play ball and just look back at third,” Collins said. “By the time he’s looked to third and realized no one is there, looks home and throws the ball, it generally works out. That’s the first time I’ve drawn a throw this year.”

Graham said the risk associated with such a bold move is acceptable because the run made it 2-0 and the Yankees were down to their final three outs.

Pitcher Brennan Smith continued to improve upon his All-Star season. Smith didn’t factor in the decision, but went seven innings, allowing five runs and one walk while striking out five. He lowered his ERA to 1.88, which is tops in the New York-Penn League.

He was the second straight Tigers starter to throw up zeros, falling two innings shy of matching Wilsen Palacios’ complete-game shutout the night before.

Nick Avila (3-0) went two innings for the win.

“There were so many games in the beginning of the season where we didn’t give him any run support,” Graham said. “And I know every time he’s on the mound, the guys want to score runs for him because he’s kept us in so many games. (Friday) we didn’t get him the ‘W” but we kept him in the game with good defense.”

Still scoreless after seven-and-a half innings, the Tigers mixed being opportunistic with aggressiveness to take control of the game.

Zach Maggard led off with a double to deep center, and was replaced by pinch runner P.J. Polk. The next hitter, Matt Perry, laid down a sacrifice bunt attempt that was fielded by pitcher Philip Wetherell but thrown high over second baseman Angelo Gumbs, who was covering first.

The error allowed Polk to score and Perry to reach third. Eugenio Suarez singled home Perry, and after moving to second on a groundout, took third on a wild pitch.

Collins singled and advanced to second on an errant pick-off attempt. Then on Aaron Westlake’s grounder to short, shortstop Cito Culver’s throw pulled Reymond Nunez off first. A hustling Collins came around to score ahead of Nunez’s throw.

Connecticut hosts Aberdeen at 7 p.m. tonight. Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Frank Tanana will throw out the first pitch.

Late-inning heroics keep Tigers in playoff hunt - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers top IronBirds.

By Staff reports

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 20, 2011 @ 11:32 PM

NORWICH — Tigers starter Matt Crouse allowed just two earned runs on eight hits while striking out four, and relievers Fernando Celis and Melvin Mercedes combined for 2 2/3 innings of two-hit ball with one earned run in Connecticut’s 4-3 win over Aberdeen on Saturday.

Tyler Collins (2-for-4, RBI, run scored) and Matt Perry (2-for-3, run) each had a pair of hits for the Tigers (29-29).

Tigers top IronBirds - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers earn 1st winning record in two months.

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Connecticut's second baseman Javier Azcona, right, tags out Aberdeen's Dudley Leonora in a rundown Sunday during the seventh inning of the Tigers' 5-1 win at Dodd Stadium.

By JOE PEREZ

The Bulletin

Posted Aug 21, 2011 @ 11:19 PM

NORWICH — Connecticut manager Andrew Graham had some difficulty writing assignments on a dry-erase board Sunday afternoon inside the team’s clubhouse.

His marker began to fade and Graham begged for it to last another day. He put it to the board again and it wrote clearly.

Everything has been going the Tigers’ way lately, and that trend continued with a 5-1 win over Aberdeen at Dodd Stadium. The win extends Connecticut’s winning streak to five games.

The Tigers (30-29) have won 10 of their last 12 games and have a winning record for the first time in two months. Connecticut was 3-2 on June 21.

“The feeling in the clubhouse is we don’t have to play well to win; we’re going to win, but by how many runs now,” Graham said. “The feeling’s changed in the clubhouse. It’s a positive feeling and it’s exciting.”

The game might not have turned out in Connecticut’s favor had it not been for pitcher Jeff Barfield.

Barfield entered the game with a 1-0 lead, but the bases were loaded and no one was out.

He got Glynn Davis to hit a fly ball to center field, where P.J. Polk caught it for the first out. Adam Davis tagged up from third, and Polk’s throw made it to Barfield, who instead of making what would have been a late throw home, spun around and pump faked a throw to third.

The fake froze Dudley Leonora between second and third. Barfield said his goal was to keep Leonora from advancing to third, but instead he caught him in a rundown.

