All eyes were on Ruritan Field Monday night, as the Bridgewater Reds and the Montezuma Braves played the final game of the regular season. This game would determine the final order of the standings, and therefore lock in the playoff matchups for the 2019 season. After the dust settled, the Braves emerged victorious over the Reds, 13-8.
Now, the playoff picture is clear. The matchups are as follows:
#1 Clover Hill Bucks vs #8 Grottoes Cardinals
Game 1: Tuesday night, at Clover Hill, 7:30 PM Game 2: Wednesday night, at Grottoes, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Thursday night, at Clover Hill, 7:30 PM
This matchup was the only one that had been decided before Monday night’s contest. The Clover Hill Bucks completely ran away with the regular season pennant, securing an impressive 24-4 record and beating out the next best team by nine games. The Bucks have made it to the championship series the last two years, but lost both times, so these playoffs certainly have a bit more intensity for the Clover Hill squad. They are ridiculously deep in all facets of their roster, but are headlined by the bat of Josh Eberely (.344 AVG, 22 RBI) and the arm of Nick Corbin (5-0, 1.47 ERA, 35 K).
As for the Cardinals, their solid season has unraveled, resulting in a seven game losing streak to finish the regular season. Now, they will have to try to figure it out against the juggernaut of the Bucks in a three game series. They will look to replicate the success they had in the middle stretch of the season, where they won 7 of 9 games, including a 6-1 win over the Bucks on June 8. No doubt, they will need production from their two MVP-candidate sluggers, Keegan Woolford (.484 AVG, 26 RBI) and David Wood (.422 AVG, 19 RBI).
#2 New Market Shockers vs #7 Elkton Blue Sox
Game 1: Tuesday night, at New Market, 7:30 PM Game 2: Wednesday night, at Elkton, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Thursday night, at New Market, 7:30 PM
The Shockers finished the season by winning seven of their last ten games, fueled by a dynamic offense and a reliable stable of starting pitchers. Frankie Ritter (.366 AVG), Peter Mullholland (.415 AVG) and Pearce Bucher (.352 AVG, 27 RBI) form one of the best top-of-the-lineup combinations in the league, as they have a tendency to force the opponent to their bullpen earlier than they anticipated.
New Market will now turn their attention to the intriguing Elkton Blue Sox, who have climbed out of the 8-seed and started to assert themselves as a dark horse candidate for this year’s playoffs. The Blue Sox are headlined by a pair of bombers in JJ Loker (.302 AVG, 3 HR, 24 RBI) and MVP candidate Christian Rodriguez (.341 AVG, 4 HR, 26 RBI). The key for Elkton will be getting solid innings from their starting pitching. This could prove to be one of the more fun series of the first round.
#3 Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks vs #6 Bridgewater Reds
Game 1: Wednesday night, at Stuarts Draft, 7:30 PM Game 2: Thursday night, at Bridgewater, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Friday night, at Stuarts Draft, 7:30 PM
The Diamondbacks have put together a very solid season, staying around .500 all summer, but winning key matchups along the way. They are a team with a deep lineup and a reliable bullpen, making them a formidable playoff opponent. Jack Pausic (.326 AVG, 22 RBI), Tanner Levine (.313 AVG) and Tyler Wilcher (.308 AVG) will all be dangerous weapons for Stuarts Draft to deploy.
They will go head to head against the defending champion Bridgewater Reds, who, despite losing a handful of key players from previous seasons, are still very much in the mix.
The Reds’ full capabilities were on display in the middle of the season, where they won 8 of 9 games in commanding fashion. Now, Bridgewater will look to recapture that success behind their star-studded pitching staff, led by the dynamic duo of Derek Shifflett (4 CG, 3.80 ERA, 82 K) and Tucker Garrison (4-2, 4.32 ERA, 55 K). Of course, the other problem for the Dbacks is MVP candidate Corbin Lucas (.425 AVG, 30 RBI) lurking in the middle of the Reds’ lineup.
#4 Broadway Bruins vs #5 Montezuma Braves
Game 1: Wednesday night, at Broadway, 7:30 PM Game 2: Thursday night, at Montezuma, 7:30 PM Game 3 (if necessary): Friday night, at Broadway, 7:30 PM
The Bruins finish the regular season winning 6 of their last 8 games. The Bruins are arguably the most evenly talented team in the league, having solid assets in all aspects of the game. They will now turn to a few key players to take them over the hump, namely John Judy (4-1, 2.31 ERA) on the mound and Matt Meiser (.327 AVG, 25 RBI) at the dish.
As for the Braves, they take a three game win streak into the playoffs, backed by a fearsome offense, anchored by PJ Hanisak (.350 AVG, 28 RBI) and MVP candidate Luke Paczewski (.400 AVG, 16 RBI). The key for Montezuma will be finding reliable innings from their bullpen, which could prove to be a difference maker in this evenly matched series.
After the conclusion of the first round, only four teams will remain, setting up an exciting semi-finals series. Be sure to get out and catch the first round action this week, and stay tuned to the RCBL website for more playoff coverage.