Isotopes Notebook: Success Starts at the Top

By JON DARLING
The Isotopes Times

The Isotopes are 2-2, have been outscored on the season and there are a lot of low numbers when looking over everyone’s batting averages.

The slow start doesn’t have coach Jon Darling worried, and he points to one stat to why he thinks the Topes are the favorites to win the championship in 2012: .643 — the combined on-base percentage for leadoff hitter Kenny Jacobsen and Kurt Homer, who has hit second.

Jacobsen has been on a tear to start the season. In four games, Kenny is hitting .750 with an OBP of .786. He’s 9-for-12 this season with two walks.

Behind him, Homer has an OBP of an even .500 with three hits and a team-leading four walks.

“The guys at the top of the order are getting on base, that’s what they’re supposed to do and they’re doing it well,” Darling said. “The middle of the order is off to a slow start, but when the heavy hitters come around, there’s going to be plenty of ducks on the pond to drive in.”

Jacobsen and Homer have each reached base in the first inning in all four games this season and have been on base a combined 18 times in four games, yet the duo has scored only seven times.

“Historically, the top of the order has been an area of concern,” Darling continued. “Over the years, we’ve tried several different combinations up there, looking for guys to get on base for Tom Jachimczyk and Dave Gagliardi in the middle. Now, we’re found a combo that works, and we’re only going to score more runs as the bats come alive and the temperatures get higher.”

On top of the success at the front of the batting order is a stronger middle. In addition to Yim and Gags, the longtime combo in the No. 3 and No. 4 spots, Eric Marshall, Eric McAndrew, Ryan Walsh and Jeff Dacosta have made the lineup deeper. It’s a simple formula: Guys getting on base and good bats to drive them in. It’s a combo that’s gonna lead to a lot of wins.

Season Highlights

There have been only four games, but there are a number of noteworthy plays already in 2012. … Yim slammed a two-run, walk-off homer in the first win of the season, 15-14 over the Sand Demons. … In that same game, Homer platted two runs with a bases-loaded double on an 0-2 pitch with no fouls to burn. Also in that game, Dacosta, Ry Chabot and Patrick Long had back-to-back RBI singles with two outs in a big second inning. … Long had a beautiful opposite-field double down the right-field line and scored what proved to be the go-ahead run in a 7-5 win in Westport over the Wrecking Crew, a game that also saw Marshall throw a perfect strike from left field to hose a runner at the plate and Gags drive in the final run of the game with a long triple that arguably would have cleared the fence at Cushman.

Around The Bases

Walsh leads the team with five RBIs and boasts a .545 batting average … Chabot is off to a good start to the season, hitting .444 with two walks, making for a .545 on-base percentage. … Some other teams in the league count errors as hits, and while this isn’t the Topes’ policy, it does shine some light on who’s reaching on errors, i.e. who’s hitting it down and hard. Jordan Chabot is only hitting .285 on the season, but if counting errors as hits, his average shoots up to .571. … There have been 96 penalty beers so far this season (156 if counting preseason games). Jordan Chabot, Walsh, Homer, Dacosta and Mike Hochella have all had to make extra runs to the packie this year. … There has been no set make-up date for the rainout with KMP last Thursday, but the rainout with the Misfits will be made up on June 19 at Cushman in a doubleheader. … The Rose Alley Ale House has two cool new happenings that are worth checking out. First, on Monday nights from 8 p.m. to midnight, the bar is serving breakfast for dinner, complete with a variety of Bloody Marys. Also, check it out on Facebook for details on how you can turn your New Bedford parking ticket into half-off your meal … The jerseys are done and will be available on Tuesday. Compliments to Justin Estrella of Just Your Way Screen Printing in Westport. Find it on Facebook for more information.

Looking Back

From time to time, the Isotopes Times will look back at a notable game of yesteryear. Today, we take the DeLorean from Back to the Future to July 14, 2009, when the Topes were 18-3 heading into a 6 p.m. contest against the Wrecking Crew at Cushman Park.

