Overtime with Kyle Brennan

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Round of Applause

Kyle Brennan

The Newport Gulls’ season ended last Thursday in the first round of the NECBL playoffs when the Eastern Division regular-season champions were upset by the Laconia Muskrats in a two-game sweep. Newport led Laconia, 3-1, in the eighth inning of Game 1 last Wednesday at Cardines Field when the Muskrats scored three runs off the Gulls’ best pitcher, Jacob Lee, to win the game. Newport jumped out to a 3-0 lead in Game 2 in Laconia, then fell behind, 7-3, but pulled even in the ninth on a two-run homer by Robby Ort. But the Muskrats walked off with the victory in the bottom of the inning on an RBI double. The season ended sooner than most of us thought it would but that didn’t change the fact that it was the best summer I’ve ever had and a phenomenal season. I’ll have a whole piece next week on everything that happened this summer, which I’m sure three or four of you are looking forward to.

Jacoby Ellsbury has been playing like the best player in baseball over the last few weeks. It’s been a while since a center fielder could lay claim to being the best player in the game—we’re talking Ken Griffey, Jr. days—but the way Ellsbury is going, I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits that pinnacle in the next few years. He’s an outstanding defensive player, is one of the best base-stealers in baseball, and is establishing himself as a great hitter for both average and power. Over the last few weeks, Ellsbury has even added clutch capability to his arsenal with a pair of walk-offs against the Indians and big hits throughout the last few series. He’s one of those players who’s just plain fun to watch, and the Red Sox have quite a few of them with Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Adrian Gonzalez. All I know is that Theo Epstein better lock up Ellsbury to a long-term contract because he’s a player you’d rather have playing for you than against you.
John Lackey also deserves a lot of credit for the Red Sox over the last month. Nobody—except Yankees fans—was happy with how Lackey had pitched over the first half of the season with an ERA that was among the worst in baseball. But all of a sudden, Lackey has turned it around. In his last six starts dating back to a win against the Orioles on July 9, Lackey is 5-1 and has lowered his ERA from 7.47 to 6.14. Sure, a 6.14 ERA isn’t exactly what a big-money starting pitcher is looking for, but more than a run’s worth of improvement over the dog days is pretty darn respectable. Lackey hasn’t been unhittable by any stretch during his recent hot streak—he’s given up at least eight hits in four of the last six starts—but he’s come through when he’s needed it. Credit Lackey for standing up to the pressure and making big pitches when he’s needed to and especially for pitching this season while his wife is battling cancer. That’s something we can all respect.

Country music infomercials are a greatly underrated form of entertainment. I watched a full hour of classic country music infomercials twice this summer while staying with my grandparents in Rhode Island. Some people might not find a great deal of enjoyment in these advertisements, but let’s take a closer look. You get great, classic music provided right through your television set with video of the legendary musicians singing their best pieces. You get the corny hosts of the program who are usually washed up celebrities that make this commercial seem so good and such an honor that they aren’t accepting payment for plugging the compilation. You get the recap of all songs on the set every five minutes with the stereotypical announcer with the deep voice who also sells magic garden tools and cleaning supplies. The only drawback of these commercials is that you only get about five seconds of each song. I suppose that’s the only way to go or else the infomercial would turn into a day-long event. I wouldn’t complain…

Chorus of Boos

Dan Malloy let himself off the hook when he reinstated technical schools’ athletic programs into the proposed state budget. The Republican American’s Joe Palladino wrote a very good piece last month about how holding kids’ sports hostage during a budget crisis is abominable. I encourage you to find the article on the Rep-Am’s website because it really is excellent. Cutting tech school sports would save less than $3 million next fiscal year. $3 million?! That is a blip on the radar when loads of state employees with titles that no regular person would understand are making hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Luckily, 10,000 students had their sports saved after rallying in Hartford. Of course, this is Connecticut—the Tax You to Death State—so they’ll always find a way to tax things way too much while spending them on ridiculous things and trying to cut things that actually matter.

Stat Chat

0 More days to stay in Rhode Island for me after I came home Tuesday night following my internship with the Newport Gulls

3 Days, from Friday, until my New York Jets play their first preseason game on Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans

4 Easy payments of $29.99 for the 8-disc, 120-song compilation of country music advertised in my favorite infomercial of the summer

10 Blown saves for Mariano Rivera over the last two seasons after he blew just 10 saves from 2006-09

19 Homers this year, as of Wednesday morning, for Jacoby Ellsbury; Ellsbury had 20 career homers entering this season

35 Days, from Friday, until the first full Friday of high school football action, highlighted by Naugatuck’s trip to East Longmeadow, Mass.

.410 Career average at Woodland for Ken Graveline, who is the school’s all-time leader in batting average and several other offensive and pitching statistics

Lips to CN’s Ear

“I’ve had a few open tryouts with the Red Sox, Braves and Phillies. They told me that they liked what they saw but it came down to numbers and they just didn’t have any spots open. That could change down the road so I have to stay ready and wait for another chance. I feel I have the ability to go onto the next level and so do my coaches.”

Former Woodland baseball standout and Naugatuck Dogs player Ken Graveline. After finishing an impressive career as a pitcher at the University of Rhode Island, Graveline wasn’t selected in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft but he has drawn the eyes of scouts from several teams. The top player in Woodland baseball history led the Dogs this summer to the Stan Musial state championship by racking up two wins on the hill during the tournament.

“We are not looking to replace Jack DeBiase. That would be a very tough thing to do. We are not going to ask Tanner to win games. I know [offensive coordinator] Tim Phipps will do a great job of getting him ready. Tanner can throw the ball and is a bit of a slinger. We have some very good skilled players around him.”

Woodland football coach Tim Shea on the team’s quarterback situation this fall. Rising sophomore Tanner Kingsley likely will be the starting quarterback after the graduation of Jack DeBiase. Kingsley saw some action in cleanup duty near the end of the season and has strong athletic lineage—his oldest brother, Shane, was an all-state wide receiver and defensive back while his other brother, Cody, was the team’s quarterback in 2007.

“I told Jake that he needed to take on the role of being a leader like Montrell Dobbs did for Ansonia last year. We don’t need Jake to be ‘Montrell.’ We have other guys to help him offensively. We are loaded at running back.”

Naugatuck football coach Rob Plasky on Jake Yourison, who figures to be a very important piece of the Greyhounds’ squad in the fall. Yourison will be entering his third season as a starter and will be the team’s feature running back and middle linebacker. Yourison will be helped by Nick Kosa, Nate Franklin, Mick Pernell, Mike Schebell, and many others as Naugy tries to defend its Naugatuck Valley League championship.