BRISTOL – It is often said that when playoff baseball comes around, the level of play goes up a couple notches. In Game 1 of the NECBL semifinals, the Bristol Blues and Martha’s Vineyard Sharks did not disappoint.
This game had it all. A grand slam, diving catches, heated arguments, player ejections, injuries, players and umpires being hit with the ball and a 45-minute rain delay. The game also sparked a 10-3 comeback win by the Sharks.
Blues pitcher Jagger Duquette said it was a tough game and overall the team just didn’t have it.
“It was definitely a tough one. Martha’s Vineyard is a really good team so we knew they were going to be good,” he said.
The Blues set the tone of the game early in the first inning. Joseph Rios got Bristol on the board early. With the bases loaded, Rios hit a single to right field bringing home Matt Smith and Derek Tenney.
Duquette also had it going early, striking out seven of 13 batters, mainly with his curveball.
“I would say that’s my best pitch in general. That’s my bread and butter,” Duquette said. “If that’s not on I am going to have a really bad day. Today was a day that it was especially on. It’s probably the best it’s been all summer so that was working for me.”
While Bristol’s early play seemed like a recipe for success, a rain delay cooled off their hot start. Duquette said the team remained engaged even within the delay, but it was a tough situation to move forward with.
“I think it absolutely cooled us down; I had a feeling it was going to,” he said. “I was hoping that it didn’t drag on for that long because I know how rain delays work. It happened to me in high school. It’s like you have the idea to start and play and when you stop, it’s hard to get back in the groove.”
After the rain delay, the Blues came out and played well during the third inning, however, Duquette was subbed out in the fourth due to pitch count restrictions. Bristol gave up six runs in the fourth, including a grand slam, and shuffled through three more pitchers in the inning looking to find some stability.
The team eventually found a consistent arm with Jack Kelley, but by that time the scoreboard had stretched to 9-2.
Duquette said in general it is a difficult position for a pitcher to relive the starter and have people on base or have the bases loaded.
“It’s not easy. I’ve been a reliever the last two years at school and I’ve been put in some situations that you wouldn’t wish upon anybody,” he said. “It’s like bases loaded, no outs. That’s not what it was today, but in general when you have a situation when there are runners on base and you have to get out it’s not easy.”
Duquette said looking he’s forward to Game 2 Wednesday night, an elimination game for the Blues.
“We just have to be ready to go,” he said. “People have to be locked in on the bus and be ready to go on pitch one. If we make the best of what we can do then that’s all we can do. Hopefully we can get out tomorrow and win, come back here and win and then win it all.”