Other than the score, last week’s exhibition game with Team Israel was everything the Ocean State Waves could have asked for.
The Olympic-bound squad had just lost a matchup with the Bristol Blues, but the Waves couldn’t make it two in a row for the NECBL. Israel rode a couple of homers from former Major Leaguer Danny Valencia and strong pitching to a 15-2 win over the Waves at Dunkin Donuts Park in Hartford.
“Obviously, the game didn’t go the way we wanted score-wise, but it was about the experience,” said Waves manager Eric Hirschbein-Bodnar. “They’ll remember it for the rest of their lives.”
Team Israel concluded its nine-game exhibition tour on Tuesday night and is now bound for the Olympics in Tokyo.
For the Waves, being part of that journey was pretty special. It was a cool stage at the home of the minor league Hartford Yard Goats and interactions with the stars of Team Israel like Valencia and former MLB all-star Ian Kinsler were great.
“It was a tremendous experience. The stadium is beautiful. The staff was great,” Hirschbein-Bodnar said. “It was a surreal moment. The game started and you could tell they were a little nervous. We got everybody into the game so they all got the experience. We’re honored and very proud we were able to be part of it. ”
Hirschbein-Bodnar’s mother threw out a ceremonial first pitch, as did former Boston Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. After the game, Kinsler spoke to the team and posed for photos.
“Ian talked to our guys about the process and how impressed he was with them,” Hirschbein-Bodnar said. “He’s said it’s all about putting in the work. He was talking about baseball, about life, about how hard it is to get there but how they’re all capable of doing it. It was really special.”
In a summer of improvement opportunities, even the exhibition game was another one.
“A teaching point for us was when Danny Valencia hit those home runs, he was in plus counts,” Hirschbein-Bodnar said. “Good hitters in our league barrel up baseballs and get singles or doubles. When it’s a Major Leaguer, it goes over the fence. But the guys played hard. It was another day to get better.”
Waves win two straight before loss
On the heels of the exhibition game, the Waves won their next two games as they returned to NECBL play. They beat Martha’s Vineyard 10-9 in a wild game Friday night at Old Mountain Field. On Saturday, they evened their season series against Newport with a 6-3 win. Mystic stopped the streak with a 9-7 victory on Tuesday at Old Mountain Field.
Johnny Tuccillo led the winning effort against Martha’s Vineyard with three hits and four RBI. He tied the game with a two-run single in the seventh and plated the go-ahead run in the eighth. Slade Wilks added three hits, Alex Ramirez had two and Xavier Vargas drove in two runs. Ryan Gleason was credited with the win in relief and Shaun Gamelin recorded the save.
The bottom of the order carried the torch against Newport. Ramirez had two hits, Ian Ostberg had two hits and three RBI and Dylan Hoy notched two hits and two RBI from the seven-eight-nine spots. Both Ostberg and Hoy hit home runs. Domenic Picone pitched three scoreless innings. Max Meier tossed a scoreless inning of relief for the win.
Mystic jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first two innings of Tuesday’s game. The lead eventually grew before the Waves made a comeback attempt that fell short. The loss puts Ocean State at 12-17.
Dana back in the fold
Tuesday’s game with Mystic marked the return of Casey Dana to Wakefield. The Seton Hall standout played for the Waves in both 2018 and 2019. He hit seven home runs and was an all-star for the 2018 NECBL runner-up team and blasted 10 home runs for the Waves in 2019.
Dana has one year of college eligibility remaining. He singled in his first at-bat Tuesday night and added a sacrifice fly later in the game.
Lots of baseball
Tuesday marked the start of a busy week for the Waves. They were set to play a doubleheader on Wednesday at the Valley Blue Sox.
Thursday they’ll travel to Danbury for a quasi-tripleheader. They’re finishing one suspended game, then playing two full games with the Westerners.