After McAndrew led off the first inning with a lineout to third, Kenny came up and knocked a basehit to center. Yim followed with a two-run homer over the fence for an early 2-0 lead. The Topes fell behind, 4-2, heading into the third, when they scored five runs on back-to-back run-scoring doubles by Kenny and Yim. The Topes broke the game open with an eight-run fourth inning, highlighted by a three-run homer by Yim. The Topes cruised from there to a 19-8 victory, but not before Yim made it a three-homer game with a solo shot in the sixth.

Oh, Yim also pitched that game, filling in for former pitcher Matt Biltcliffe.

Yim’s evening took a disastrous turn when KMP rolled in for the second game of the doubleheader. He slammed a two-run homer in the first to give Rose Alley a 4-1 lead, but tore his Achilles in the third inning rounding second base after a single. KMP scored 10 runs in the fourth and went on to win, 14-13.

Yim’s statline for the night: 6-for-6, four home runs, a double, nine RBIs, six runs scored, seven innings pitched and one ruptured tendon.

Looking Ahead

Rose Alley will have its first of five doubleheaders Tuesday at Cushman against the Wrecking Crew (6 p.m.) and Sand Demons (7:30 p.m.). The week after is a home-and-home series with the Red Eyes at Cushman on Tuesday and Wednesday. Other games to check out around the Sandlot Softball League include: Bulldogs at Red Eyes (5/16), Sand Demons at KMP (5/17), Crew at Misfits (5/21) and Bulldogs at KMP (5/24).

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Thursday Ramblings

The Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford announced its season schedule recently, and suspiciously there is a lack of good jams coming in the fall and winter. Who is coming, however, is hysterical comedian Ron White (Tater’ Salad). Did you know Ron White got arrested one year ago for possession of marijuana on a private plane? He got busted because of an J.D. Drew is coming off a torrid August in which he hit .329 with 6 HRs and 13 RBIs.anonymous tip to police he had cheeba (he was found with less than three grams). He takes the stage in New Bedford on Oct. 1. … Fans of the awesome movie “300” will be happy to hear that there’s a sequel in the works. According to published reports, Frank Miller (also the writer behind Sin City) has finished writing the sequel, which reportedly will take place between the Battle of the Thermopylae and the Battle of Plataea (the fight the Spartans are preparing for at the very end of the movie). … Figures, a week after I proclaim that I wouldn’t mind if J.D. Drewdropped dead that he starts to heat up. I think Tuesday night’s home run was the first I’ve seen from him that actually made a difference in a game. … Speaking of the Red Sox, what’s with players sucking while they’re here then going to a different team and kicking ass (Hanley Ramirez, Roger Clemens, Jamie Moyer)? Exhibit A, though, has to be Brad Penny and John Smoltz: In their last two starts in Boston, they combined for 35 hits 19 innings; In 19 innings with new teams (in only three starts), the pair have allowed only 12 hits. … Congratulations to The Bulldogs, who won their fourth-straight Sandlot Softball League championship on Monday in Westport. “The Bullfags always play their best ball in the playoffs. That’s what makes them the class of the league,” said Jon Darlng, former coach of the third-place Isotopes. … Few links for your Thursday enjoyment: A report about a teenager who cries tears of blood (weird); Deep-fried butter is only the tip of the iceberg for the State Fair of Texas’ menu (yummy?); The best prom ever? How about $175-bucks a head for a three course meal and a full, school-sponsored bar(awesome); and one of the former Mighty Morphin Power Rangers thinks his kicking-butt ability is real, he wants to jennie-finch-9.jpg image by berecruitedfight in Mixed Martial Arts. … Congratulations to Mark and Sarah Biltcliffe, who tied the knot last weekend. Best wishes to the newlyweds. … Today wold have been Jeremy Glick‘s 39th birthday. Glick, a former Judo champion, famously said “We’re going to rush the hijackers,” on 9/11 before he and other passengers forced the plane down in Pennsylvania, well before its target of Washington D.C. He was awarded the Medal of Heroism posthumously, the highest civilian honor. … Happy 29th birthday to softball player Jennie Finch. I don’t think she’s as hot as others hype her up to be. What is impressive is her stats: In six years with the U.S. National Team, she had 397 strikeouts in 239 innings and an ERA of 0.42. … Happy 14th birthday to eBay. Did you know that eBay owns 25 percent of Craigslist? …  Coming soon to Decent Community: New England Patriots 2010 preview. How will the Pats fare this season? What are their biggest weaknesses? Can they go all the way? Answers to burning questions and predictions from the experts at Decent Community.

