— The confidence is back. And so too is a postseason berth for the Trenton Thunder, their ninth playoff appearance in 19 seasons of existence and sixth in ten years as a Yankees affiliate.
Today’s game — a 7-4 win over a fading New Britain club — was essentially the opposite of yesterday’s tough loss. This time it was Trenton that got ahead early, putting up six runs on Rock Cats starter Steve Hirschfeld in the first two innings. The Thunder hit three home runs in those first two innings; one each from David Adams, Addison Maruszak and Adonis Garcia. Garcia would add another longball later on.
Vidal Nuno cruised through six innings of one-run ball, and although there were some hiccups after he came out from Graham Stoneburner and rehabbing big leaguer Pedro Feliciano, Ryan Pope came in to record the final five outs and seal the win.
There was no ridiculous celebration — typical of a Tony Franklin team — but there were a few players dancing in the clubhouse…quite poorly, I might add.
“I told them we’ll celebrate like no other when we win what we’ve come here from the start of the season to win,” Franklin said.
“We haven’t done anything yet, this is just the first step. We’re in the playoffs, and that’s a good thing. It seems like it took forever to get here, but we made it and it’s a good start.”
The swagger seems to be back.
“There was that two-week stretch where we were pretty down on ourselves, but we battled back,” said David Adams.
“We put together a couple wins, and then after losing the first one yesterday, I think it only got us a little more hungry. I think we’re building that excitement back up and that confidence back up, and I’m excited to see what we can do.
There is, of course, a fine line between confidence and cockyness. To be clear, Addison Maruszak spoke confidently after the game about his team’s chances once the playoff start on September 5th.
“We’re pretty confident that we can win it,” he said.
“If you’re not confident that you can win it, then you’re probably not going to win it. Even when you’re not playing good, you’ve got to be confident and that’s probably the hardest thing to do in life. When something’s going wrong, just to still be confident that it’s going to be OK. Right now, I feel like we should be the team to beat. I know Reading and Ruf are doing real well and stuff, but we should feel like we could beat them. If we don’t feel like we can beat them, something’s wrong.”
— For Adams, he finally got to experience the feeling of clinching a playoff berth in a Thunder uniform. Adams was on the 2010 team that went to the championship series…except he never got that far, not even close. He missed the majority of the last year and a half due to an ankle injury, but now that he’s back and healthy, he’s glad that he’s getting the opportunity to advance to the postseason in the capital city.
“It’s exciting, but at the same time, like (Tony said), we’re excited but this isn’t the goal,” he said. “The goal is to win the big one. I think a lot of guys agree, we’re going to save that celebration for when it happens.”
Watching a team he should have been on advance to the playoffs two seasons ago, Adams says, wasn’t easy.
“It was tough, especially with one of my best friends, Dan Brewer, being on the team and he got real hot and carried the team,” he said. “I talked to him all the way through it, so hearing it from him, I was excited for him. It’s one of those things, especially them losing in the championship, it’s like what if I could have been there? But I’m here now, so hopefully we can pull it out.”
— Maruszak exited the game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his calf, but expects to be able to play tomorrow if needed.
“I’ve faced that guy before, and he’s never thrown cutters like that,” said Maruszak of the odd occurence of fouling a ball off his calf.
“It just got under my barrel a tad enough for me to square it off for me to hit me in my calf. I’ve fouled balls off before and it’s never been like this, but I guess I just hit it in a perfect spot where it just started balling up. I was fine, I could go, I could do everything. But I couldn’t sprint, I couldn’t give 100 percent down the line…I think it’s up to me not to let that go and to tell somebody. It’s not right for me to not be able to go 100 percent and not tell anybody. I don’t want to be in there if I’m going to hurt the team.”
— Walter Ibarra is still “under the weather,” according to Tony Franklin, and that’s why he couldn’t come in the game tonight and the defense had to shift around the way it did…Ibarra has not played since August 22, but is not on the disabled list.
— Darin Ruf hit his 37th home run of the season tonight for the Reading Phillies, tying the franchise record set by Ryan Howard…however, when you consider it’s a franchise that’s been around since 1967, and it makes what Ruf has done all the more impressive. So too does the fact that 19 of those 37 longballs have come THIS MONTH. Safe to say that Ruf was on my MVP ballot this year…
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com