The 2016 Bull Cup Champion Ohio Oxen look to start this season strong in their opening series in Montreal against the team that had the best record in baseball last year.
The Montreal Metros won the rare Blue Rose Award last season, a distinction that is only awarded on the rare occasion that a team leads their league in both highest batting average and lowest team ERA, a challenging feat of superior team hitting and pitching.
Many of the championship Oxen return for this season, including last season’s Bull Cup MVP Tyrone O’Saurus, who batted .254 and hit 22 homers, Rookie of the Year right fielder Ollie Oxenfree, who led the Lake League with 27 homers in his debut season, and several others. The Oxen also picked up Justin Good over the off-season. The second baseman was a solid contributor for the Chicoutimi Cinquantes for the past three seasons, hitting .301 with 11 homers along with two dozen doubles.
The Oxen also added some pitching to bolster what had been a streaky bullpen and rotation, which suffered a loss when right-hander Yardbrook Rooks, who was solid last year with a 5-2 record and 2.40 ERA, left for free agency after last season.
The Metros, meanwhile, are looking for another chance at a playoff run. Last year the LL East division leaders found themselves eliminated in the first round by the 2nd wildcard Boston Brawlers, who finished 15 games behind Montreal. It was a surprising upset which dashed the playoff hopes for the Metros, who set a record for wins in an 82-game season with 61.
A lot of their key players are still on the roster, such as veteran right-handed pitcher Yoshiaki Fujimara, who took both the MVP and the Sandy Koufax Awards for the Lake League last year, on a phenomenal 13-2 season, where he crafted a 2.30 ERA, and a WHIP of just 1.04, and one of the best second basemen in baseball, Peyton May, who hit .321 last year with a league-leading 27 doubles and 73 RBIs, as well as 19 homers and 57 runs.
Montreal added OSA top-ranked starter Judson Martel, who parted ways from Boston and signed with the Metros for $100.8 million over four years. The Martel factor really pushes the pitching advantage in Montreal’s favor, and they also have the run generating power to score often.
With home field advantage, Montreal will definitely give Ohio a tough start to the 2017 season in the opening series.