Championship Series Set: Barnstormers vs. Skeeters

2014-Championship-Series-Matchup
The streak continues! For a fifth consecutive season, the Atlantic League team with the best overall record during the regular season will not win the championship. In fact, for a second straight year, that same team won’t be playing in the Championship Series.

On Sunday afternoon, the Lancaster Barnstormers upended the Somerset Patriots on the road with a stunning 9-1 rout in a decisive Game Five of the Liberty Division Championship Series. Although Lancaster plays in the Freedom Division, they earned a Wild Card spot into the playoffs this year and are now the Liberty Division champions. To the west in York, Pennsylvania, the Sugar Land Skeeters also pulled out a Game Five victory, topping the Revolution 5-3 to win their first ever Freedom Division championship. For a Skeeters team that had won a league-record 95 games in 2013 only to be swept in the first round of the playoffs by Somerset, the win has to feel that much sweeter.

Both first round matchups were outstanding series that came down to the wire, but one thing that stood out the most was that the two winners had to take two of three on the road to advance. In both series, the two teams split their games at home, essentially losing the advantage of having the first two games in their home ballpark. Then, the two eventual winners both dropped Game Three as well, leaving them one loss from elimination.  However, both teams put together rallies over the next two games and earned spots in the Championship Series.

The turning point for Lancaster came in the eighth inning of Game Four. Trailing 3-0 and down to their final five outs, the Barnstormers loaded the bases on a walk, a double and a hit by pitch. Patriots manager Brett Jodie went to his bullpen and called on southpaw and former Duck Daniel Herrera to face the lefty swinging Lance Zawadzki. However, Barnstormers manager Butch Hobson countered by calling on Japanese infielder Yusuke Kajimoto, a switch hitter, to pinch hit for Zawadzki. Hobson’s move paid off, as Kajimoto drove a 3-1 pitch over the wall for a pinch hit grand slam that put Lancaster in front 4-3. They would go on to win the game by that score and then take Game Five behind a complete game effort from Chris Schwinden to win the series.

For the Skeeters, their turning point was in the sixth and seventh innings of Game Four. Trailing the series 2-1 and in a scoreless tie that night, York got the speedy Justin Greene to second base with one out. However, with two great hitters coming up and two chances at a go-ahead single, Skeeters pitcher Sean Gallagher struck out Eric Patterson and got Chad Tracy to fly out to left field to escape the jam. Then in the seventh, with Ramon Delgado on the mound, a single and an error put runners and first and second with nobody out. However, Delgado got Bryant Nelson to ground into a fielder’s choice, struck out Angel Flores, got Tim Battle to hit into a force out to end the threat. Those two escape acts kept the Skeeters season alive, and they would eventually rally for a run in the 10th to win the game 1-0. Sugar Land fell behind 3-0 in the first inning of Game Five, but a four-run fifth inning fueled their 5-3 victory to complete the stunning comeback.

Despite not winning the series, one member of the Revolution had undoubtedly the biggest highlight of the series. Trailing 2-1 in the eighth inning of Game Three, center fielder Sean Smith hit a one-out game-tying home run to left field. What ensued was one of the more memorable moments you will ever see on a baseball diamond. Check out the video below of what happened, with Revolution broadcaster Darrell Henry calling the play-by-play:

That moment ended up being shown on ESPN’s SportsCenter broadcast later that night after the Revs won the game 3-2 in 10 innings.

Here’s a look back at the last five teams to hold the best overall record in the Atlantic League and how they fared in the playoffs:

2010: Bridgeport Bluefish – 83-57 (Lost in Atlantic League Championship Series to York)
2011: Long Island Ducks – 78-47 (Lost in Atlantic League Championship Series to York)
2012: Lancaster Barnstormers – 88-52 (Lost in Atlantic League Championship Series to Long Island)
2013: Sugar Land Skeeters – 95-45 (Lost in Freedom Division Championship Series to Somerset)
2014: Somerset Patriots – 85-55 (Lost in Liberty Division Championship Series to Lancaster)

So, the two teams who were fighting to the final week of the season to secure a playoff berth and then to the final day to determine who would win the Second Half Freedom Division title will play for the Atlantic League championship. For Sugar Land, this will be their first-ever trip to the Atlantic League Championship Series. It also marks the first time in league history that teams will travel by plane during the final round of the postseason.

