Finishing the regular season with an impressive 22-10 record, John Kostas’s Al Thomas Athletics are divisional champions for the 3rd year in a row, securing the #2 seed in the 2014 Yawkey Baseball League Playoffs as Carl Yastrzemski Division champions. Sporting a potent, balanced lineup from 1 through 9, the A’s managed to bang out a league-best 207 runs while reaching base at a remarkable .430 clip. Producing more than 6 runs per game, the offense provided more than enough punch for the veteran A’s pitching staff to snap off its 3rd consecutive 20-win season. After a disappointing playoff run in 2013 which saw the A’s fail to advance out of the first round – thanks in no small part to a pair of gutsy pitching performances by former big leaguer Mike Smith and the upstart Brighton Braves – these stallions of the South Shore will look to make a deep run in 2014 and take home another championship for their historic and illustrious franchise.
Standing in their way in Round 1, and reaching the postseason in the first year of their existence as a hybrid franchise, is the Savin Hill Dodgers. Dave Bonnell and Matt Grimes joined their respective squads (The Savin Hill Hornets and the Boston Dodgers) at the outset of this season and quickly became a force to be reckoned with in the Yawkey Baseball league, leading the Yastrzemski division for much of the 2014 campaign. While runs were at times hard to come by for the Dodgers, Savin Hill has proven that it can handle the pressure of tight ball games, with 10 wins by a margin of 2 or fewer runs. Buoyed by a trio of arms that rivals any team in the league, Savin Hill enters the YBL Playoff scene as a dangerous squad looking to shake up the YBL hierarchy, of which Al Thomas is very much a part.
Al Thomas won the season series 2 games to 1, but if the last matchup between these two teams is any indication (4-3 walkoff win on 7/20 @ Kelly Field), then this series has all the making of a YBL classic.
Game 1 – Brendan Huber (10-2, 67 IP, 1.78 ERA, 48 K’s) vs. Mike Demille (5-2, 32.2 IP, 3.21 ERA, 21 K’s)
Game 2 – Eddie Samp (4-4, 48 IP, 2.48 ERA, 37 K’s) vs. Bill Clang (5-4, 44.1 IP, 2.21 ERA, 33 K’s)
Game 3 – Kyle Breidenstine (2-4, 50.2 IP, 2.49 ERA, 32 K’s) vs. Willie Archibald (7-1, 57.1 IP, 1.59 ERA, 63 K’s)
Players to Watch
Outfielder Freddi Carrera of the Al Thomas Athletics turned in an MVP-caliber season, becoming only the 3rd player since the inception of 400Hitter to slug 50 hits in a single season. Finishing the year at .472 with a team-best 26 runs and 25 RBI’s, Freddi sets the table for the rest of the “ATBC” lineup and is one of the toughest hitters to strike out in the entire league (Only 8 K’s in 116 plate appearances). The former face of the Savin Hill Hornets franchise, there will be no love lost when Freddi steps into the box against the newly formed Dodgers organization.
Driving Freddi in are YBL stalwarts Steve Lambert and James Katsiroubas who combined for 25 extra base hits and 46 RBI’s. Newcomer Matt Lavasseur showed a penchant for walks, drawing 24 free passes and ranking amongst the league’s leaders in runs scored with 25. The addition of catcher Matt Rodriguez brought further balance to the AT lineup, driving in 22 runs and playing superb defense behind the dish.
While Archibald was undoubtedly the staff ace in 2014 – with his 7 wins and 63 K’s ranking him among the league’s best – they will need to draw on their veteran arms of Clang, Demille, and Dan Gaughan if they want to advance. Especially if they plan on trading pitches with the likes of Huber, Samp and Breidenstine.
Savin Hill relied on their pitching and defense to get the lion’s share of their wins this season, but several key contributors will look to catch fire as the postseason looms. Perennial All-Star Nate Hodor had another solid campaign, chipping in a team-best 21 RBI and 7 XBH. Jay Shatto and Nick Tapper led the team in hitting, batting .352 and .368 respectively, and those 3 have proven in year’s past that they can provide all the offense the team needs to win.
A few runs may be all that the Dodgers need if the pride of Canada, Huber, takes the mound for Savin Hill. The Canuck workhorse led all YBL pitchers in innings pitched (67) and wins (10), tying Evan Tardugno as the only pitcher in the .400 hitter era with double-digit victories. Huber didn’t amass those wins against cupcakes either, boasting clutch W’s against playoff teams such as Somerville, East Boston, Stoneham and South Boston. If Samp or Breidenstine can toss a gem in games 2 or 3, Al Thomas may be staring down the barrel of another 1st round upset thanks to a starter that can bounce back on short rest in the 5-game set.
Rathapoom Asdornvuttikrai, aside from having the greatest name in baseball history, has had some clutch knocks throughout the 2014 campaign. Look for him to come up in a big spot in round 1.
Tom Trull can still run the bases like a madman. If ATBC needs a run, expect them to steal to get it.
As good as the Savin Hill arms have been, the Al Thomas offense is simply on another level. Katsiroubas drove in the winning runs in both of the Al Thomas victories over Savin Hill this season, and he was not in the lineup for the lone Dodgers victory. If Savin Hill can find a way to stop the bat of Jimmy Kats, they might have a shot. However, considering the rest of the league hasn’t found a way to do so in three years, it’s not looking too good for the boys in blue.
Al Thomas advances, 3 games to 1.