The A-level Calf League has come to a close, and the playoffs are now underway. The four division winners for the Desert Conference and the Mid-West Conference were: Albuquerque Crystals, Tucson Rattlers (DC East and DC West) and Sarnia Shock and Peoria Mosquitos (MWC East and MWC West).
It’s the second playoff trip in a row for the Mosquitos this year, who are the A-level affiliate for the Chicago Pit Bulls. The team was in last year, and faced off against the eventual Calf Cup champions, the Lexington Moonshiners. Peoria’s 51-21 (.708) finish was their best ever finish, and they nearly beat their 2004 wins record of 52 victories (though with 28 losses in that 80-game season their win percentage was just .650).
The Sarnia Shock, meanwhile, are entering the playoffs for the first time in their 14 seasons, having never finished above 3rd place since forming in 2004. The Montreal Metros affiliate are hoping RHP Steve Perry will lead the team to their first championship as well. Perry has had success at the A-level, going 12-18 through five seasons with a career ERA of 3.70 and 234 strikeouts over 231 innings. But he has failed to translate that to the next level up, with just 20 games in the Heifer League and a 6.90 ERA.
Peoria and Sarnia square off today, but with the Mosquitos holding a +130 run differential compared to Sarnia’s +20, the safe money is on Peoria to advance.
In the Desert Conference, the Nevada Speeders affiliated Albuquerque Crystals look like the team to beat, given their 48-24 finish, run differential of +146 (compared to Tucson’s +105), and conference-leading pitching staff. However, that pitching staff is severely hampered by the loss of RHP Sam Adams, an amateur pitcher who signed to a minor league deal in June and has since put up impressive stats, with a 1.99 ERA, shocking 11.2 K/9, and 0.79 WHIP. Though they still have other great pitchers, and are in the playoffs for a second year in a row, they may be at a disadvantage to Tucson’s better bullpen and better hitting.
The Rattlers, who are affiliated to the Jacksonville Ravens, have big bats like veteran 1B Lesley Barber, who after two abortive tries at AA-level Spokane has once again found his groove through his sixth season in A ball, hitting .260 with 5 homers, 40 RBIs, and 37 runs. Their closer, RHP Travis Wilson, finished with 21 saves, blowing just 1 all season, and had the third-best ERA among relievers at 0.83 If Tucson takes a lead into late innings against the Crystals, there’s a good chance they’ll finish it with a win.