Congratulations to the Somerville Alibrandis on their 5th consecutive championship, and their 15th overall as a franchise!
#1 Somerville Alibrandis vs. #2 Al Thomas Baseball Club Athletics:
Two teams remain standing with a shot at this year’s YBL crown. Top-seeded Somerville is playing for the thumb on their golden knuckles, winners of the last 4 YBL championships. Second-ranked ATBC, winners of their 3rd straight regular-season conference title, rides in on the highest of high notes, their last action being a series-winning walk-off home run in Braintree. (Series opens on Friday, August 22nd at 8:00 @ Trum Field)
* How they got here: Somerville rolls in on a 16-game winning streak, the last 6 being first- and second-round sweeps over the Black Sox and Knights. Al Thomas joins the festivities after a pair of grueling 5-game series wins over the Dodgers and Rockies (see: aforementioned walk-off HR). Advantage: Full of confidence, rest and swagger, Somerville couldn’t be more ready to go.
* Wings: Somerville boasts the top pitching staff in the league, yet again. 3 guys mainlining red bull and pumping in the 90′s (Foundas, McKenzie, Mahoney), Cy Young candidate Jon “GimmeSome” Morse still yet to lose in 2014, Yukon Cornelius waiting in the wings, Tanguy closing doors on teams like a bouncer closes doors on guys wearing jorts (Sully), and “Deli” Del Prete waiting to eat up some playoff innings like an Italian BMT with banana peppers. Al Thomas has a solid rotation of their own, featuring their Cy Young candidate in “Slim Shady” Archibald who has only given up 4 hits in 19 playoff innings thus far (4-0 with 1 save). Bobby Freeman, Mike “Cruella” DeMille and the recently ‘wifed-up’ Bill Clang round out the rotation, then “Junkyard” Gaughan and Trevor Derochea should be the primary wings out of the bullpen. They might not be as stacked here as their opponents, but the A’s have already thrown 2 no-hitters in the first 2 rounds of the playoffs. Actually, they should just stick with that gameplan. Advantage: Throwing cheese and giving up only 3 runs so far in the postseason….Somerville all day.
* Bats: No surprise if we see a lot of offense, with the league’s top-2 hitting teams facing off. Somerville brings the perennial assault with Sir Thaddeus Dziuba leading the way in the tourney after another season worthy of MVP consideration. Former MVP “MoneyMaggs” Maguire has somehow been quiet yet also noisy in the playoffs, not hitting at his usual level but chipping in at crucial moments along the way. Bobby Barrett spanked in the winning run in game 1, and the tying run in game 2. Stan “The 40-Year Old Rookie” DeMartinis has been a solid DH all year after being called up on short notice. AnthonyMason PerryMason and “The Solution” Salines could’ve been called ring-chasers, but Perry brought a .305 avg and Salines led the YBL in runs in the regular season. As previously mentioned, Al Thomas (whose roster holds 32 former league MVPs) has the toughest “fruit” of the order with Freddi “Arriba” Carerra, James “KatsyRakes” Katsiroubas and Steve “Silence of the” Lambert (combined .417 avg in round 2). All 3 are blasting their team forward, and if they are dialed in, balls will be headed away from the plate twice as fast as they were heading in. The “3-Headed Matt” of Jacobs, Lavasseur and Rodriguez have provided even more offense so that no part of the order is safe. And the likely “Comeback Player of the Year” Award may go to Chris McDonough, who has been a big bat for the A’s after destroying his arm (and a month of my sleep cycle) in the 2012 Fenway Game…..this is also the end of the YBL road for McDonough, as he departs for the left coast after the season. Advantage: We all know both squads have the wood, but the Athletics have been getting much more out of theirs so far.
* On the Bases: Both teams are smart and fast on the dirt. The Athletics have a 13:1 steal ratio in 2 rounds led by Tom Trull (2) and Carerra (6), while Somerville is at 4:0. Advantage: ATBC takes the edge here, but it’s not by much. While the A’s have stolen at will in their first 10 games, Dziuba threw out 4 of the 5 attempted thieveries in the 2nd round against the speedy Knights.
