2016 Playoff Preview – Semifinals – (1) Al Thomas vs. (6) Brighton Braves


First Round Summary

11 innings pitched.  10 strikeouts.  ZERO earned runs.


While the top-seeded A’s were resting up for round two following a 3 games to none sweep of the Brighton Black Sox, the Braves were fighting for their playoff lives in a do-or-die Game 5 matchup that took over 24 hours to complete.  Handing the ball off to the reigning YBL Pitcher of the Year Mike Smith, already on short rest following his Game 1 complete game shutout of the Stoneham Sabres, Smitty turned in an effort for the ages.  Tossing 9 brilliant innings at Rec Park on Sunday night, Smith wouldn’t turn over the ball a day later when play resumed after being halted due to darkness, and tossed 2 more shutout innings to tally his second playoff win of the series, propelling the Braves to the Yawkey League Semi-Finals.

The Braves received some clutch hitting from slugging first basemen Billy Uberti, who swatted a team-high 5 RBI’s in the opening round. Alex Lee notched a team-best 6 hits and continued his torrid pace on the base paths. After leading the league with 22 stolen bases in the regular season, Alex swiped 5 more against the Stals in Round 1.

Waiting for the Cinderella squad is the league’s top franchise in 2016, the Al Thomas Athletics. Up 5-0 in the bottom of the 6th inning in game 1 of the series, the upstart Brighton Black Sox looked to shock the 28-4 Athletics and take the early series lead, but the ATBC bats battled back for a 6-5 walkoff win, and never looked back from there.  Bill Clang turned in the pitching performance of the series in Game 2, scattering 4 hits in 6 shutout innings to help his A’s take down Brighton.  Timely hits from James Katsiroubas and John Kostas gave Al Thomas a leg up before emptying the tank in an 18-6 series clinching drubbing on Thursday night (Freddi Carrera had 3 hits and 4 RBI’s).

Al Thomas swept the regular season series against the Braves 3-0, outscoring the boys from Brighton by a combined score of 32-5.

Probable Matchups

Game 1: Pat Bresnehan (3.1 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 0 ER, 4 K’s) vs. James Greeley (4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 3 ER, 1 K)

Game 2: Bill Clang (6 IP, 4 H,1 BB, 0 ER, 6 K’s) vs. Sam K. Smith (4.1 IP, 6 H, 0 BB, 3 ER, 4 K’s)

Game 3: Bobby Freeman (5 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 3 ER, 1 K) vs. Mike Smith (18 IP, 10 H, 1 BB, 0 ER, 22 K’s)

Players to Watch

While Freddi, Katsy and Lambert have been the heart of the Al Thomas order for the last few years, it was the contributions of Trull, Rodriguez and Kostas that rounded out an already stout lineup, making the 2016 A’s a force to be reckoned with.  Those three went 16 for 30 with 8 runs scored and 8 RBI in the first round, proving that you can’t catch a breather once you get passed “Murderer’s Row” this year.

The Braves have a core of their own, anchored by Billy Uberti’s career 1.089 OPS in the postseason.  Cambridge’s own Ari Glantz shook off an unlikely down year to crank a team-high 3 extra-base hits and 5 runs scored last series.  Expect Ari to continue pounding out hits in a series that will likely have plenty of them.

Series Prediction

Al Thomas’ arms are rested and fresh.  Their hitters didn’t skip a beat entering the playoffs coming off of their record-setting regular season campaign. We all know what Smitty is capable of, but can the other Braves arms keep the series close before his name gets called once again? The ability of Greels, Lanky, Arms and K-Smith to silence ATBC’s bats and steal a few wins from Al Thomas will be the deciding factor in this series.

If Brighton can keep the train rolling in Game 1 tonight, they just might be able to pull off the upset.  If they can’t keep the ATBC bats at bay, expect a quick series with Al Thomas punching their ticket to their second YBL final in 3 years.

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