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Deep River Horseshoes Ready for Second-Half Slugfest
Deep River’s Sheryl Serviss and the Pirates are holding steady at fourth place in the standings of the Deep River Horseshoe League. Serviss led all C Division throwers in Week 9 with a score of 124. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Deep River’s Ed Turner and the Red Sox had a 5-1 showing against the Tigers to move into a fifth place tie with the Cardinals and Angels in the Deep River Horseshoe League standings. Turner was second among all B Player with a tally of 114. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Chester’s Karen Perna and the Marlins moved into sole possession of second place in Week 9 after claiming a 4-2 victory over the Pirates, with whom they were tied for second in Week 8 along with the Dodgers. Perna threw a 109, which was second amongst all C players. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier)
Clinton’s Mark Goodale tossed the best score in the Deep River Horseshoe League in five years with a tally of 173 in Week 9 action. Goodale’s Marlins moved into sole possession of second place in Week 9 after claiming a 4-2 victory over the Pirates, with whom they were tied for second in Week 8 along with the Dodgers. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News)
Old Saybrook’s John Nilson and the Pirates moved into fourth place of the Deep River Horseshoe League standings after Week 9. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News)
The Deep River Horseshoe League (DRHL) recently passed the midpoint of the regular season, and there's still plenty left to play for with most teams still in the playoff mix. A year after an abbreviated season that got a late start due to COVID-19, the DRHL has an array of players ringing pins at the pits in the leagues 66th season, which makes it the longest running league in the state of Connecticut.
After Week 9 action, the Reds maintained their spot atop of the standings thanks to consistent play from their Division A, B, and C players. In Week 8, second place was in a three-way tie, but that situation gave way to a three-way tie for fifth place after Week 9. The top-8 teams in the league qualify for postseason play, and there are only 3.5 games separating eighth place and 15th place.
To maintain their top position, the Reds defeated the Giants and hold a 1.5-game edge on the Marlins. The Marlins claimed second by defeating the Pirates, who fell to fourth place. The Dodgers managed just a split with the Orioles to hold steady at third place. The Cardinals remained in fifth place after a rough week, narrowly avoiding a sweep by the Yankees—who jumped from 14th place to ninth place. The Angels swept the Braves to move into fifth place, and the Red Sox went 5-1 against the Tigers to tie themselves into that fifth-place knot. The Royals hold the final playoff position at eighth place.
The Marlins' Mark Goodale, who lives in Clinton, had an outstanding score of 173 thanks to having two of his four games in the 50s, at 51 and 54. In both of those bouts, Goodale tossed 16 ringers with a total of 51 ringers on the week. Goodale's 173 was good for tops among A Players, and it was the highest recorded score in five years. Goodale had the top mark in Week 8 as well with 153 ahead of the Giants' Mike Zanelli, Sr.'s 146. That two week run vaulted Goodale into the league lead for points at 1,325 to outpace 1,287 from Zanelli, Sr., who lives in Haddam.
While that high of a score is surprising, nothing about Goodale's or Zanelli, Sr.'s overall performance has surprise the DRHL's media liaison and statistician Joe Heery, who lives in Old Lyme and plays for the Rangers. Heery has been impressed with the play of some of the league's Division B and C players like Chester's Andy Perna, a B player for the Reds, Deep River's Ed Turner, a B player for the Red Sox, Deep River's Bob Cifaldi, a B player for the Yankees, Deep River's Sheryl Serviss, a C player for the Pirates, Chester's Karen Perna, a C player for the Marlins, and Deep River's Scott Allen, Jr., a C player for the Dodgers.
"There's no surprise with Mark or Mike. They are consistent. The biggest surprise is seeing some of the B payers like Andy Perna, Ed Turner, and Bob Cifaldi. Andy's been a lead scorer in the last few weeks," Heery said. "In C are Sheryl Serviss, Karen Perna, and Scott Allen Jr., and they definitely will not be C players next year. As the new season comes on, we shuffle for balancing the teams to have equal handicaps, but after last years season, we decided to keep everything the same."