* Players to Watch: Both teams are loaded with studs everywhere. The “fruit” of the Al Thomas order is on fire, and much will be expected. John Kostas had 32 ABs in the regular season, but has been calling his own number in the playoffs with 24 ABs to this point….and he’s answered his call with a couple big extra-base hits and 4 rbi. For the Alibrandis, Marc Adessa has been their Iron Man at all 38 games, and plans to get on base at the bottom and take some trips around the bags. However, all eyes in this series may fall on the Old Guard of Somerville’s lineup. Sal “Padonkadonk” Mendonca highlighted round 1 with a game-saving catch in game 2 against Brighton. Justin Cristafulli has battled an elbow injury all year….simply to get to this moment, and will be a huge bat off the bench to rip skidmark-inducing line drives into the 3rd-base dugout. Lastly, is this the end of an era? Marc “Doc” DesRoches may be suiting up for his last YBL championship series, and the legend may hang ‘em up after a career that I can’t even begin to summarize…you know, since he joined the league before the internet. There is nothing I can write here to do justice for the player who has been the ‘Face of the YBL’. Look for a slow clap at some point, and join in. Advantage: Somerville should have copious amounts of nostalgia and tiger balm in their dugout.
* Intangibles: Which team will get the most spiritual support? Somerville always has a following, but the Athletics have been rolling deep in the playoffs, including 7 YBL HoF’ers in attendance at game 5 against Revere. Advantage: Anyone smart enough to wheel a Sabrett’s cart by the ballpark at game time.
* Edibles: Somerville has spent the last 4 days loading up on Pini’s pies and pitchers from the Tavern. The ATBC hasn’t had the luxury of a long break, so they are still jacked up from inordinate amounts of fresh fruit and kale smoothies. Advantage: Trans fats vs. wholesome nutrients…..ATBC gets a tasty edge here.
* Series Prediction: #1 v #2. A prediction is merely a prediction. For the first time in a while, the more potent offense (at least for the moment) will not be wearing the red and white…..and camo. The best pitching team in the league going up against the best hitting team in the league. In no way can you count out the Athletics, as they have shown that they can mash no matter who is throwing……but…….
The Red Army makes it 5 titles in a row, winning in six games.
And then there were 4. Following all highly contested series, no one can say that the 4 best teams aren’t still playing. Even though all teams have at least quality pitching, these are the best four offensive powerhouses the YBL had to offer in 2014. Top-seeded Somerville now rides a 13-game win streak after dispatching the Black Sox in 3. Although it was a sweep, the series was much tighter than many may have expected with 2 close games before the Alibrandis slammed the door shut in game 3. Yaz Division winners Al Thomas were taken to task by the upstart Dodgers in a heated 5 game battle. The Savin Hill squad threw everything they could at the Athletics, but simply couldn’t match the hitting of their opponents. 3-seed Revere also went 5 games against a resilient South Boston team trying to make ends meet without 2 of their top wings. Down 1-0 “late-ish” in the final game, the Rockies woke up the lumber and advanced to the semis. Lastly, East Boston in the 4-seed made a date with Somerville by taking down the league’s early-season favorite Sabers in 4 games. Seemed like almost every Knight batted .400+, and they brought the dramatics in game 4, tying it with 3 in the 7th before winning in extras.
Somerville vs East Boston:
Having closed out the series quickly, Somerville gets some advantage of an extra day’s rest….but more importantly, one less game of stress on their rotation. This matchup features 2 teams with loaded lineups and strong rotations/bullpens. The numbers put up over the course of 2014 by both squads were simply staggering, as they were each in the top-3 in runs, hits, RBI, AVG, OBP, and OPS, and they also posted the top 2 strikeout totals in the league. Somerville won the season series 1-0-1.
On the Bump – Somerville only had to tap into their ‘Big3′ of Chris Foundas, Chris McKenzie and Jon “GimmeSome” Morse in the first round. Dan Mahoney and Brian Tanguy threw the only 2 innings of relief, so this team knows they have an arsenal of arms just waiting to jump in if needed. For East Boston, Jeff Allison and Branden “Carpet” Eaton both had strong starts to get wins, and John Tangherlini was tough in relief. If Jon Shepard and Billy Riggieri step up their game (like they did all year), the defending champs will have a war on their hands.
