The AA-level Heifer League final playoff round was decided in the fourth game last night, as the Savannah Buccaneers smashed the Nashville Misfits 11-5.
The win marks the first Heifer Cup victory for the Anchorage Aces affiliate, capping one of their best seasons since the Heifer League started in 2013, with a team record .264 team average and a new attendance record of 443,273.
The Bucs bookended the series with convincing successes, winning the opener over the Battle Creek Attack affiliated Misfits last Wednesday, 5-1, with the Misfits only run coming on a solo shot by 2B Ronald Knutsen in the top of the ninth. The Bucs had already stacked up their 5 runs by that point, with starter Eric Shallow earning his second playoff win.
Nashville battled back to even the series in Game 2 in a close 4-3 contest. This time Savannah rung up a homer by clean-up hitter LF Reed Salsman, who was 3-for-4 on the day, missing only a triple to complete a cycle. But the Misfits prevailed, having scored all four runs before the 5th inning and holding on admirably to their lead in a gem outing by Jim Borland, who improved to 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA on the postseason.
Savannah took game 3 in another close one, edging the Misfits 3-2. In that game the Misfits were first on the board, and kept the Bucs chasing them as they ended the 9th inning in a 2-2 bind. 3B Art Kerry, who subbed in for Bret May, a pinch-runner for 9th-in-the-order Miguel Guidron, smacked a deep fly ball to right allowing Bill Piacquadio to advance to third. This set up the squeeze bunt by Shonan Katayama with one out, as Piacquadio arrived safe at home plate and Katayama was called out at first. Misfits failed to answer the lead in a three-up, three-down bottom half. Closer Pat Dolan was credited with the win on a 3.0 inning, 4 K effort.
With the Bucs ahead in the series 2-1, they once again teed off in Nashville with the goal of keeping the series from returning to Savannah. They achieved their goal admirably. Once again it was catcher Piacquadio who rung up big hits, including a 2-run shot in the 5th inning, and a sacrifice fly in his only out. Lead off hitter Katayama was also huge, going 4-for-5, scoring twice and batting a run in. Josh Barr got his first postseason win for Savannah, while Danny Soto fell to a 1-1 playoff record.
RHP Eric Shallow, the winner of game 1 for the Bucs, was named playoff series MVP.
Season awards are due to be announced shortly.
INJURY PUTS THOMPSON OUT 9-10 MONTHS
In an unfortunate footnote to the final game of the series, Savannah reliever Josh Thompson left after one inning of service with some soreness in the elbow of his throwing arm. Team doctors were quickly able to diagnose a partially torn UCL. He is expected to take 9-10 months to recover, meaning he may not return until midway through the 2018 season. Through 2017, the 28-year-old righty was 1-1 with a 3.16 ERA after 15 appearances, garnering 35 K’s in 31.1 IP and crafting a 1.21 WHIP.