Today, the crowd at Fraser Field was treated to a breathtaking game which the Spirit won 3-2 to sweep their 3-game series against the Worcester Tornadoes. But an ugly bench-clearing incident in the fourth inning stole the headlines from Ryan Bicondoa's oustanding victory.
In the middle of the fourth inning, seemingly out of nowhere, a brawl broke out. There is still confusion as to what actually set off the fight, but by most accounts, Carlos Rodriguez tossed a baseball either at Worcester pitcher Alex Pena on his way out of the dugout, or into the Worcester dugout in general. If this is the case, Rodriguez should never play another game in a Spirit uniform again, no matter what his official punishment is from the league. Carlos Marley has already had some off the field issues, but personal issues are one thing, endangering people on the baseball field is another thing entirely.
Rodriguez had been plunked by an 89 mph fastball earlier in the game, but that is no excuse for what he evidently did today.
According to numerous sources after the game, including one player, Worcester's Keith Beauregard had been 'getting into it' verbally with several Spirit players, including Dennis Robinson, throughout the weekend, which set up today's tensions.
In the actual fracas, Josue Lopez bulldozed three Tornadoes players, Rodriguez charged like a bull at a few players but came empty, and Beauregard and Robinson squared off head to head at around the second base bag.
Beauregard got Robinson into somewhat of a headlock and grabbed his hair, and Andy Theriault came flying out of the bullpen to smash Beauregard off of D-Rob.
One has to wonder what Rich Gedman --- absent for the second consecutive game --- would have thought about this ugly incident. I'm guessing he was not happy to hear the news.
Beauregard and bench player Greg Smith were tossed out of the game for Worcester.
On the Spirit side, Josue Lopez and Carlos Rodriguez were tossed. Rumor has it Robinson could be facing league sanctions at some point.
No coaches were ejected.
The most significant event to occur, though, as far as the game was concerned, was the fact that Worcester starter Alex Pena - who at the time had a no-hitter through three innings - hurt his wrist in the fracas and had to leave the game in favor of Reed Willets.
The Spirit responded immediately, as Luis Lopez ripped an RBI single to score Gary Roche to give North Shore the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th.
The lead held up until the 8th inning as Bicondoa was simply masterful, baffling Worcester hitters with a solid fastball at around 85-86 MPH and unhittable backdoor breaking balls in the low 80s.
After 7 innings of shutout, 2-hit ball, however, Bicondoa yielded the 1-0 lead in the 8th. Mike DeCarlo blasted a solo homer to deep left to tie the game at 1.
The Spirit rallied around their starter, however, and gave him the victory he deserved with a few clutch runs in the bottom of the 8th.
BJ Weed got it started off of Worcester reliever PJ Bevis with a 1-out single up the middle. Gary Roche followed with his 2nd hit of the day, which advanced Weed to 3rd base; Roche was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double.
With 2 out, Mike Torres hit a high chopper to the second baseman who tossed it toward first, but the ball scooted away from first baseman Yohanny Valera, allowing Torres to reach and Weed to score the go-ahead run.
Alex Trezza added an RBI single later on in the inning to score Torres and give the Spirit a 3-1 lead.
Worcester would not go quietly in the 9th. After Bicondoa got the first two men to go down easily, Omar Pena smashed a 2 out double, which prompted Vic Davilla to make the move to bring in Derek Drage.
As Bicondoa walked off the field, he of course received the rousing standing ovation he deserved for 8.2 excellent innings of work ----------- NOT. Needless to say, Fraser Church remained just that as one of the best pitching performances of the year came to an end.
Bicondoa's final line was very impressive: 8.2 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 7 K.
Derek Drage had a heart attack moment, giving up a double to Patrick Perry to make it 3-2, but he got Yohanny Valera to pop up to end the game and send the fans home happy.
It was North Shore's 7th straight victory over Worcester and second consecutive series sweep against our Commonwealth Cup rivals.
It should be an interesting off-day tomorrow - hopefully we can get the scoop about potential punishments (either from the league or from the team itself) that come down in response to todays extracurricular activities.
What shouldn't be lost in this, however, is the fact that Bic did an amazing job out there on the hill today. On to Brockton.