“In the grand scheme of things, as a pitcher, I want to emphasize damage control,” Barfield. “Odds are you’re going to give up one run. If you can limit that to one run and not give up a big inning, it puts your team in a good position.”

Going to third baseman Matt Perry and then shortstop Eugenio Suarez for the out, the Tigers picked up two outs at the cost of the tying run. Leaving one runner on base, the play killed any chance of a big inning for the IronBirds.

“That’s huge,” Perry said of the rundown. “They had some momentum loading up the bases with no outs. Barfield did a great job and just threw strikes.”

Barfield closed out the inning with a groundout. He would pitch two more innings to earn his third win. Starter Tommy Collier went six scoreless. Scott Green faced three batters — all reaching base — before giving way to Barfield.

The Tigers responded by scoring four runs in the bottom of the inning.

Dean Green was hit by a pitch, Aaron Westlake singled and Jeff Holm reached on a bunt. With one down, grounders by Perry and Javier Azcona were misplayed at third, scoring three runs. A fielding error on a force attempt off of a Polk grounder scored the last run.

Connecticut will return to Dodd Stadium at 7:05 p.m., today when the Tigers’ Luis Sanz (5-4, 3.13 ERA) will face Aberdeen’s Ryan Berry (1-1, 5.89 ERA).

Tigers earn 1st winning record in two months - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers' 5-game win streak ends.

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Connecticut second baseman Javier Azcona throws to first to get out Aberdeen’s Mychal Givens on Monday in the third inning at Dodd Stadium in Norwich. The IronBirds ended the Tigers’ five-game win streak with a 7-3 victory.

By MARC ALLARD

mallard@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 22, 2011 @ 11:10 PM

NORWICH — Things were going pretty well for the Connecticut Tigers until the seventh inning of their game against Aberdeen Monday night.

Winners of their last five games, and 10 of the last 12, the Tigers committed a pair of errors in the seventh that helped Aberdeen score twice on the way to a 7-3 win.

“I think the guys got a little comfortable with the winning streak and they turned up just thinking we were going to win,” Tigers manager Andrew Graham said.

It was the finale to a three-game set at Dodd Stadium, but not the end of the teams’ six-game season series. Both teams boarded the bus and headed to Maryland on Monday to begin a three-game series against each another tonight.

“You can play a team too many times, but it can be a positive. We know how to pitch their guys,” Graham said about the home-and-home series.

The loss meant the Tigers failed to gain a game on Vermont, which also lost Monday. Connecticut trails Vermont by a game and a half with 14 left to play in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division.

“I wholeheartedly believe that we’re all trying to make the playoffs, not only make, but win,” leftfielder Tyler Collins said. “All we can do is win games. We have to put (Monday night) behind us, and we’re looking forward to (today).

Luis Sanz, who has been one of the Tigers’ most consistent pitchers lately, struggled early as he walked in the first run in the first inning. It was an unusual occurrence for the right-handed pitcher, who had allowed just 11 runs in 49 innings over his previous eight starts.

Old Lyme High School graduate and former Niantic American Legion standout Ryan Zrenda — who signed with Aberdeen on Aug. 16 — got to Sanz in the fourth inning. His triple to left scored one run and he scored on an RBI single by ninth batter Martin Serrata. It was just the second hit of the Brown University graduate’s pro career.

The long ball almost bailed out Sanz and the Tigers as Javier Azcona, the ninth batter in the Connecticut order, hit a solo homer, his fourth of the season, in the third inning. Tyler Collins added another solo shot in the fourth, his sixth of the year.

“We were seeing that first kid (Tyler Wilson) all right, but they brought that lefty (Matt Taylor, 2-0) and he kind of messed with our approaches a little bit,” Collins said.

The Tigers (30-30) tied the game in the sixth when Dean Green singled home Eugenio Suarez.

But troubles beset Connecticut in the seventh when Austin Knight reached on an error and reliever Pedro Perez (0-2) issued a two-out walk to Joe Velleggia. Wynston Sawyer put Aberdeen (21-41) ahead to stay with an RBI single, and an error on the play allowed Velleggia to score.

Tigers right-hander Wilsen Palacios (4-3) will face Ryan Berry (1-1) at 7:05 p.m., tonight.