Behind Goodale in Week 9 was the Old Lyme's Billy Beckwith, who plays for the Red Sox, with a score of 139. The Royals' John Sciacca, who lives in Chester, came in third with a score of 129. Cifaldi led all B players in Week 9 with a score of 119, ahead of Ed Turner's 114. The Angels' Damin Roberts, who lives in Cromwell, had the third-best mark with 109. As for the C's, Serviss led all C (and B) scorers with 124, while Karen Perna scored 89 and second place. In third was the Tigers' Deb Scully, who lives in East Hartford, with a score of 83.
The DRHL keeps a handicap for each player that is updated throughout the season, and that helps even the playing field so that players of all skill-levels are able to compete. While A players are always pitted against other A players, there can be significant differences between players in the same division. For instance, an absolute beginner throwing competitively for the first time may end up facing a C player who has been throwing for years, and the DRHL wants to make it possible for as many players to be able to toss a shoe that want to.
"There are still a lot of new players coming into their own. Jim Weselcouch on the Reds was a joy to watch. He threw his best game of the season. He was excited about that, and it keeps him motivated to continue as a first-year player. It's nice to see somebody set a new standard for themselves," Heery said. "We need some new members, too. Some players come out for a week but don't show up again. They get frustrated, but you can't throw 100 your first time out. I started as a C and worked my way up. There have been quite a few players who have done that through playing and practice. You have to be a rookie to make it to the bigs."
Heery has been conducting some finer data analysis to determine what trends have been affecting match results. Heery explained the impact of open boxes, which are frames in a game where thrower records no points. Each frame, a pitcher throws two shoes, and there are 12 frames in a game, and six games in a series. Every player on a team will play a total of four games paired up with a teammate against their counterparts on the opposite team. Landing a ringer scores three points and landing a shoe in the dirt close to the pin is worth a single point. Doing neither nets the pitcher zero points, or an open box.
"We've had 153 games this year where there were no open boxes, or what I call a clean game. Of course, you can relate that to the successful teams' scoring because the Marlins are in second place and have the most games with no open boxes at 25," said Heery. "When I look for these, I specifically pick upon the A players because they are the premier players of the league. If you look at the fewest open boxes, the Marlins, Dodgers, and Pirates are the top team scorers, but if you look at the Cubs, they have very few open boxes and are in ninth in total team scoring. They throw a lot of ones and not a lot of ringers."
The full standings after Week 9 are as follows: Reds (35.5-18.5), Marlins (34-20), Dodgers (33-21), Pirates (32-22), Cardinals (29-25), Angels (29-25), Red Sox (29-25), Royals (27-27), Yankees (27-27), Rangers (26-28), Tigers (26-28), Braves (25-29), Cubs (24.5-29.5), Orioles (24-20), Giants (24-30), Padres (21.5-32.5), White Sox (20-34), Mets (19.5-34.5).
Heery knows that the playoffs are fast approaching and that the competition may heat up as the season continues, but a bit of a troubling trend has been the amount of subs and blind scores teams have had to use this year. Since COVID-19 put a damper on many people's plans last summer, there are quite a few players who have travel plans and other commitments that have conflicted with matches.
"We have 17 games. It's the second half now. People are really working to get into the playoffs. It would be nice to have a full complement all the time. That's really impacted a lot of the teams," Heery said. "That changes things. With a substitute player, you never know what can happen. Rudy Urban subbed for the Giants and threw an 82. Bill Black of the Cubs threw and 86. You have someone who's not there to throw, it could be a blind score, which is less than their average. That's tough."
While anything can happen in the second half of the season, Heery believes that the crème de la crème of the DRHL has already announced themselves. It will be a matter of who can challenge them in the postseason.
"My frontline prediction is that I pick the Marlins, Dodgers and the Pirates as the top-3 teams. I expect they will be there when the season ends. The Cards, have to shake out of it. They are 6.5 games out of first after just a 1.5 out a few weeks ago, but they have been holding off some teams," said Heery. "For me personally, my goal is to make the playoffs. I want to be there. I'm working to improve my game."