Professional baseball isn’t new to Somerset or Brooklyn, but neither has seen talent quite like this.
The Somerset Patriots have been an independent ball fixture since 1998, where they were one of the founding organizations of the Atlantic League. The team has played in TD Bank Ballpark since construction was completed in 1999. Among other alums, Tim Raines, Mitch Meluskey, Buddy Boshers and Nik Turley have suited up for the Patriots over the years.
2021 is the start of a new era for the Patriots: The team has joined the ranks of affiliated baseball, becoming the New York Yankees’ AA squad. Somerset’s opponent on May 25 is on the opposite end of the spectrum: The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have been a fixture in AA baseball since 1994, and they’ve served as the Toronto Blue Jays’ feeder team since 2003.
The lineups for both teams boasted several talented players on Tuesday. For Somerset, first baseman Dermis Garcia (Yankees’ #43), right fielder Isiah Gilliam (#48) and shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera (Best of the Rest) headlined the lineup. Austin Martin (Blue Jays #1) started the game at shortstop for the Fisher Cats, and top prospects catcher Gabriel Moreno (#10), second baseman Otto Lopez (#13) and left fielder Samad Taylor (#40) rounded out the lineup.
Fans around the stadium commented throughout the night on the improved quality of play. From improved hitting to fewer errors and snappier routines to much-improved fitness, fans are enjoying the talented players they’re seeing. Estevan Florial’s name came up in most of these conversations – The recently promoted outfielder went on a tear for Somerset to start the season.
Florial, more like FOURial!
— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) May 9, 2021
Despite the headline names on offense, pitching ruled the day. New Hampshire starter Kyle Johnston gave up one hit and three walks while striking out five, working out of a jam in the fifth by striking out Cabrera with runners on second and third. Somerset’s Janson Junk and JP Sears pitched 4.0 and 4.2 innings, respectively, keeping the Fisher Cats off the board until the ninth inning.
The Patriots finally broke through in the eighth inning. Left fielder Matt Pita led off with a single. After two strikeouts and a Pita steal, center fielder Michael Beltre walked. Catcher Donny Sands and Garcia followed with back-to-back singles, driving in Pita and Beltre. New Hampshire pitcher James Dykstra came back to strike out Gilliam, but the damage was done.
New Hampshire didn’t go quietly in the ninth. Martin led off with his third single of the game. He reached third on a single by Lopez and scored on a sac fly by Moreno. After a final strikeout by Sears, Greg Weissert came in to slam the door for Somerset.
On a light offensive day, the player of the game was Austin Martin by a wide margin. His 3-for-4 line included an infield single in which his speed became very apparent. He struck the ball well on his two line drive singles to the outfield, and his speed on the base paths held pitchers’ attention all night. He excelled on defense, also. His range at shortstop was exceptional, and he made a heads-up play to catch the lead runner in a rundown between second and third with one out in the fourth. It won’t be long until Martin is settling into the Buffalo Bisons’ infield.
The following day, the Brooklyn Cyclones were set to take on the Aberdeen IronBirds. Both former New York-Penn League teams have made the jump to High-A from Short Season A ball, both still representing their previous affiliates, the Mets and Orioles, respectively. Fans in Brooklyn are excited to see the improved talent level on their team every night: They already sing the praises of Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio, and are excited for the recent promotion of Francisco Alvarez, plus they’re always happy to regale you with the history of their team and where their past players are now. The fans of Coney Island’s baseball team are ready to watch their players make their way north to Citi Field.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature won the day on May 26. A sunny day turned sour just before game time, as a long line of thunderstorms rolled through the area and wiped out the night’s game. Alas, one man’s rainout is another man’s doubleheader.