Sports - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers gain ground in division

The Bulletin

Posted Aug 24, 2011 @ 11:20 PM

ABERDEEN, Md. —

Brennan Smith continued his all-star season, pitching seven scoreless innings in Connecticut’s 4-2 win over Aberdeen on Wednesday night.

Smith (3-2) allowed just five hits and two walks while striking out five. He lowered his ERA to a league-leading 1.70.

The win, combined with a Vermont loss, brings Connecticut to within 1 1/2 games of first place.

He was staked to an early 1-0 lead when Eugenio Suarez hit his fifth home run of the season with one out in the first.

The Tigers (31-31) put two more runs on the board in the third, giving Smith and two other pitchers all the support they would need.

Suarez singled and scored on a Tyler Collins triple. Then a wild pitch during the next at-bat allowed Collins to score.

The IronBirds scored twice in the eighth to pull to within a run. But Connecticut came back in the top of the ninth to stretch the lead back to two.

Jeff Holm walked and was sacrificed to second by new Tiger Edgar Corcino. After Javier Azcona’s single moved Holm to third, Chad Wright’s single past second baseman Austin Knight.

The teams wrap-up their three-game series tonight at 7:05 p.m.

Tigers gain ground in division - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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First place within Tigers’ reach

Connecticut, Vermont square off tonight

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Connecticut's Javier Azcona throws to first for an out against the Tri-City ValleyCats during a baseball game at Dodd Stadium in Norwich Friday, July 22, 2011.

By JOE PEREZ

The Bulletin

Posted Aug 25, 2011 @ 11:24 PM

Norwich, Conn. —

An even record might not be much to get excited about, but for the Connecticut Tigers, their 32-31 mark after Thursday’s 10-2 win over Aberdeen represents somewhat of an achievement.

Less than three weeks ago, the Tigers were seven games under .500 and could have easily thrown in the towel.

Instead, the Tigers have won 12 of their last 16 games and are a half-game out of first place in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division.

Now, Connecticut faces a potential make-or-break weekend. It plays first-place Vermont five times in four days, including the conclusion of a suspended game that the Tigers lead, 2-0, in the fifth inning.

Big series upcoming

Connecticut hosts Vermont for two games at Dodd Stadium starting at 7 p.m., tonight. Saturday’s game is Norwich Navigators Night.

“I tell them every day: We execute, you play hard, we’re going to win, and they’ve been doing it lately. ... We just have to keep rolling. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low,” manager Andrew Graham said. “You have to stay on a level plane in baseball.

“Now that we’re in the playoff chase, these guys, they’re coming up playing hard and they’re ready to win.”

Despite having several players promoted throughout the Detroit farm system and the loss of third baseman Jason King to a season-ending ACL injury, the Tigers believe they have the pieces in place to make a run at the league title.

Designated hitter Dean Green, who is third in batting average at .337 through Thursday, leads the offense. A surprising element to the lineup is its power; Connecticut is second in the New York-Penn League with 42 home runs.

Speed kills

With five batters, excluding King, posting at least four homers, the Tigers feel they can put up runs at any point in the lineup.

Outfielder Tyler Collins, who played in half of the Tigers’ games, has been one of the sparkplugs. He’s used his speed on three occasions to score from second base, and also sports a .336 average, six home runs and 22 RBIs to go with five steals.

“I think it starts in the locker room,” Collins said. “We’ve got great chemistry and everybody likes each other, and we’ve started to relax around each other and it’s started to translate on the field.”

It hasn’t been just the bats getting the job done for Connecticut.

The Tigers have the third-best team ERA, led by All-Star Brennan Smith’s league-best 1.70. Connecticut has four pitchers in the top 18 among individuals and have a New York-Penn League-high six complete games. To put that into perspective, the rest of the league has a combined total of three. Connecticut also leads in shutouts.

“There have been some ups and downs, but the thing is we knew we had the talent to do what we’re doing right now,” reliever Jeff Barfield said. “Nobody’s really surprised by it, everybody pretty much expected it. It was just when was it going to happen.”

