The first Mid Atlantic champion will be crowned this Saturday, October 7th, in York, Pennsylvania. The four team playoff will feature a pair of Best of 3 semi-finals and a Best of 3 finals. Here are four storylines to watch for on Saturday.
How the Yaks utilize Jarod Bull
Back in August for the fourth tournament of the 2017 regular season, the York Yaks took a calculated risk in holding ace Jarod Bull back during pool play so he would be fresh for the playoff round. This was in stark contrast to how the Yaks utilized Bull earlier in the season. The gamble paid off. Dan Potter got the Yaks through round robin, Jared Laird handled the semi-final, and a fresh Bull was able to hold down My Name is ERL in the championship game. The Yaks deployed a similar strategy in September, using Laird, Potter, and Nick Shirey in round robin leaving Bull fresh for ten innings of work in the elimination round.
Clearly the Yaks believe they benefit by keeping Bull fresh to pitch the big games. However, in a two-series playoff format every game is a big one. Will the Yaks try to extend their late regular season strategy into the playoffs or will they try to squeeze as many innings out of their ace as possible? Dan Potter and Jared Laird are no slouches and capable of winning games for the Yaks during the playoffs, but neither pitcher has displayed the same consistency and stuff that Bull has this season. A fresh Bull in the championships might be ideal but the Yaks need to make sure they get there first. Which strategy will they choose?
Will the numbers game finally catch up to the Barrel Bruisers?
The Barrel Bruisers can’t seem to catch a break. First they lost one player to a season ending injury after the April tournament and then another was lost after the June event. Their early season ace, Ryan Doeppel, made his final tournament appearance in July. This effectively reduced the Bruisers to a two-man team. Yet through all of those bad breaks, the team kept fighting and was the most consistent club in the Mid Atlantic this season, never finishing below 3rd in any tournament. Their fortunes seemed to turn around when they snagged Ben Stant for the September tournament, which once again gave them a top level pitcher to complement their potent bats. Unfortunately, Stant is unable to make the playoff tournament leaving Chris and Jerry on their own once again. It is not easy to win a competitive tournament with a two-man team under any circumstance and without a top-level pitcher, the Bruisers have the deck stacked against them. However, as we have seen time and time again, these guys should never be counted out. The Bruisers grind out every game they play and have a knack for finding ways to win. Both Jerry and Chris hold pitching wins of the team’s first round opponent, the Stompers, as well.
How will Tim Cooke manage a crowded Stompers roster?
During the regular season, Stompers’ captain Tim Cooke took full advantage of the Mid Atlantic roster rules in using all seven spots to not only get through the regular season, but to also position the team for a deep playoff run. The Stompers never had their expected starting five together for a single tournament, yet thanks to the creative pickups of Billy Owens and Jordan Robles and the innings-eating of Dan Isenberg, the Stompers more than kept things together. Finding players to fill out the roster won’t be an issue for the Stompers on the 7th. They are expected to carry a six man roster for the playoffs. Will the Stompers bat six players and risk getting their better hits less chances at the plate? Will the Stompers sit players for certain games and if so, how will that work for a club that has long prided itself on always playing as a full team? How will the Stompers juggle the innings between Nick Schaefer, Robles, and Isenberg?
Cooke has never been shy to manage a game or a tournament in an unorthodox way if need be. Word has it that the Stompers captain has already dug deep into the match ups and various scenarios to come up with a host of plans and backup plans for Saturday. It will be interesting to see what – if anything – he has up his sleeve this Saturday.
ERL tries to do what they haven’t been able to do lately – Beat the Yaks
In their Mid Atlantic debut this past June, My Name is ERL put a beating on the York Yaks in round robin play as they coasted to a 17-2 victory. Since June, the games between the Yaks and ERL have taken on a decidedly different tone. In the three subsequent meetings between these teams, the Yaks have gotten the upper hand. ERL came up on the short end of the stick during round robin play in August, in the finals of the same tournament, and once again in the semi-finals of the September event. None of the losses were blow outs – a 1-0 loss on a bases loaded walk, another 1-0 loss, and a 2-0 loss courtesy of a Dan Potter 2-run homer at the September tournament – which likely made them sting even more. The Yaks are responsible for six of the ten runs scored off of Connor Young this season. There is no doubt that Young – as ultra-competitive as he is – relishes the chance for redemption in Saturday’s semi-final match up.
ERL will once again be at full strength for this tournament. If the trio can find a way to put some runs on the board, they will be tough to beat.