Another year, another playoff exit for Isotopes

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WESTPORT — The Rose Alley Isotopes put up a great effort Monday buy failed in their bid to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Isotopes lost 6-3, and combined with last week’s 11-2 loss, were eliminated from the Sandlot Softball League playoffs by the Misfits.

“We just couldn’t muster enough hits when we needed them,” coach Jon Darling said. “We were upbeat the whole game. We were cheering and supporting one another. We were really into this game but just couldn’t hit the ball enough to win.”

Matt Biltcliffe drove in both runs in last-week’s loss with a first-inning single. Pat Long platted two runs Monday evening on a double to center. Kurt Homer accounted for Rose Alley’s other run with a hard ball up the middle that got by the outfielders for a home run. The Misfits will start their best-of-five finals series against the three-time defensing champion Bulldogs on Wednesday.

2009 marked the third season in the last four that the Isotopes have had the best record in the regular season but failed to win the championship. Not helping Rose Alley’s offensive struggles in the playoffs was the loss of Yim, who had surgery recently to repair a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.

Darling said that despite the early playoff exit, the season is not a failure by any means.

“It’s fun coming out a few times a week and having some brews. It was a blast and it made the summer of crappy weather that much better,” he said.

Before hanging up his cleats for on the 2009 season, his last as coach, Darling wanted to thank his teammates and the Ale House for their support, as well as express gratitude to all the Decent Community readers.

“A lot of the guys were a delight to play with. I’ll never forget some of the great things that happened on and off the field with the Isotopes. The thousands who visit Decent Community every day helped take the Topes beyond SouthCoast, and the Rose Alley Ale House was just awesome in sponsoring the team,” he said, adding that he felt “honored” to be coach of the team for three seasons.

Although no one has stepped up and said they would take over the team next season, Darling said that assistant coach Dave Gags, Long and newcomer Kenny Jacobsen would all make great coaches if they would like to lead the squad in 2010. “They’re all responsible and have great people skills. Any of them would make an outstanding leader next year.”

Thursday Ramblings

Decent Community is hitting the road tomorrow for the Phish concert in Hartford, Conn. Two set-list predictions I hope come true: Ya Mar and Lizards. … I am very psyched for The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, starring Jeremy Piven as basically Ari trying to sell used cars. I Found a great trailer approved for mature audiences only that shows some pretty decent stuff. The way I look at it, the more Ari the better. I think my favorite Ari line is in season No. 1 when he’s running along and sees his neighbor’s dog taking a dump. He yells to his neighbor as he runs by “If you’re thinking of not picking that up, I’ll fucking kill you,” as he jogs into his driveway. I bet hardcore Entourage fans will agree with me here, though, in that some of Ari’s best stuff is when he’s so pissed he can’t even get a word out of his mouth. … I’m not a criminal, but I think I would have enough common sense that if I robbed someone, I wouldn’t have a yard sale two days later and try to sell off all her stuff. … Decent Community’s favorite softball team, The Rose Alley Isotopes, have their backs against the wall, according to coach Jon Darling. In an e-mail to us a few days ago, he wrote that the Topes lost their first playoff game, 11-2, on Tuesday and face a must-win game today against the Misfits. … One year ago today, Michael Phelps set the Olympic record with his 14th career gold medal. Despite his whole controversy about the pictures of him hitting a bong and becoming a proponent of legal cheeba, he still rakes in $5 million annually on endorsements. …  Jason from Framingham sent us an amusing email after reading the Old Country Buffet Review. “The OCB shit you speak of is legendary. You guys should do a article about other chain restaurant shits. Like the Outback Steakhouse dump (Get the Bloomin Onion) or the Chilis Babyback ribs shit.” I went to Google to see if anyone had a Web site like this. Whatever you do, do not click on anything after Googling “Taking a shit.” I sometimes find a quarter or a nickel when walking on the sidewalk. I usually put it in my pocket and smile. I’ve heard stories of people finding $1 or even $20. Decent! But I don’t know what to say to the people in Florida who found a 60-pound bag of cocaine worth $1 million lying on the sidewalk. … Happy 36th birthday to former porn star Brittany Andrews, who retired from the business a few years ago to attend film school. Andrews used to raise money for L.A. charities by auctioning off fellow porn stars to rich dudes for big cash for an evening. Here’s Andrews in action. … Happy 50th birthday to Danny Bonaduce, the crazy dude who played Danny Partridge back in the day. Did you know his second wife, whom he divorced in 2007 after seven years of marriage, met him on a blind date and they got married the same day? He’s currently banging 27-year-old Amy Railsback, a former substitute teacher who is now his manager.