Lesson learned

The similarities between this season and last are there. In the Tigers’ first season in Norwich, they won eight of 10 before dropping the last two games of the season, including the finale in 13 innings. Had Connecticut won either of those games, it would have made the postseason.

Several holdovers from that team said they learned a lesson from 2010 and are want to make sure that everyone understands that any play could determine the outcome of the season.

“In such a long season, it’s easy to get caught up looking at the big picture,” third baseman Matt Perry said. “We have to just take it day by day. If you focus on winning the game that day or winning each series, then stuff in the big picture like making the playoffs will take care of themselves.”

First place within Tigers

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Tigers move to within half-game of first place

By Staff reports

The Bulletin

Posted Aug 25, 2011 @ 11:08 PM

Aberdeen, Md. —

Javier Azcona went 3-for-4 with two RBIs and Tyler Collins hit a home run and drove in four runs as the Connecticut Tigers beat the Aberdeen Ironbirds, 10-2, Thursday night.

Nine batters had at least one hit for Connecticut, which held a 6-0 lead after four innings and cruised from there. It was the 12th win in the last 16 games for the Tigers (32-31).

With the win, Connecticut moved within a half-game of Vermont, which lost to Hudson Valley, 6-5. The two teams begin a five-game stretch over four days starting tonight at Dodd Stadium.

Matt Crouse (5-1) scattered seven hits over six innings.

The Tigers jumped out quickly against Aberdeen. With one out in the first inning, Eugenio Suarez walked and Collins followed with a two-run homer to right.

Suarez gave Connecticut a 3-0 lead in the second on an RBI single, scoring Les Smith. The Tigers tacked on another run in the third on Azcona’s RBI single, scoring Dean Green.

Collins followed with a two-run single in the fourth to increase Connecticut’s lead to 6-0.

The Tigers added three runs in the sixth on RBI singles from Azcona and Edgar Corcino, and a passed ball that brought home Azcona. Connecticut put its 10th run on the board in the eighth after Dean Green tripled and Aaron Westlake’s RBI groundout.

Tigers move to within half-game of first place - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers take over 1st place with win over Lake Monsters

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 26, 2011 @ 11:49 PM

NORWICH —

The fireworks that followed Friday night’s game at Dodd Stadium were in place almost as soon as the Connecticut Tigers’ schedule was released.

On this occasion, the pyrotechnics might as well have been in celebration of the Tigers’ latest accomplishment.

Thanks to a 5-0 victory Friday night over Vermont, Connecticut took over first place of the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division by half a game.

The Tigers (33-31), who moved a season-high two games over .500, ended the Lake Monsters’ reign over the division. Vermont held at least a share of the division lead until Connecticut’s victory.

“First place sounds great, but it’s going to sound a lot better at the end of the season,” manager Andrew Graham said. “I’m not going to let it get to the guys’ heads, not going to let it get to my head. We’ve been playing good baseball; we’ve been in second place, third place and fourth place. We just have to keep going, winning these games.”

The key to the Tigers’ resurgence has been its pitching staff. The starting rotation has allowed seven earned runs over 882⁄3 innings (0.71 ERA).

Friday was Tommy Collier’s turn. Collier (3-1) went 51⁄3 scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing three hits. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 111⁄3 innings.

“This was a big game because we’re chasing first place and we want to win our division,” Collier said. “I just wanted to give us a chance to win. When I got myself into a bind, I wanted to handle the adversity as best I can. That was my mentality, just battle through that and get outs for the team.”

Those hits, along with two walks, put him in a couple of jams, one in the second inning and another in the sixth.

In the second jam, he loaded the bases on a hit batter, an error and a walk before getting an out.

Jeff Barfield came in and got the last two outs to finish off the Lake Monsters (33-32)

The Tigers scored twice in the fifth, thanks to consecutive singles by Zach Maggard, Edgard Corcino and Chad Wright, plus a throwing error on an attempted pick-off.

The next inning, the Tigers closed the door.

Dean Green (2-for-3, walk, run) doubled, Aaron Westlake (3-for-3, walk, run) singled and took second on a wild pitch, and Javier Azcona singled to set up the inning.

