(GAME DATE – Sep. 30, 2019) — The New York Dragons, who have the most Bull Cup Championships in Bull League history, at five, and are the only team to “threepeat” (winning in 1997, 1998 and 1999), have made a triumphant return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2016 season, after a 94-68 finish.
They will face the Ohio Oxen, who were the Bull Cup champions that year, winning their 4th Bull Cup in history. The Oxen missed the playoffs last year, and are back in as a wild card, having tied the Toronto Nomads in win-loss record at 88-74, but edging them in run differential by +3.
Should the Oxen win a Bull Cup this year, they will tie the Dragons with five championships. They will start the Elimination Round on their back foot, having gone 6-8 through the year against New York. In addition, the Dragons defense and pitching has been comparable to the Ravens or the Nomads, with the 2nd lowest starter ERA in the LL (at 4.13), and 4th most efficient defense, at .694. In contrast, the Oxen were 8th in starter ERA, matched that in bullpen ERA, and had the league worst defense with a .665 efficiency.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Oxen, who had one of the most powerful offenses in the LL, knocking in 240 home runs, mainly thanks to home run champ Tyrone O’Saurus, the catcher who contributed 52 to that total, along with 121 RBIs. Another big run producer was Juan Toothry, the team’s DH. He had 40 home runs, and matched Tyrone on RBIs.
With the home run title going to O’Saurus, that makes four seasons that a different Ohio Oxen player won a home run title. Last season, which was just 100 games long, 1B Garth Goyle took it with 40. In 2016, RF Ollie Oxenfree had it with 27. In 2013, Joe Street was playing SS for Ohio when he tied Chicago’s Bill Ross for the home run title. Narushi Ohata won it in 2008 and 2009, knocking in 33 and 32 home runs in those years while wearing an Oxen uniform. For Oxenfree, Street and Ohata, the league was playing 80 or 82 game seasons.
Goyle also won the home run title in 2011, with the Montreal Metros, hitting 28 that year.
Another positive for the Oxen is the breakout season that pitcher Rusty Rowe had in 2019. The southpaw, who is in his 3rd year in Ohio, went 20-7, with a 3.87 ERA, striking out 144 batters in 232.1 innings over 32 starts. Last year, he made just 1 start, having been relegated to the bullpen for the rest of the season, but still managed a 4-5 record with 8 saves and an ERA of 3.98.
Rowe tied New York’s Ricky Naugler for 2nd in wins in the LL, and is one of just three Bull League pitchers to achieve a milestone 20 or more wins.
Ohio can also rely on better than average performances from Frasor Clause, their other starting southpaw, who was 15-8 on the year, posting a 4.76 ERA.
New York, for its part, will rely on arms like Steve Rollins, Naugler, and former Ohio ace A. C. Deucey to counter the strong Ohio bats. Plus, they boast their own offensive stars,again some of them having played for their playoff opponent Oxen. 3B Justin Good is a serious hitting and baserunning threat, and perhaps a Platinum Glove contender for 3B. Good hit .262 for NY this season, with 22 homers and 71 RBIs. Last year, for the Oxen, he put up similar numbers, batting slightly better at .333 in 98 games and 400 ABs, with 20 homers and 68 RBIs.
The other big ex-Oxen name on the NY roster is Alec Tricity, a talented 2B who won a Bull Cup with Ohio in 2016. After his February trade to the Dragons, he exploded, hitting .326 and swatting 21 homers, driving in 97 runs to boot, and becoming the third most productive run producer after Tony Cruz and Pedro Rosario, both long-time Dragons favorites.
NY takes home field advantage for the first two games. The 94-68 Dragons were an impressive 50-31 at home. But Ohio can nearly match that on the road, they went 45-36 on road trips. Rowe will start game 1 against Rollins.