At the Dish – No sugarcoating this one, East Boston kept up their ridiculous regular season pace at the plate in the first round putting up a .339 average against the Sabers. Victor Lebron led the way going .445 with 5 steals, and Kenny “Polongball” Polanco and his .429 dropped a 2-run bomb at Maplewood in game 1. Business as usual. But the biggest contribution came from Jose Paulino, who followed up a sub-par season to rake at a .462 clip. Eastie is going to need all these guys and more to build up the Alibrandi pitch counts and put some dents in the armory. Somerville wasn’t quiiiiiiiiite the offensive juggernaut in the first round as they had been all year, but a good chunk of that can be attributed to having to deal with facing JT Ross and Matt Nicholson, who held them to 8 hits combined in 13 innings. But there are few things in life you can count on, and they are death, taxes, and Alibrandi offense. Look for the Barbershop Quartet of Mike “MoneyMags” Maguire, Teddy Dziuba, Kevin Salines and Logan “Airport” Gillis (ok, that one was lame) to set the table for the rest of the battalion to get work done.
Wildcards – If the series goes at least 4 (and in all likelihood, it should), we could see Sean Sullivan make his 2014 tourney debut. A postseason legend, Carrottop was last seen at game 4 of the A’s/Dodgers series asking both managers if he could get some innings in. For East Boston, Brad Tardugno struggled in the first round, but you don’t want to poke the bear. If he follows in Paulino’s footsteps and gets back into gear, its another big bat in the middle of the order.
X Factor – I’m going with Wilson Mercado. After undergoing a recent surgical procedure, Wilson was limited to 3 pinch-hit ABs against the Sabers. If he is healthy enough to see regular ABs in the semis, its just another potential nightmare for Alibrandi pitching. Without him, the Knights have some good bats to fill his spot in the lineup, but no one can really fill his size tens (total guess).
Series Prediction – Both of these teams are tough all around. I’d have to give a slight pitching edge to Somerville, but a perceptible offensive advantage to the Knights (can’t argue with stats, right?). Game 1, featuring probable starters McKenzie vs Allison, can very well be a tone-setter for the entire series. If Eastie can steal the first game at Trum, Somerville is going to be facing an uphill battle against a team that will be fired up and looking to bury the dynasty. But if they can’t take 1 of the first 2 and get home-field advantage, Sweeney Todd will be waiting for them not once, not twice, but thrice.
The Red Army, battered and bloodied, move on in 5
Al Thomas vs Revere:
Normally going to 5 games is a disadvantage, but since both Revere and Al Thomas were pushed to the brink in their opening round matchups, they will come back Thursday on equal footing. Like the other semi-final pairing, these teams both have simply huge offensive potential almost top to bottom through the lineup. Revere took the season series 2-0, but past success is indicative of nothing in the YBL playoffs.
On the Bump – With the rain pushing the series back one day, and the YBL Golf Tourney granting a reprieve after game 1, both teams will get a little extra downtime and seemingly be able to throw on normal rest. For the purple machine, Chris Sandini, Alex Wong and Adam Del Rio were all fantastic in their starts and look to eat up most of the innings before handing the ball over to Ian Titcomb. For the green and gray, look for one start out of team ace Willie Archibald after having thrown twice in round 1 in dominating fashion. If management can convince him “no, really, that’s the Dodgers in purple” – its all but a guaranteed Athletics win. This series will rest heavily on the performances of the A’s wings, as they hope to keep the games competitive and allow their beasty offense to do the heavy lifting. Rookie Bobby Freeman will look to follow up a no-hitter and turn that into success against a Rockies team that only saw him throw 1 inning in 2014.
At the Dish - Once again, no shortage of offense in this series either. Tom Englehardt and Bobby “el diablo” Foote maintained huge 2014 seasons, which saw them combine for 62 RBI, with .438 and .389 averages in the first round. If the top of the lineup is getting on base in front of them regularly, this series could get ugly. However, after leading the league in hitting for the season, the A’s may have the scariest meat of the order in the league. If Freddi “ARRIBA!” Carrera, James Katsiroubas and Steve Lambert (2dbl, trpl, 6rbi in round 1) keep getting pitches to hit, their offense can keep them in any game.