Thursday Ramblings

The rumor rambled a few weeks ago about the Stoneforge Tavern coming to Dartmouth is officially true. The restaurant is going on Route 6 near BJ’s Wholesale Club in a building that has housed the Ground Round and IXTAPA. It will be all casual dress, unlike other Stoneforges that have casual and fancy sections. … I always buy a copy of Madden football and dominate with the Patriots, but I always end up with Josh McDaniels or Romeo Crennel as head coach. Why? Because Bill Belichick isn’t in the game. Never has been. Why is he the only one of the 32 NFL head coaches not featured in the annual Madden game? He’s the only one who’s not a member of the NFL Head Coaches Association (NFLHCA) union. Maybe that’s why he’s not well-liked in the coaching fraternity (and why no one came to his defense during Spygate). … I’d like Decent Community members to join me in expressing my sympathies to Helmet Head, who was recently stripped of his Portuguese heritage by Portugal President Anibal Cavaco Silva. “We have strict rules about our cultural heritage,” Silva said. “When Portuguese people living in Mass. don’t attend the annual Madeira Feast in New Bedford, we take action. He’d be better suited as Dutch or French.” … Speaking of The Feast, anyone think that after raising the price of a beer to $4 that the Feast Committee could afford to get some liquid soap in the men’s bathroom? Just a bar of soap sitting there just doesn’t get it done for tens of thousands of people. … Isotopes coach Jon Darling e-mailed Decent Community during the team’s bye week to give a few updates. He wrote that Polish power-hitter Yim underwent successful surgery on his Achilles’ tendon Monday and should be on the sidelines cheering on the team when they start playoff action next week. He also wanted to congratulate the team leaders in 2-out RBIs: Kurt Homer (18), Matt Biltcliffe (13) and Dave Gags (11). … Congratulations to longtime Community member Mike Rocha on his recent engagement to the extremely decent Megan Best. Good luck and best wishes to them both. … Happy 67th birthday to former druglord George Jung, also known as “Boston George” and the guy who Johnny Depp played in the movie “Blow.” If you don’t want to wait until his Nov. 27, 2014 release date, you can go to his Website, georgejung.com, and buy something of his “Smuggler Wear” clothing line. I’m not joking, go ahead and buy a Jung teeshirt for $40. The “Blow” soundtrack plays in the background while you’re shopping! … Happy 58th birthday to former WWF wrestler Dino Bravo. Sadly, Bravo was shot 10 times in the back of the head for crossing the Canadian Mafia in an illegal cigarettes ring on March 11, 1993. What was Bravo, “Canada’s Strongest Man” doing when  he got shot? Watching hockey in his living room.

Isotopes Week in Review: Sealing First Place

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FAIRHAVEN — The Rose Alley Isotopes clinched the top seed in the playoffs Monday for the third time in the last four seasons with a double-header split with KMP. The Isotopes will now have a bye week and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.

“Getting the top seed is huge,” coach Jon Darling said. “We can rest up with a week off then host the lowest remaing seed, meaning we won’t have to play both the Bulldogs and KMP on the road to a championship.”

KMP and the Bulldogs join the Isotopes as being many games over .500 while the other three teams in the league are well below.

Monday’s clincher at Livesey Park didn’t start well as Rose Alley dropped the first game, 11-3. The bats came alive in the clinching, second game of the double-header for an 18-10 victory. Ethan Gifford busted out big time Monday, going 6-for-7 while Kurt Homer had seven RBIs as part of a 6-for-9 day. Chris Pinault picked it up in the second game, getting on base five times in the No. 2 spot in the order with a 4-for-4 day with a walk and five runs scored. Both Dave Gags and Eric McAndrew had triples in a six-run fifth inning that sealed the win.

