Monday, Sept. 10—The Renegades will play in the New York-Penn League championship series for the first time since 1999 after a one-hit 2-0 victory over the Brooklyn Cyclones to take their semifinal series two games to one. The Gades will play the Tri-City ValleyCats in Troy at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday after the Cats defeated the Auburn Doubledays 16-7 in a 29-hit slugfest in the deciding third game of the other semifinal series.
The Renegades scored their runs in the first inning on a single by Joey Rickard, a triple by Richie Shaffer and a wild pitch and made the narrow margin stand up. Starting pitcher Taylor Guerrieri went four innings and allowed the lone Brooklyn hit, a third-inning single by Phillip Evans, who made a couple of dazzling plays at shortstop and was marking his 20th birthday. Relievers Brandon Henderson (4.1 innings) and Ryan Garton (0.2) did not allow a single runner over the final five innings. Please click here to read the game story on the Gades’ Web site.
Stefan Sabol’s strikeout to end the game touched off an enthusiastic celebration on the field, with corks popping and champagne spraying all over the area near the Renegades’ dugout. Screams, chants, whoops and assorted other noises added to the festive atmosphere.
Electricity and anticipation were in the air as the Renegades faithful arrived at the stadium, despite scattered grumbling about the operation of the parking lot. At my son Dave’s request (he has cleared his schedule for the next few days) I made arrangements with Paul to get the championship series tickets for his second season seat (the ones his son, John, won’t need because he is working in the clubhouse). I also thanked Photo Guy (the name on his shirt), one of the regular photographers, for providing me with some background material before Friday night’s game in Brooklyn.
Enhancing the atmosphere was a large contingent of Cyclones fans, led by King Henry (an iconic Brooklyn entertainer who has been a professional clown since 1989), who made the trek north from Brooklyn. Their clearly audible chants and cheers for the Cyclones in turn prompted some of the most spirited, sustained cheering for the Renegades that I have heard this entire season.
During a late-inning contest, King Henry, whose jersey had the number 00 (“for IQ,” it read in small type), came out on the short end of Catch 21 (the Renegades’ version of blackjack) and was hit in the face with a whipped-cream pie—“very tasty,” he told me afterward as he washed up in the men’s room. He then explained that, in must entertainment venues, such pies usually are made of shaving cream, since it holds up better over time in heat and light and does not develop an odor. (Again, you learn something every day.) I was pleased to learn that during the trip he had an opportunity to swing through Orange County and visit his mom. He regretfully declined my offer to join us in the corral because he was limited by the schedule of his traveling companions.
The temperature had taken a noticeable drop after the weekend storms, and it was rather chilly by the end of the game. Fortunately, at Bob’s suggestion, I had brought my Renegades jacket (the original colors of maroon and hunter green), although it didn’t do me any good until after the game, when I retrieved it from my car.
As expected, the mood in the parking lot was festive, with occasional shouts and whoops punctuating the night as we listened to the Auburn/Tri-City game on the P.A. system. Based on travel considerations, most folks favored Tri-City, since Troy is a lot closer (90 miles) to The Dutch than Auburn (220 miles), although I was prepared to drive to either one. We had nice chats with the Finnerans and Charles Epperson (a minor ailment kept his mom from being here) and cheered numerous other players. We also had a nice chat with the four umpires, two of whom (Jorge Teran and Scott Costello) will be calling the finals, thanked them for their often unappreciated efforts (there were more critical comments tonight than usual, it seemed) and wished them well.
The gathering dwindled but Bob and I were still around to congratulate and cheer our coaches when they left and, last but not least, Jared Sandberg, who thanked us again for our support and was pleased when we told him we would see him in Troy.
There were no sightings of skunks tonight (repaired lights in the parking lot may be part of the explanation) but one of the foxes, after an earlier appearance in the distance, later surprised Bob and me by briefly nosing around the clubhouse doors and then edging right up to the roadway between the corral fence and the main parking lot, probably no more than 20 feet from us—by far the closest it has ever come. In the excitement Bob got a couple of photos as the fox trotted past us, its fluffy tail straight out and parallel with the ground, its beautiful rust-colored coat glistening in the light. What a beautiful creature! Just one more reason why I’m glad I don’t rush to leave as soon as a game is over.
We finally headed home around midnight.