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.