The Isotopes played well again Tuesday night in a 7-4 win over the Misfits at Cushman Park to finish the season at 23-6. Pat Long (3-for-4), Pinault (3-for-4), Kenny Jacobsen (2-for-3), Homer (2-for-3) and Chris Desmarais (2-for-3) paved the road to the ‘Topes finishing the regular season on a winning note.

QUICK HITS

Monday was Homer’s first time back in the No. 5 spot after going 2-for-9 in the No. 2 spot in the previous two games. … Pinault on Monday became the first Isotopes not named Yim to reach base five times in one game. It was a sign of good things to come for Pinault, who posted an .876 average for the week … Tuesday’s game was the annual pick-names-out-of-a-hat-lineup day, featuring Long, Bilty and McAndrew, who played great defense Tuesday, 1-2-3 in the order. Homer was the unlucky ‘Tope for the second straight year, getting picked last again. … The 2009 season is the third straight year the ‘Topes have finished with 23 wins after posting 23-7 marks in 2007 and 2008. … Not surprising, Yim won the Isotopes’ batting title for the season, coming in at a .722 clip. In the final regular-season statistics, he was followed by Jacobsen (.554), Homer (.509), Gags (.450), McAndrew (.422), Long (.409), Pinault (.404), Mike Rocha (.379), Matt Biltcliffe (.373), Desmarais (.368), Darling (.366), Gifford (.321) and Cousin Scott (.250). … Rose Alley’s next playoff opponent is unknown, but it will be either the Misfits, Wrecking Crew or Outlaws. The Isotopes have a combined 17-1 record against those squads.

Isotopes Week in Review: 17 innings, 20 runs, 2 wins

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FAIRHAVEN — Seven innings just isn’t enough anymore.

The Rose Alley Isotopes needed extra frames in both games this week in a pair of thrilling, come-from-behind victories over the Outlaws.

“The Isotopes showed a lot of heart this week — maybe more heart than I thought we had,” coach Jon Darling said. “We got key hits in key situations and some big defensive plays when it mattered most.”

The offense continued its struggles since Yim injured his Achilles’ tendon on July 14. Through the first four innings of each game, the Topes (21-5) had totaled only four runs and the meat of the order (Kurt Homer, Kenny Jacobsen and Dave Gags) hit a Julio- Lugo-on-steroids-like .292 for the week.

The Topes started the week with a 14-9 win Monday in Westport. Mike Rocha had the loudest hits of the day with a 2-run triple in the fifth and an RBI double in the ninth that proved to be the game-winner. Pat Long made the play of the day when, after committing an error to start the eighth inning, made a diving catch on a short fly to the outfield to keep the score tied. Eric McAndrew knocked a huge, game-tying double in the seventh innings to bring the Topes back and force extra innings.

Long came through against the Outlaws again on Wednesday at Cushman Park. With new bats being busted out, Long smashed a two-run triple to the right-field fence in the fourth to get the Topes back in the game. McAndrew’s two-out, seventh-inning hard ground ball turned into the game-tying play on a Outlaws error. After holding the Outlaws scoreless in the eighth, pitcher Matt Biltcliffe pushed the game-winning single to right field, scoring Gags and sealing a week of come-from-behind victories with a 6-5 win.

QUICK HITS

Yim was medically ruled out of the remainder of the season after a visit to the doctor on Thursday. The Polish power hitter will undergo surgery on his ruptured Achilles’ tendon on Aug. 3 and is facing as much as a 12-month recovery period. If you’re into praying, he could use a couple. … Wednesday’s game was played at the the field on the east side of Cushman Park, known as WomanCush. It was the Topes first game there this season, bringing their record there to 10-2 since the end of the 2006 season. … Wednesday’s game was a makeup from Tuesday, when Rose Alley got rained out for the eighth time this year. The Topes had totaled four rainouts in the previous two seasons. … Darling was the only Isotope to not record a hit last week. … Darling also announced Wednesday that this season will be his last as coach. … At 21-5, the Topes need to win two more games to clinch first place and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They are back in action Monday against KMP at Livesey Park then return to Cushman to host the Misfits at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Topes will wrap regular-season play on Wednesday against the W. Crew in Westport.