With Green having scored on the wild pitch and runners on the corners, Azcona was caught in a rundown, but Westlake alertly stole home while his teammate was able to return safely to first base. Three batters later, Wright (2-for-3, walk) singled home Azcona.

“I know I’m not a fast runner, so I have to use instincts more than anything,” Westlake said. “I just have to know when to go where other guys can get away with it, because they use their speed.”

The teams wrap up their two-game series at 1:05 p.m. today. Vermont will send Brent Powers (3-2, 4.30) against Connecticut’s Luis Angel Sanz (5-4, 3.25).

Tigers take over 1st place with win over Lake Monsters - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers lose grip on 1st place

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 27, 2011 @ 08:45 PM

NORWICH —

Connecticut’s time atop the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division didn’t last very long.

Struggling to put runners on base and take advantage of the few they had, the Tigers fell, 3-1, to Vermont in 13 innings Saturday at Dodd Stadium.

The loss drops the Tigers (33-32) to a half-game back of the Lake Monsters in the division. It also means that unless Connecticut wins the three remaining games between the teams — all in Vermont — the Tigers will lose the valuable head-to-head tiebreaker. Vermont is 5-2 against Connecticut.

The Tiger, who had six base runners through the first five innings, had two over the last eight.

Outfielder Tyler Collins said the pressure of playing an important game, one that could have put the Tigers up 11⁄2 games, didn’t get to the team. Instead, they got away from their approach at the plate.

“I can only speak for myself, but I’m going to say pitch selection for me,” he said, describing a cause for the offensive problems. “I wasn’t going after pitches that I probably should have. We have a gap-to-gap approach as our team hitting philosophy, and I wasn’t using it. I’m not going to name names, we’re all trying our best because we want to beat these guys. They’re our division competition to go to the playoffs.”

Nick Avila (3-1) pitched a scoreless 12th inning, but got into trouble immediately in the 13th. With the game tied at

1-1, Avila hit a batter and issued a walk.

That was followed by a sac bunt that put two runners in scoring position with no outs. Torrington native Michael Fabiaschi tried for a squeeze bunt, but fouled it off. Two pitches later, he kept the ball fair and put the Lake Monsters (34-32) ahead for good. Bobby Crocker followed with an RBI single to right for a two-run lead.

Despite its lineup struggling to put together much of an attack, Connecticut held a 1-0 lead going into the sixth.

Dean Green and Aaron Westlake singled with one out, and Jeff Holm drove in Green with a two-out hit to center. With runners on the corners and two outs, Luis Alberto Sanz was unable to bring home another runner.

Sanz’s brother, Luis Angel Sanz, was having little difficulty with the Vermont lineup. He retired the first nine batters he faced before needing a pair of force-outs at second to end a minor threat in the fourth.

In the fifth, he walked the leadoff batter, who stole second, but that was as far as the runner went.

The sixth inning proved treacherous because of the first of two errors by Eugenio Suarez in the inning that led to an unearned run.

Aaron Shipman hit a routine grounder to short that Suarez threw over Westlake’s head at first and into the stands, putting Shipman at second. After a sacrifice bunt, Fabiaschi singled home Shipman to tie the score.

Suarez made three errors in the game.

“You’ve got to keep talking to them,” manager Andrew Graham said. “Suarez makes plays up the middle that no one else will make. He does a great job for us. Sometimes the game gets a little fast for him. You just have to tell him to slow it down. You don’t have to be flashy, just make the play.”

Tigers lose grip on 1st place - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers stay in 2nd place after splitting games

By Staff reports

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 29, 2011 @ 11:23 PM

BURLINGTON, Vt. —

The New York-Penn League Stedler Division standings stayed just as they were going into Monday after the Connecticut Tigers and division-leading Vermont Lake Monsters split a pair of games.

Vermont shut out Connecticut, 4-0, in seven innings after the Tigers held off a Lake Monsters rally to win, 4-3, in the completion of a suspended game. Vermont maintained its half-game lead in the division going into the final week of the season.

Jeff Holm got the Tigers’ (35-32) lone hit in the shutout, a bunt single in the second inning. He stole second but was stranded there when P.J. Polk flied out to right and Javier Azcona struck out swinging.