Wildcards – John Young and Mike DeMille. While both of these guys were workhorses for their teams this past season, they will need to bring their A game against relentless lineups. If one of them has a big game, look for the series balance to tilt in favor of their squad.
X Factor – Perhaps the biggest discrepancy between these 2 teams is on the basepaths. Al Thomas was 2nd in the league with 62 steals (plus 9 in round 1), while Revere had the fewest. The Rockies’ batteries will have their work cut out for them if they want to keep the Athletic wheels from getting into scoring position.
Series Prediction – With so much run-scoring potential, this is all going to come down to pitching. Runs will likely come in bunches, as both teams simply feast once they get inside an opposing pitcher’s head. If Revere gets solid production out of veterans Sean Glavin and Chris Hartery in the middle, it could prove to be too much for AT to handle.
Revere advances 3-2 for a second consecutive shot at the YBL title.
The East Boston Knights snatched the 4-seed with a second-place finish in the Yastrzemski Division. Eric Bellavia has led them through a bit of roller-coaster season that saw the Knights (21-10-1) vacillate between the top and middle of the Yaz division. With a similar style of play as their round 1 opponents, the Knights have no glaring weaknesses. They have really put up some highly impressive, almost unrealistic statistics with a .426 OBP to go along with 122 steals, a new YBL record (since the inception of 400hitter, only two other clubs have amassed three-digits in steals). And they back it up with a grocery list of pitchers who could each contribute significantly in the series.
On the flip side, the Stoneham Sabers (22-10) quickly established themselves as the team to beat in the YBL with a big win over Revere and then 2 more over Somerville in the first month+ of the season. There is never an ‘easy’ inning against the Sabers with their solid pitching, tough bats all the way through the lineup and speed all over the place. Player/Manager Angelo Colucci has kept the kids focused and has the comfort in knowing there will be superior defense at the 3 key positions on the field.
Stoneham may have taken the season series 2-0, but they have yet to play EB on one of their many turf fields.
Players to Watch
The Knights can march 7 hitters to the plate who hit over .340 (with at least 35 ABs) in 2014, including Marty Dunlap (.375) and Josh Valerio (.352) who both had solid years. Wilson Mercado (.364, 24 RBI) was one of the scarier hitters in the YBL as usual, and Brad Tardugno (.343, 17 RBI) always seems to be lurking on deck when guys get on base. Shepard and Allison will anchor the starting rotation, and Billy Riggieri (5-2, 31 IP, 2.09 ERA, 39 K) will likely start game 4 (if needed). Max Ockner (1-2, 1.31 ERA) should get plenty of innings in relief. But Eastie also has THE guy to watch in the postseason. Victor ‘the better’ LeBron was lauded with “dude is the real deal” merely a couple weeks into his rookie YBL season. Since then, his legit-ness has only escalated with a .459 avg, 3 HR and a ridiculous, YBL record 45 SB (surpassing Drew Tambling’s old mark of 37). If this guy is getting on base with any regularity, stopping Eastie will be like trying to get a bad pie at Santarpio’s.
Stoneham may not have a LeBron of their own, but there is no debating that they are one of the more complete teams top-to-bottom in the league. Now in his 4th YBL campaign, Mike Robinson (.268 avg, 15 SB) has been a pitcher’s nightmare who brings power and speed in addition to being a top-tier YBL center fielder. And while 2014 has seen a slight regression from mmmRob at the dish, this 3-hitter can break out at any time. Jake Zelnick (.408 avg, 4 triples) leads the team in hitting, and Travis Adams (.358 avg, 11 doubles) has been among the top 2-way catchers in the YBL. The Sabers also have their own arsenal of wings, to the point where they can play matchups. Greg Dubela (4-2, 1.78 ERA) and his rubber arm could easily see a start in the first few games, or even be the primary reliever leading up to a potential start in game 4. One thing is for sure, these guys can play on any of the 11 different surfaces the schedule throws at them.
The Eastie bullpen. If the starters are able to get through 5 innings with minimal damage, they will hand the ball to either John Tangherlini (2-1, 2.28era) or Max Ockner (1-2, 1.31 ERA) to close the door for Bellavia. If those 2 are on point, the Sabers could be working uphill.
