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Minor League Playoff Special: Day Three

A special day for the AquaSox and Blaze

they look right at home to me

On Friday, the Class-A Clinton LumberKings enjoyed a well-deserved day off after their first-round sweep of Peoria before beginning the Western Division Championship Series today at Perfect Game Field against the Cedar Rapids Kernels (their mascot is an adorable ear of corn). Game time is 2:05 PST.

The rest of the affiliates were in action, however, and Ethan and I have the lowdown for you. I was actually in attendance at the AquaSox game, so forgive me if that particular recap runs a little long.

Tacoma 0 - El Paso 7 (AAA)

El Paso leads best-of-five series, 2-1

Tacoma will have their backs against the wall after dropping another brutal decision to the El Paso Chihuahuas Friday night.

Pitchers Wade LeBlanc and Forrest Snow took the brunt of the damage on the night, with the two combining to surrender 6 runs on 10 hits in 7.0 IP. The Rainiers were consistently hit hard, surrendering 7 extra base hits in total (2 HR, 5 2B).

The good news is that Mayckol Guaipe threw a scoreless inning in the loss, which is neat in that it reminds people that he is, in fact, still alive and well after a long hiatus this year.

The Rainiers’ offense couldn’t muster anything all night against El Paso starter Bryan Rodriguez, who went five innings, and relievers Kyle McGrath and Jose Torres. Tyler Smith and James Ramsey both doubled, but outside of those isolated incidents, the Rainiers’ only form of production was a Zach Shank single. Everything is bad in Tacoma right now and they need a spark in the worst way. They’ll be facing elimination when they take the field tomorrow. Get on out to Tacoma and show them some love before it’s too late and the love of your life picks the wrong person Tacoma is eliminated.

Top Performers:

-RHP Mayckol Guaipe: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R

-LF James Ramsey: 1 for 2, 2B, 2 BB

Jackson Generals 3 - Montgomery Biscuits 4 (AA)

Jackson leads best-of-five series, 2-1

Jackson is no longer perfect in the playoffs, losing a closely contested game in Montgomery by one run. The Generals just didn’t have an answer for starter Chris Kirsch, who went 7.1 innings with 9 Ks and was painting the corners all night. For the Generals, Paul Blackburn turned in a solid performance of 6.0 innings with 4 Ks, but Montgomery touched him up for six hits and three runs. Kyle Schepel turned in another strong inning of scoreless relief, but Aaron Brooks surrendered the go-ahead run in the bottom of the ninth on back-to-back doubles for a walk-off win. The Generals were able to manufacture two runs off a Ryan Casteel RBI single in the fourth and a sacrifice fly by Dario Pizzano in the sixth, and tied it up on a Casteel solo home run, but it just wasn’t enough to contend with the strong pitching performances by the Biscuits. Jackson will try to get back to its winning ways tomorrow in Montgomery tomorrow at 4:35 PST with the bearded wonder Bryan Evans taking the mound.

Top Performers:

-2B Tim Lopes, 2-for-3, 2B, BB

-1B Ryan Casteel, 2-for-4, 2 RBI, HR

Bakersfield Blaze 5 - San Jose Giants 3 (A+)

Bakersfield WINS best-of-three series, 2-1

For at least a few more days, baseball in Bakersfield is alive and kicking after the Blaze managed to emerge victorious in the rubber match of their three-game playoff series with the San Jose Giants, 5-3.

The game was a topsy-turvy one, with the Blaze falling behind early before surging ahead on a two-run blast by 3B Joe DeCarlo over the left field wall in the bottom of the fourth. A Drew Jackson RBI single pushed them ahead to a 3-1 lead an inning later.

However, with starting pitcher Tyler Pike lasting only five innings (an effective five innings, but still five innings), the Giants saw an opportunity to strike and did, tagging relief pitcher Kody Kerski for two runs on three hits to tie things up.

The Blaze, not to be outdone in potentially their last ever game, responded in the bottom of the inning with a lead-retaking homer off of the bat of 2B Jay Baum. Relievers Joe Pistorese, Vinny Nitoli, and Thyago Vieira were rocks the rest of the way out of the bullpen, tossing a combined three shutout innings. The game came without ninth inning drama, with Vieira striking out the first two batters and inducing a flyout to clinch victory.

The Blaze will now take on the Visalia Rawhide in a best-of-five divisional series that will run Saturday through Wednesday. Keep on keeping on, Blaze.

Top Performers:

-RHP Tyler Pike: 5.0 IP, 5 H, R, 5 K

-3B Joe DeCarlo: 1 for 4, 2-R HR

-1B Kyle Petty: 2 for 4, SB, R, RBI

-2B Jay Baum: 1 for 3, HR

Everett AquaSox 8 - Spokane Indians 0

Everett WINS best-of-three series, 2-0, and wins the NWL Northern Division Championship

After a rainout postponed their game on Wednesday, the AquaSox had a unique opportunity to play at Safeco Field in front of a crowd composed of the AquaSox faithful, the Spokane VERY faithful, and random strangers who live on the bus route to Safeco (c’est moi). Playing on their actual field of dreams in front of GM Jerry Dipoto, the AquaSox rose to the occasion, delighting the crowd with a dominant performance on both sides of the ball. Matt Festa pitched seven scoreless innings, and while giving up six hits, controlled the zone, inducing four strikeouts and only issuing one free pass. Lefty Steven Moyers pitched two perfect innings in relief. The AquaSox pitchers got help from some sparkling defensive plays, as well, including a nice snare by third baseman Nick Zammarelli (after which the Safeco PA system played Hawt Corner—good on you, Mariners) and a spectacular leaping grab by NW League MVP Eric Filia to rob a home run from Seth Spivey:

Filia was out before the game greeting his fans—including a surprise visit from his dad Michael—and he didn’t disappoint the crowd at Safeco tonight, going 1-for-2 with 2 BB and a stolen base. Bryson Brigman got the scoring started in the third with an RBI single scoring Austin Grebeck (who is so small looking in person but so fast), and then Eric Filia and Nick Zammarelli took back-to-back walks, with Zammarelli’s forcing in a run. Three walks in the inning—clearly the Sox were showing off their C-the-Z skills to the boss. In the fifth, Johmbeyker Morales reached third on two consecutive errors by Spokane, and then scored on another error. Brigman and Filia then took back-to-back walks again, bringing up Zammarelli with the bases loaded, and he turned on a pitch to hit a double into center field. Kristian Brito—who, at 6’5”/230 with a lush, full beard looks like he should be driving half the team to soccer practice—followed up with another double, and the lead was 7-0. The AquaSox would add one more run in the bottom of the 8th on a double hit by Donnie Walton scoring catcher Johan Quevedo. I was afraid the big-league park would be intimidating to the young players, but the AquaSox made Safeco look small, spraying the ball around the field with abandon. Kudos to the Mariners organization for putting this all together last-minute, which I’m sure was at least somewhat of a hassle, logistically. The team could have just as easily sent the kids down to Tacoma to play at Cheney, but instead opened Safeco’s gates wide to give the young players an experience of a lifetime. (It was pretty fun from a fan perspective, too.) Next up, the AquaSox will host the Eugene Emeralds this Sunday at 6:05 p.m in the Northwest League Championship Series.