Connecticut starter Wilsen Palacios struck out six batters but gave up three earned runs, including a homer, on four hits in five innings in the loss.

With the Tigers leading, 2-0 when play began in the fifth inning of the first game, Pedro Perez relieved starting pitcher Brennan Smith. Perez gave up a double to Dusty Robinson, the second hitter he faced, that scored Vermont’s first run of the game. Robinson then scored on a single after he moved to third on a sacrifice bunt.

The Lake Monsters scored another unanswered run in the sixth inning on Robinson’s RBI single against Tigers reliever Fernando Celis.

Connecticut slugger Dean Green came to the rescue in the eighth inning, however, with a two-run homer to score Polk.

The Tigers are scheduled to begin the final stretch of the regular season at 7:05 p.m., today at Dodd Stadium when they play the Hudson Valley Renegades in a three-game set.

They then play a doubleheader Friday at home against Lowell, followed by single games against the Spinners on Saturday and Sunday.

Tigers stay in 2nd place after splitting games - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Brennan Smith lifts Tigers into 1st place

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Connecticut's Brennan Smith pitches to a Hudson Valley batter during a baseball game at Dodd Stadium in Norwich Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

By MARC ALLARD

The Bulletin

Posted Aug 30, 2011 @ 11:10 PM

Norwich, Conn. —

Jeff Holm was showered by a bucket full of baseballs in a postgame interview on the field. The locker room itself was a wild and crazy place.

Hijinks such as that, this late in the baseball season, generally mean good things.

The Connecticut Tigers bolted back into the lead in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division on Tuesday with a 5-0 victory over Hudson Valley at Dodd Stadium. They lead Vermont by a half-game after the Lake Monsters fell to Staten Island, 6-4.

“The guys are all into it, saying (Vermont) is losing or winning, and I keep telling them, ‘Just take care of business, that’s all we can do,’ ” Connecticut manager Andrew Graham said.

Brennan Smith threw 107 pitches and took just 2 hours, 9 minutes to pitch the Tigers to the win. The performance wasn’t exactly unexpected by the righthander, who has thrown 30 straight scoreless innings for the Tigers (35-33).

“It’s bringing my confidence back up,” Smith said.

It has been a bit of an up-and-down ride this season. Smith started with the Western Michigan Whitecaps in Single-A ball but posted just a 1-3 record with a 4.99 earned-run average. He gave up 47 hits in 39 2/3 innings.

“We signed a couple of draft picks and he got bumped down,” Graham said.

Since that bump, Smith has posted a 4-3 record with a 1.45 ERA with 62 strikeouts and just 19 walks.

“The numbers he had in West Michigan compared to the numbers he has now are completely different,” Graham said. “He’s found his groove, he’s found how he likes to pitch and he’s ready to go. It will be interesting how he does next year at a higher level.”

His teammates helped on Tuesday, when they scored five runs in the first two innings. Tyler Collins and Dean Green had back-to-back doubles in the first inning and a Holm triple ignited a four-run rally in the second.

“It gets you a little more relaxed and you don’t try to be as perfect,” Smith said of the early lead. “When you try to be too perfect, you leave pitches up, but with a five-run lead, you just throw strikes.”

Little damage

Dodd Stadium escaped much of the wrath of Hurricane Irene, although one noticeable feature was missing.

The batter’s eye in center field, a 64-foot long, 16-foot high piece of heavy mesh fabric, was left in tatters by the storm on Sunday.

“I’m hoping to get clearance — since we only have six games left — from minor league baseball and the (New York-Penn) League that I won’t have to put it back up this season,” Tigers general manager Andrew Weber said.

“We never lost power, so we didn’t lose food, beer or soda or anything of that sense, which was my biggest concern,” Weber said.

The only other casualty was a back-lit sign on the first base concourse, which belonged to the Tigers and had its frame broken by the wind.

Brennan Smith lifts Tigers into 1st place - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Tigers falter, but still lead division

By Staff reports

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Aug 31, 2011 @ 11:35 PM

NORWICH —

The Connecticut Tigers had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning but couldn’t complete the rally, losing, 6-4, to the Hudson Valley Renegades on Wednesday at Dodd Stadium.

