The minor league playoffs continued on Wednesday and Thursday, and that’s all it took for the Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters to lose their Championship Series in a two-game sweep. Meanwhile, the Double-A Midland RockHounds dropped Game 2 of their own final and will now have to win three straight on the road if they want to complete their 4-peat.
Here’s a closer look at each series.
Midland RockHounds vs. Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers)
League: Double-A Texas League
Best-of-5 Championship Series
Hounds trail series 0-2
Midland nearly pulled off yet another postseason comeback in Game 2, but they fell just short in the end. Starting pitcher Casey Meisner dug an early hole, and it actually could have been much worse. The Drillers reached third base in each of the first three innings, but were unable to push any of them home.
Finally, in the 4th, they put together what turned out to be the finishing blow. Tulsa led off with a single and two doubles to bring in a pair of runs, and just one out into the frame Meisner was finished. Reliever Carlos Navas couldn’t stop the bleeding, allowing another four hits (two doubles), and by the time the inning ended the score was 5-0.
Brandon Mann, Tyler Sturdevant, Cody Stull, and Nolan Blackwood shut the Drillers down the rest of the way, but the damage had been done. Their combined line in relief: 5 ip, 4 Ks, 1 BB, 3 hits.
Casey Meisner: 3⅓ ip, 3 runs, 3 Ks, 1 BB, 8 hits, 75 pitches (48 strikes)
While their pitchers were getting beaten up by Tulsa, the Hounds only managed four baserunners of their own in the first five innings — and even two of them were eliminated in double plays. They finally got going in the 7th, with a double by Sheldon Neuse and an RBI single from Tyler Ramirez, but the score was still discouraging at 5-1.
But wait! A rally! Jorge Mateo led off the 8th with a walk, and Max Schrock followed with a single to set the table. One out later, Viosergy Rosa (who else?) continued his amazing playoff performance with an RBI single. And then, the big hit: a triple from Neuse to drive home a pair and bring the deficit within one.
Unfortunately, that was the end of it. Midland’s threat petered out with two runners left on, and the 9th inning went single-GIDP-K to wrap up the game. So close, but not quite enough.
Sheldon Neuse, 3B: 3-for-4, 3B, 2B, 2 RBI, run
Max Schrock, 2B: 3-for-4, HBP, run
Tyler Ramirez, OF: 2-for-3, BB, RBI
Viosergy Rosa, 1B: 1-for-4, RBI
The series now shifts to Tulsa for its duration, so the Hounds will have to win three straight road games in order to earn another ring. The challenge begins Friday, with Heath Fillmyer on the mound. He was solid but not dominant in his Division Series start against San Antonio (6⅔ ip, 3 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 9 hits).
Vermont Lake Monsters vs. Hudson Valley Renegades (Rays)
League: Low-A New-York Penn League
Best-of-3 Championship Series
Monsters lose series 0-2
Well that was quick. The entire series lasted about 27 hours from start to finish, resulting in a two-game sweep for Hudson Valley. Game 1 was a 13-inning thriller, while Game 2 was a dominant victory.
For 2017 draft picks, number in parentheses “i.e., (7th)” denotes round of selection.
Each team scored a couple runs in the middle innings, but that was it in regulation. Vermont’s came thanks to some extra-base hits — back-to-back doubles in the 5th by catcher Lana Akau and 3B Will Toffey (4th round), and then in the 6th a double by OF Logan Farrar (36th) and a triple by 1B Aaron Arruda (12th). They scattered some more hits but didn’t seriously threaten in any other inning, all the way through the 13th.
On the pitching side, starter Jean Ruiz tossed five solid innings. The bullpen held on for seven more scoreless frames after that, but Hudson Valley finally broke through against Oscar Tovar and Logan Salow. (Tovar still had a good outing, though, and Salow was put into a ridiculous situation with second/third and one out; he allowed just a sac fly.)
Logan Farrar, OF: 3-for-6, 2B, run
Aaron Arruda, 1B: 2-for-4, 3B, RBI
Will Toffey, 3B: 1-for-5, 2B, BB, RBI
Jean Ruiz: 5 ip, 2 runs, 2 Ks, 0 BB, 5 hits
Oscar Tovar: 3⅓ ip, 1 run, 3 Ks, 2 BB, 1 hit
Josh Reagan (15th) & Heath Donica (21st): 4 ip, 0 runs, 4 Ks, 0 BB, 3 hits
Losing such a close game in a short series is the worst, because you are forever left wondering what might have been. Game 2 took care of that problem by removing all doubt.
The Monsters came in with their ace, Parker Dunshee (7th), and he got absolutely torched. He navigated through a shaky 1st inning, but there was nowhere to hide in the 2nd: Two singles, a double, a walk, a couple wild pitches, and a homer to clean it all up. The score was 5-0.
Brian Howard (8th) came on in relief and looked as good as ever, but it was too late. After him, a parade of Wandisson Charles, Branden Kelliher, Argenis Blanco, and Malik Jones (23rd) kept the Renegades to just one more unearned run.
Parker Dunshee: 1⅓ ip, 5 runs, 0 Ks, 1 BB, 6 hits
Brian Howard: 3⅔ ip, 0 runs, 5 Ks, 1 BB, 2 hits
The other side of the ball was even worse. Vermont got completely shut down, squeezing out just one hit all day — a single in the 4th inning by Greg Deichmann (2nd). They managed a few walks as well and once reached on an error, but they still plopped out five 1-2-3 frames in the biggest game of their season.
All that said, this is Low-A ball. I care just enough about these playoffs to do a quick post about them, and I would have happily celebrated a championship. But the point of this league is for college kids and young int’l talent to get their feet wet as they begin their pro careers, and so I’m not sitting here stressing that they came two games short of a neat milestone. No poor performance in this final game takes away from the guys who opened our eyes throughout the summer.
Three cheers to the Lake Monsters for a great 2017 season!