Monday, Sept. 3—The Renegades defeated the Tri-City ValleyCats 2-1 in 11 innings in Troy tonight to become the team with the best won-lost record in the New York-Penn League at the moment and the first Renegades team to win 51 games in a season (eclipsing the 50-game high water mark established in 1998). The Gades, fresh from a three-game sweep of the IronBirds in Aberdeen over the weekend, and the ValleyCats, who were swept by the Lake Monsters in Vermont during that time, entered tonight’s contest with identical 50-23 records and home-field advantage in the playoffs on the line. Who would have suspected in June that this final series of the season would have so much riding on it?
Hudson Valley notched victory 50 by outlasting the IronBirds Sunday afternoon in a 12-9 slugfest that included a first-inning grand slam by Luke Maile, the first of the season for the Gades. Sorry I missed it, but I had obligations to my church choir (not that my voice was in particularly good shape after the celebration Saturday night) and my historical society (open house, I being one of the resident resource people on the history of our venerable Little Red Schoolhouse). Please click here to read the game story on the Gades’ Web site.
Eagerly anticipating a potential preview of a league championship series between my two favorite teams, I headed up the Taconic State Parkway, Interstate 90 and U.S. Route 4 to Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, traveling for the most part in the direction opposite homebound Labor Day traffic and arriving at The Joe at 4:25 p.m. for a 5 o’clock start. That gave me plenty of time to finish a lunch I had brought with me, fill in my scorebook and settle into Row F of Section 180, on the first-base side near the Renegades’ dugout. (Any other opponent, I would be sitting in Section 170 on the third-base side near the Cats’ dugout.)
Tommy Coyle got the Renegades on the scoreboard early with a first-inning homer, the only score of the game until the eighth, when the Cats evened matters on a bases-loaded walk. Seven Cats batted but not a single one recorded a hit; the run was the result of three walks and an error.
Marty Gantt scored the winning run amid a bizarre series of events after leading off the 11th inning with a single and being sacrificed to second by Felix Gonzalez. Coyle struck out on a full count for what should have been the third out; but the ball skittered away from catcher Tyler Heineman for a passed ball, allowing Tommy to reach first base safely while Marty raced home. Please click here to read the game story on the Gades’ Web site.
The extra-innings victory negated a masterful relief pitching performance by the Cats’ Brian Holmes, whose lone blemish on seven otherwise perfect innings was a fourth-inning walk. Brian and the Cats blanked the Renegades in the nightcap of a July 27 doubleheader at The Dutch, allowing only a seventh-inning single in an otherwise perfect seven-inning game.
Katie, a Dutchess Stadium staffer whose usher mom is our conduit to much leftover food, was on hand with her parents (her dad is an usher, too) and greeted me warmly at the gate. Charles Epperson waved at me and flashed a big smile as the players headed into the dugout before the game. Paul, one of several Renegades faithful who made the trip north, stopped by for a bit, and I heard a number of folks around me cheering for the Gades. My friend Scott, a longtime ValleyCat season ticket holder in Section 170, came over soon after the game started and, after a lot of good-natured ribbing, joined me in a vacant seat for three innings.
Anticipating a razzing from Southpaw, the ValleyCats’ mascot, I brought along a peace offering—a sign my son Dave made a while back that read “Southpaw 4 President.” Southpaw did not get to the first-base stands tonight (he tends to hang out near the Cats’ dugout) but Scott got his attention with the sign while the big cat was on the field between the fifth and sixth innings and handed it to him. When last seen, the sign was being carried in triumph toward the third-base stands.
The game was followed by a fine display of fireworks in honor of Labor Day, which dovetailed nicely with the Renegades’ victory. Outside the Cats’ clubhouse, Scott and I had a nice chat with relief pitcher Blake Ford. I was delighted to renew acquaintances with Mary, a longtime friend and Cats season ticket holder, whom I had not seen in previous visits to The Joe this season.
Thanks to the early game time it was still only about 9:30 by the time things were breaking up and the Renegades bus rolled away. Scott and I made our usual visit to Wendy’s across Route 4 and for a change arrived in time to eat inside (apple pecan salad for me, cheeseburger and fries for Scott). We both lamented that Dave, because of his work schedule, was not able to be part of the evening; ditto for Bob Hand.
Scott needed to replenish his home supply of Mountain Dew, so we stopped at Price Chopper before heading to his apartment, where we received a noisy greeting from his beagles, Dallas and Peanut. What began as a quick visit lasted more than an hour as we got engrossed in discussions of possible playoff scenarios, sports and life in general.
It was after midnight when I finally said goodbye to Scott until the next game and headed south. Before leaving the Troy area I gassed up at Cumberland Farms in Defreestville for $3.899 a gallon and stopped at Super Wal-Mart in East Greenbush for bird seed. Yes, that sounds like an unlikely thing to do at 1 a.m. when facing a two-hour drive home but I had been trying, without success, for a few weeks to get seed to refill an empty front-yard feeder, so I took advantage of the opportunity. Retracing my route, I arrived home safe and sound, without mishap, around 3:10, thank God.
Next game (end of regular season): Wednesday, Sept. 5, at Tri-City, first pitch 6 p.m.