Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
The most amazing game I've ever seen
It's barely Sunday as I type this, but I already know the first thing I'm doing on Monday morning -- calling the Elias Sports Bureau. I want to verify that what I saw as Saturday night turned into Sunday morning was unprecedented.
To make sense of it all, let's start in the 15th inning, when Shane Brown, a Thunder outfielder who some in press box didn't even realize was on the active roster, came in to pitch for the first time, he says, since he was in Little League.
So, not only was he a decade removed from the mound, but he was making his professional pitching debut against the meat of the New Hampshire order, which included Brian Van Kirk, Mike McDade and former major leaguer Brian Bocock.
Sure, New Hampshire the worst record in the league, but one had to figure that it would put a win on its ledger against a guy who was throwing in the mid-60s, right?
Brown started by whiffing Van Kirk, which you can watch below:
Then he got into trouble. McDade and Bocock touched Brown for a single and a double, the latter of which was a wall-scraper, which meant McDade had to wait to see if it would be caught. That extra time kept him to third base instead of easily scoring.
The Thunder then chose to intentionally pass Kevin Howard -- a Trenton alumnus -- to create the force at any base. Manager Tony Franklin followed ball four with a conference on the mound. Here's what he told Brown, who referred to his repertoire as "a BP fastball":
"He was just telling me to put the ball over the plate, field my position, just try to get them to put it in play and get some outs."
After the conference, Brown went to 3-0 on the next man, Mark Sobolewski, putting the team perilously close to unlocking the tie it had protected for six innings, after homers from Cody Johnson and Damon Sublett had knotted the game in the eighth.
“It wasn’t as easy as it looked," Brown said. "That last bases-loaded, 3-0 (count) I had to come back, and my heart was pounding real hard. It was a lot of fun and I am glad it worked out the way it did.”
He recovered to strike out Sobolewski and induce an inning-ending flyout from catcher Brian Jeroloman, keeping the game tied for the bottom of the fifteenth, in which things did not look terribly promising.
Abe Almonte opened the inning with a single through the left side. Kevin Mahoney, who made two spectacular defensive plays on Saturday, bunted directly to Howard, who was charging hard from third and had plenty of time to cut down Almonte at second.
Zoilo Almonte followed with fly to left, but Addison Maruszak -- whose excitement at the prospect of possibly getting to pitch was exactly why Franklin opted for Brown -- singled sharply to left, pushing Mahoney to second and leaving the game, for the moment, in Brown's hands.
As he came to the plate, Brown said he mind was still on pitching and that was he simply going to let his hitting "do what it does."
Here's what it did:
The win capped a stretch of 29 innings in a little more than 24 hours, starting with Friday's game, which was suspended by rain in the top of the eighth. Because the game was suspended while tied after an inning later than the fifth, the teams had to play nine frames instead of seven -- normally the custom in the minors -- in the second game.
Problem was, nobody could score in the first game's resumption until the 14th inning, when Jose Pirela's line drive just eked inside the left-field foul pole for a walk-off homer that sealed Franklin's 1,000th career regular-season win.
And while it wasn't as unexpected as Brown's two-way heroics, Pirela's longball signaled a triumphant return for someone who'd spent most of the season concussed after taking a 95 mile per hour fastball from Portland lefty Chris Martin flush against his batting helmet.
Franklin, almost a certain inductee into the Trenton Baseball Hall of Fame somewhere down the line and a six-season Thunder veteran, was briefly honored on the field between games and was presented with an engraved watch as a token of thanks from the team.
Lost in all the madness of the day was that the wins vaulted Trenton past Reading into second place in the Eastern League East and, after the Rock Cats lost on Saturday night, just a half-game back of New Britain for the top spot overall.
After spending a total of 8 hours and 12 minutes of playing time between the two contests and finishing the day well past midnight, Trenton and New Hampshire will go back at it again on Sunday afternoon at 1:05 and then again at 10:35 a.m. on Monday.