story & photo
by Vito J. Leo
For a couple of longtime season-ticket holders, the excitement surrounding the Norwich pro baseball team’s first playoff appearance in seven years was only tempered by a late-summer chill that descended on Dodd Stadium on September 9.
“If the weather is good, we’ll be here for every playoff game,” said Rose City resident Linda Jackson as she and her husband, Harry, cheered on the Connecticut Defenders as the Norwich nine easily handled the New Britain Rock Cats, 6-2, in the Eastern League playoff opener.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for years,” said Linda, a season-ticket holder for a decade. “These guys have had a great year and they’ve got one heckuva manager,” she said, referring to Defender-in-Chief Steve Decker.
Steve chose strikeout artist Ben Snyder to start this pivotal game with New Britain ace Deolis Guerra toeing the mound for the Rock Cats.
Both starting pitchers had rather shaky first innings, but Steve recovered far more quickly than did the Rock Cats’ hurler. The Norwich starter’s first three pitches of the game were balls but he then settled down and proceeded to tame the Cats, holding them scoreless until the ninth.
Deolis also settled down after a rocky first inning, but not before the Defenders had put a four-spot on the board, keyed by D.H. Martinez-Esteve’s three-run homer.
The Defenders finished atop the Northern Division with an 83-59 record this season.