Colucci – A career .324 hitter, Ang has had a tough 2014 despite logging his 4th consecutive 90+ AB season. History has shown that he has a certain flair for the dramatic, so 1 big hit can easily wake this hairy, hardball-hammering beast and cause big problems for Knights pitching.
X-Factor - Is there any question? THE BEACH. If the weather holds off, Stoneham will get to host the Knights at the most ligament-terrifying field on the eastern seaboard for at least 1 if not 2 games this upcoming weekend. Are there any 2 fields more vastly different than Rec Park and Maplewood?
While Eastie was up and down all year and Stoneham hit a bit of a rough patch over the last couple weeks of 2014, both teams have shown that they are perennially among the league’s best. This series is going to be all about taking it one pitch at a time. Hits will become outs, and mistakes can quickly turn into chaos. The combination of pitching and hitting from both squads could lead to a bunch of 2-1 games, 15-14 games, or anything in between.
Stoneham moves on in 5
The 2013 Johnny Pesky Division Champion Revere Rockies are looking to take home their franchise’s first Yawkey Baseball League title after falling just short last season, losing to the Somerville Alibrandi ballclub in last year’s YBL Championship. After a slow start, AJ Bucciarelli’s crew rifled off an incredible 17 consecutive wins, placing them firmly in the hunt for the league’s top seed (24-8 overall). Settling into the #3 spot despite a clutch 2-game weekend series sweep of the top-ranked Stoneham Sabers, these perennial playoff contenders (10 consecutive trips to the postseason) are rested and focused for a deep playoff run.
The Rockies will face off against the “Saints of South Boston” (Cue the Boondock Saints intro music) in this year’s first round, who enter playoff play with a 19-11-1 overall record, good enough for the #6 seed. Playoff participants in 6 of the last 7 seasons, Jon Tenney’s Saints opened up the season with victories against all 3 top seeds – Al Thomas, Revere, & Somerville – and look to continue their winning ways on the backs of some impressive veteran bats.
If the regular season matchups are any indication, this series could be hotly contested with some very close ballgames. The season series is tied at one win a piece, with each team walking off with a one-run victory in the final at-bat.
Players to Watch
The offseason additions of Tommy Englehardt (.507, 7 HR, 30 RBI) and Bobby Foote (.368, 4 HR, 32 RBI) added some thump to an already potent Revere Rockies lineup, anchored by de facto captain Chris Santosuosso (.323, 28 Runs, 17 RBI). The loss of reigning league MVP Luis Rodriguez to injury hasn’t stopped the Rockies from pounding out nearly 6 runs per game, with all the usual suspects chipping in throughout the 2014 campaign.
This year’s squad may be the franchise’s best yet thanks to a frighteningly deep pitching staff to complement their dynamic offense. While veteran arms “Donkey” Del Rio, Sandini, and Rich “Woody” Wlodarczyk (4-0, 2.63 ERA) handled the bulk of last season’s playoff workload, it could be the emergence of Young as the staff ace (League-Leading 0.83 ERA in 33.2 IP) which gets the squad over the hump. Veteran closer Ian Titcomb (4 saves, 1.14 ERA) turned in another strong performance in 2014, and his ability to shorten games will be critical in keeping the Revere arms fresh for a condensed playoff schedule.
South Boston will have to find a way to overcome the loss of their top 2 starting pitchers – Dylan Joyce & Rob Cahill – if they want to advance out of the first round. If there is an offense in the league that can do it, it just might be South Boston’s. Kent Graham remains one of the league’s top right-handed bats, and the Saints will need more of his team-leading 4 home runs if they want to take the series. New faces David Lightbody (.373, 8 2B’s, 16 BB’s) and former NCAA National Gold Glove recipient Trevor Boyce (24 runs, 16 SB’s) have been key contributors throughout the campaign, and catcher Jim McLaughlin continues to be a run-producer in the middle of the lineup, chipping in a team-best 19 RBI’s.
The series might hinge on Hueston’s bionic arm (106 innings in 2014 for 4 different teams) and his ability to snag a pair of wins in Round 1. With victories against playoff participants Somerville and Savin Hill, he has proven he can handle top teams with ease. Tenney’s intensity and mound presence cannot be counted out. He has shown over the years that he thrives in the big game atmosphere.