Lancaster has earned one championship since joining the league in 2005, which came in 2006 when they swept the Bridgeport Bluefish in three games. That year, they won both the first and second half in what was then the South Division and swept Atlantic City in the first round of the postseason.  The only other Championship Series appearance for the Barnstormers was in 2012 when they lost to the Ducks in five games thanks to Dan Lyons’ waddle-off bunt single.

If you thought trying to predict the winner of this series was hard enough, consider this: Lancaster and Sugar Land split their 20 meetings during the regular season. The Barnstormers held a 6-5 edge in the first half of the season, while the Skeeters went 5-4 against the ‘Stormers in the second half. In addition, Sugar Land has won the last two matchups and five of the last seven head-to-head games. In terms of the all-time series, that is split as well, with each team winning 30 times. The teams have identical records against each other at both Constellation Field and Clipper Magazine Stadium (15-15), and the two went 5-5 against each other in both ballparks this year. Here is a look at where the two teams stood in the Atlantic League in several statistical categories this season:

Statistical Category Lancaster

Sugar Land

Batting Average

.268 (Second)

.249 (Last)

Home Runs

154 (First)

96 (Fifth)

Runs Scored

702 (First)

587 (Sixth)

Stolen Bases

112 (Third)

59 (Last)

On-Base Percentage

.335 (Second)

.320 (Last)

Earned Run Average

3.78 (Fifth)

3.40 (First)

Innings Pitched

1,249.1 (Second)

1,232.0 (Fourth)

Strikeouts

918 (Second)

941 (First)

Walks

436 (Fifth)

426 (Fourth)

Opponent’s Batting Average

.261 (Fifth)

.256 (Fourth)

For those looking to follow along during the Atlantic League Championship Series, here is the schedule for the best-of-five series (All times Eastern):

Game 1: Tuesday, September 30 – 8:05 p.m. at Sugar Land
Game 2: Wednesday, October 1 – 7:05 p.m. at Sugar Land
Game 3: Friday, October 3 – 7:00 p.m. at Lancaster
Game 4: Saturday, October 4 – 7:00 p.m. at Lancaster (if necessary)
Game 5: Sunday, October 5 – 5:00 p.m. at Lancaster (if necessary)

Here are some important links for those wishing to follow the broadcasts or GameLive for each game:

CLICK HERE for a live video and audio stream from ESPN3 of Games One and Two at Constellation Field. You can also view all the action by downloading the WatchESPN app on your mobile device.

CLICK HERE for the live audio broadcast from the Lancaster Barnstormers for each game of the series. Dave Collins will call the play-by-play for the Barnstormers. Lancaster has said that they will have live streaming video for home games as well, so please visit the Barnstormers website for the link to it when it becomes available.

CLICK HERE for a live audio broadcast from KBRZ Sports Radio in Fort Bend, Texas for the games in Lancaster. Ira Liebman will call the play-by-play for the Skeeters.

CLICK HERE to follow Pointstreak’s GameLive pitch-by-pitch account of each game during the series. You can also stay up-to-the-minute by downloading the Pointstreak App on your mobile device.

CLICK HERE to follow the Barnstormers on Twitter/CLICK HERE to follow the Skeeters on Twitter
(You do not need to make an account to view updates from the teams).

Finally, it’s prediction time fans! Who do you think is going to win the 2014 Atlantic League Championship Series and in how many games? Let us know your thoughts by voting in the poll below. Congratulations to the Lancaster Barnstormers and Sugar Land Skeeters on reaching the Championship Series (Tip of the cap to the Somerset Patriots and York Revolution on their great seasons as well), and best of luck to the ‘Stormers and Skeeters as they battle it out for the Atlantic League title!

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Posted on September 30, 2014, in Feature Articles and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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