REGION – The regular season has come to mean very little lately in the Connecticut River Valley Baseball League. Over the past two summers, teams who didn’t finish in the leagues top three during the regular season have captured the league title. There are two theories of why this is happening.
The most accepted theory is that there is a great deal of balance in the summer adult league. There is also a rather large intangible, which plays an equally big part. That is the “any given week” theory. On any given week, who will show up to play for your team?
One longtime observer tells me, you have the league records, and then you have the talent. On any given Sunday, the Connecticut River Ironmen and the Walpole Maples have as good a team as anyone if their players show up. Both teams finished 3-9 in a tie for fifth place in the seven-team league.
Keene won the regular season league title with a 10-2 record but fell to eventual champion and fourth seed Putney 4-1 in the semi-finals, in one of two spectacular games in the next to last round. Both games were played swiftly, without a high number of strikeouts, with the ball put in play and defenses doing their job.
Keene showed up for the semi, but so did Putney. The Keene pitcher took a one-hitter and a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning and with one out, Putney strung hits together for the victory.
The Walpole Maples were the sixth seed. They have made as much post-season noise as anyone in the CRVBL in recent years. They survived their in-town rivals, the third-seeded Walpole Wild Blue, in the first round of the play-offs 6-4. Claremont was awaiting the winner of the game between the Walpoles for a semi-final game and after another pitching and defense-oriented, quickly played semi-final encounter, the Maples advanced to the finale with a 1-0 shutout triumph.
Steve Corey pitched a sharp five-hitter to ensure the victory. Corey, along with Hank Bailey, pitched as aces for the Maples this season and “kept us in a lot of games,” according to Maples coach Mark McGill. The coach went on to say, “I’ll call it a successful year because we made it to the finals, but we didn’t hit when we needed to this year. It cost us in the end. In this game, you can pitch once a week and be successful, but hitting does not work that way. You can’t hit once a week and be consistent at all.”
The Maples didn’t hit in the final, coming up with only three hits in a 6-2 defeat to Claremont. Shane Salmonson was the only Maples hitter to show any consistency during the season as he was ranked among the league’s elite in the first half. But even he cooled off as the season progressed. The finale was 2-2 early, but once Claremont took the lead, Walpole never challenged.