The Tigers (35-34) remain a half-game up on the Vermont Lake Monsters in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division with four days left in the season. Vermont lost, 3-2, to Staten Island on Wednesday.

Jeff Holm’s RBI double and Patrick Leyland’s sacrifice fly plated two runs in the bottom of the ninth and Matt Perry singled, but Javier Azcona, who represented the tying run, flew out to the warning track in left field to end the game.

Dean Green (two RBIs) and Eugenio Suarez each had two hits for the Tigers while Jeff Malm led the Renegades (34-37), going 2-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs.

Connecticut will play the rubber match of the three-game series with Hudson Valley at 7:05 p.m., tonight at Dodd Stadium (WICH 1310 AM).

Tigers falter, but still lead division - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Win sends Tigers into regular season's final homestand

By Staff reports

sports@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Sep 01, 2011 @ 11:42 PM

NORWICH —

The Connecticut Tigers scored three runs in the first inning and starter Thomas Collier and the bullpen shut down Hudson Valley the rest of the way, helping the hosts take a 5-1 win over the Renegades on Thursday at Dodd Stadium.

With the series win, the Tigers (36-34) remain a half-game ahead of Vermont atop the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division after the Lake Monsters’ 9-3 win over Staten Island.

Collier (4-1) allowed one run on only five hits and struck out four in his seven innings to earn the win. Bill Castillo and Montreal Robertson combined for two scoreless, one-hit innings.

After Dean Green drew a bases-loaded walk to put the Tigers on the board, Jeff Holm got the key hit of the game, a two-run single in the first that gave Connecticut a 3-0 lead. Holm also belted an RBI double in the fifth to end the scoring for the Tigers. Matt Perry brought Green home on a single to center field in the third.

The Tigers begin their final homestand with a doubleheader today against Lowell. The first game begins at 5 p.m.

Connecticut closes the regular season with single games against the Spinners on Saturday and Sunday.

Win sends Tigers into regular season's final homestand - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Connecticut Tigers close to clinching division

By Staff reports

The Bulletin

Posted Sep 02, 2011 @ 11:05 PM

NORWICH — Luis Angel Sanz’s near-perfect game highlighted the Connecticut Tigers’ doubleheader sweep of the Lowell Spinners at Dodd Stadium on Friday.

Connecticut won, 10-1, in the first game and 4-3 in the second, putting it in position to clinch a Stedler Division title.

By virtue of Vermont’s 5-4 win over Tri-City on Friday, Connecticut (38-34) could clinch the division today with a win against Lowell and a Vermont loss. The Tigers play the Spinners at 7:05 p.m., today at Dodd Stadium, with the regular-season finale set for 1:05 p.m., Sunday.

Nearly perfect

In the first game, Sanz was two outs from throwing a perfect game until Jose Garcia hit a one-out homer to left field in the seventh. Sanz earned his team-leading sixth win of the season (6-4), lowered his ERA to 2.81 and also picked up seven strikeouts, adding to his New York-Penn League-leading tally (76).

The Tigers’ offense scored 10 runs on nine hits, including a three-run homer by Javier Azcona, his fifth of the season, that highlighted a six-run second inning.

Connecticut trailed, 2-0, in the first inning of the second game but Tyler Collins started a rally with an RBI single in the bottom of the first. The Tigers tied the game when Jeff Holm scored after Patrick Leyland reached on an error.

Collins hit his team-leading eighth home run of the season to tie the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the third and Matt Perry scored the winning run on a fielder’s choice.

Tonight is Norwich Navigators Night at Dodd Stadium.

Connecticut Tigers close to clinching division - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Luis A. Sanz was throwing to Luis A. Sanz....would have been a fun fact to throw a perfect game to your brother.

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Connecticut Tigers could clinch division today

By Staff reports

The Bulletin

Posted Sep 03, 2011 @ 11:00 PM

NORWICH — The Connecticut Tigers are a victory away from clinching the Stedler Division after a 4-1 win over Lowell on Saturday at Dodd Stadium.

Starting pitcher Wilsen Palacios (5-5, 3.08 ERA) struck out eight batters and allowed four hits in seven shutout innings, and, after five scoreless frames, his teammates gave him some support, scoring three runs in the sixth inning.

