As teams jockey for playoff positioning in the closing months of each Yawkey Baseball League season, there are a few certainties that the league has found to be true. The first being: “Don’t lose homefield advantage to the guys with permits for Rec Park”, and the second being “Don’t line up against Mike Smith when he can start twice in a 5-game series”.
This matchup pits 2 very dangerous YBL squads, with the 3rd-seeded Stoneham Sabres hosting the #6-seed Brighton Braves. Stoneham enters the postseason with an impressive 23-9 record, their 5th consecutive 20+ win season. Sporting the league’s fastest defense and arguably its deepest pitching staff, Stoneham has wins against every single playoff franchise this season. With pinpoint control (League-best 55 walks allowed) and an outfield that can literally track down EVERY fly ball, Stoneham is a darkhorse favorite to win their first league title this postseason.
The Stals will have to get past the Brighton Braves, whose 16-16 record was good enough to lock up the 6th seed this season. A veteran squad with plenty of playoff experience, Ted Tracy and co. will seek to advance past the opening round for the first time since Mike Smith’s legendary Game 5 shutout on 3 days rest in 2013. The 2016 version boasts a scary pitching staff in the top 5 in the league in ERA and WHIP, with power arms that struck out a franchise-record 207 batters.
The Sabres edged out the Braves 2 games to 1 in head-to-head action this season, so this best of 5 series could go either way.
Game 1 – Sam Cummings (4-1, 28 IP, 1.75 ERA, 29 K’s) vs. Mike Smith (5-3, 59.2 IP, 1.17 ERA, 69 K’s)
Game 2 – Chris Dion (6-1, 45.1 IP, 1.54 ERA, 34 K’s) vs. Richard Arms (0-7, 40.1 IP, 4.51 ERA, 34 K’s)
Game 3 – David Montiverdi (2-2, 36.2 IP, 2.83 ERA, 19 K’s) vs. Greg Sherman (3-2, 33.2 IP, 3.33 ERA, 32 K’s)
Players to Watch
Kevin Luciano remains one of the most dangerous hitters in the YBL. With a team high 25 RBI on 14 extra base hits, Kevin can expect an healthy dose of offspeed this postseason. Tommy Lenane has been Stoneham’s breakout star in 2016, tallying a team-high 38 hits while playing gold glove defense at the hot corner. Angelo Colucci notched his 200th career hit earlier this month, and will bring his veteran leadership to what is hopefully a very deep playoff run.
The Sabres best arm might not even start a game this series – Corey McNamara has solidified his role in the back of the Stoneham bullpen with a Sub-2.00 ERA and 2 saves in his last 5 appearances of the seasons, striking out over a batter per inning. Coupled with lockdown defense, don’t expect the Stals to cough up any leads.
Former Wofford star and Braves’ leadoff man Alex Lee lead the league in stolen bases in 2016 and added 29 runs scored, setting the table for the Braves’ big bats. Perennial silver slugger Billy Uberti led the squad in homers and RBI’s and catcher Alex Joyce chipped in with 25 hits of his own, while shutting down opposing baserunners from behind the plate.
Former major leaguer Mike Smith won his second consecutive league strikeout crown, and although his pulled up lame running out a ground ball during the team’s final regular season game, you can be sure that this gamer has the ball in his hands game 1 and all bets are off once that fastball/changeup combo is working. Expect the Braves to go as far as that right arm will take them.
Former Curry College standout Derek Pizarro scored a career-high 36 runs en route to an all-star campaign for Stoneham. He has been the straw that stirs the drink for this offense and if he gets on base, it will be a tough task to keep him from crossing the plate.
Despite going winless this regular season, Richard Arms’ pure stuff is simply too good to be banged around. Expect his sharp breaking ball and sinking fastball to be in command this series.
Look for the Braves to try and lock this series up by Saturday as they will not want the series to be decided at Rec Park this weekend. Nobody beats the Stals at the beach, and they have the speed and defense to tip the scales at their home diamond.
The league’s reigning top arm – Mike Smith – has the repertoire and pedigree to win any time the ball is in his hand. Will that be enough to counter a Stoneham lineup that has already beaten the league’s best on multiple occasions? We shall see.
Expect some hard-fought baseball between two first class franchises this series.
Stoneham defeats Brighton 3-1 in the first round.