Perhaps the most clutch bat on the squad, Kyle Rufo has asserted himself as field general behind the plate for Revere. His steady presence has softened the blow of losing league legend Tony Iafolla to adulthood.
MSBL All-Stars Lightbody and Ryan Raddabaugh may not be household names to the newcomers in this league, but they have been terrorizing the amateur baseball scene throughout New England for decades. Playoff baseball is all about poise in pressure situations, and these 2 have been there before, many times over.
In the end, winning in August is all about pitching. Revere has it. South Boston does not. I wouldn’t bet my own money against Lights and Graham, but Revere has the bats and pitching staff to go all the way this season.
Rockies advance, 3 games to 1.
Masquerading as a different team than the buzzsaw that won 40 games over the course of 2013 (regular season plus playoffs), this year’s Alibrandis took longer than usual to get in sync. Two-thirds of the way through the season, Somerville had posted a respectable 14-7-1 record yet found themselves amongst a group of teams vying to break away from the pack. In early July, Manager Bernie Driscoll must have administered a healthy dosage of wedgies and purple nerples, because the Red Army has gotten back to business by winning their last 10 games to lock up the top seed in the YBL.
On the other side of the chalk, and clinching the 8th playoff spot with only a couple games left in the season, Manager John Griffith’s Black Sox fought through a grindstone year by doing what a playoff team is supposed to do…..beat the teams they should beat. Griff kept his squad in the mix all the way despite a constantly changing lineup, and was rewarded in the form of a series with the most dominating franchise in recent YBL history.
Somerville took all 3 matchups between the teams in 2014. But if the Black Sox can build off the most recent 2-1 tilt, this series will be more interesting than most may anticipate.
Players to Watch
The Black Sox offense boasts some quality bats in Adam Sudbeck (.311avg and 15rbi) and Bill ‘throwing it back to ’09′ Reichmann (.351avg with 34hits). But it can be argued that the Black Sox’ offensive tempo rises and falls with Kurt Beulke. In his rookie campaign, Beulke has handled YBL pitching to the tune of a .363avg, terrorized defenses with swift base running (14sb), and turned center field into a place where hits go to suffer a supple, leathery death. On the bump, the Sox will trot out a pair of veteran YBL workhorses in Ross and Nicholson, who have compiled 8 wins and 106 strikeouts between them. Rounding out the playoff rotation is rookie Joe “Raspberry” Shebertes, who has sliced his way through hitters while amassing 58 strikeouts in 31 innings to go along with a sparkling 1.13era.
As for the Alibrandis, they always come at you with a lineup that never really gives you a chance to chew some seeds. Typically at the top of the lineup, Mike “Mags” Maguire and Thaddeus “don’t call me Thaddeus” Dziuba are both having MVP-caliber seasons. The freshly assimilated Kevin Salines shares the YBL lead in runs scored (31, tied w/Dziuba), and there is no shortage of production throughout the line with Logan Gillis, Stan DeMartinis, and the never-aging Doc DesRoches. On the mound, count on an heaping helping of Morse, Foundas and McKenzie who will gladly hand the pill to The Tanguy for an inning every night.
Sean Sullivan – if the series goes to a game 4, the Alibrandis will likely turn to Ol’ Yukon Cornelius who has seen limited work due to injuries in 2014. He’s been a studly ginger for Somerville since 2009, does he still have the playoff goods?
Will Cousins – the Black Sox will need contributions up and down their lineup, and this rookie infielder can be the guy who keeps the lineup moving. Can regular season success turn into playoff success?
X-Factor – The Somerville Basketball twins always lead the Red Army fan base and can get into the heads of anyone that dare step onto the sacred Trum battlefield.
While it may be easy to predict a blowout, you can’t go to sleep on these Black Sox. Smart money is on the Red Army, but don’t be surprised if the Sox paint it Black and make a series out of it. Quality pitching and solid defense is the recipe for taking down the consensus YBL Championship favorites. If they can play clean baseball and refrain from giving Somerville too many free passes, they have the pitching to make this a good series.
Somerville in 4