The win was the Tigers’ (39-34) third against the Spinners in two days after sweeping a doubleheader Friday. With it, Connecticut maintains its half-game divisional lead over Vermont, which beat Tri-City, 13-0, on Saturday.

With a victory over Lowell today or a Vermont loss, Connecticut will win the division. Should the Tigers lose and Vermont win, the Lake Monsters, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker, win the division.

Tigers slugger Dean Green was 3-for-4 Saturday with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored.

In the bottom of the sixth, Green followed teammate Tyler Collins’ (2-for-4, run) RBI double with one of his own in the next at-bat. He scored on Aaron Westlake’s line drive to center field.

Connecticut tacked on an insurance run in the eighth on another Westlake (2-for-4) basehit to center, scoring Eugenio Suarez, who doubled earlier in the frame.

Jeff Barfield picked up his fifth save after striking out a batter without giving up a hit in the ninth inning.

The Tigers host the Spinners at 1:05 p.m., today in the regular season finale for both teams.

Connecticut Tigers could clinch division today - Norwich, CT - The Bulletin

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Connecticut Tigers’ season ends in 16-inning loss

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The Tigers’ Eugenio Suarez heads to first after laying down a bunt Sunday in the first inning of the Tigers’ 6-5, 16-inning loss to the Lowell Spinners at Dodd Stadium.

By JOE PEREZ

jperez@norwichbulletin.com

Posted Sep 04, 2011 @ 11:15 PM

NORWICH —

On the final day of the 2010 season, the Connecticut Tigers only had to win their last game in order to take the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division.

The Tigers gave up two extra-inning leads and lost in 13 innings, missing the playoffs by a half-game.

2011 might have come with a bigger heartbreak.

Needing a win or a Vermont loss to clinch the division, Connecticut lost to Lowell, 6-5, in 16 innings Sunday at Dodd Stadium. To make matters worse, Vermont rallied to beat Hudson Valley, 11-7, ending the Tigers’ season.

The teams finished tied atop the division, but the Tigers lost the head-to-head tiebreaker after giving up 4 of 10 games to the Lake Monsters. Tigers general manager Andrew Weber said the team explored filling a protest with the league to force Connecticut and Vermont to make up a rained out game from last weekend, but president Ben Hayes said the protest needed to be filed the day of the game.

“We came in a little flat, maybe a little scared,” Graham said of his team, which rallied from five runs down. “We turned it on, we came back. They showed a lot of heart and energy to come back in the ninth inning.”

Connecticut (39-35) scored a run in the eighth inning, four in the ninth and nearly won in the 10th.

Javier Azcona led off with a single and was moved to second on Chad Wright’s sac bunt. Drew Turocy dropped Eugenio Suarez’s fly ball, putting two runners in scoring position. Tyler Collins was intentionally walked to load the bases and set up a double play.

Shortstop Jose Garcia bobbled Dean Green’s grounder, allowing Azcona to score. However, as the Tigers began to run onto the field, umpire Dan Merzel said the ball hit Suarez’s foot, ruling him out and sending the runners back to their bases. A pop-up by Aaron Westlake ended the inning.

“It hurts that maybe our base running wasn’t up to standard,” Graham said, “and he didn’t take the necessary secondary (lead) to take us out of that situation.”

If it wasn’t that mental mistake that cost the Tigers the game, then it was another.

In the bottom of the 15th, Collins returned to the dugout and shattered his helmet after grounding out. When he took the field in the 16th, he dropped a fly ball for a leadoff two-base error. It was an unusual misstep for Collins, who has the second fewest errors among the team’s outfielders.

A sac bunt and wild pitch later, Lowell (29-45) had the lead.

When he returned to the dugout, Graham yelled at Collins, telling him he might have cost the team the game. The manager later said he doesn’t believe Collins’ error was related to his outburst.

“Usually, I feel like I’m pretty good reading balls off the bat. ... When I saw (the swing) I didn’t think he could’ve put anything on the ball and hit it low,” Collins said. “I took a step in to come get it, turns out he hit it better. Turns out I completely misread it.”

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