The Peoria Mosquitos have won the Calf Cup for the second time in club history, following an exciting championship series sweep over the Tucson Rattlers tonight.
The Chicago Pit Bull’s A-level affiliate was heavily favored to win the Calf League playoffs after finishing the year with the best record at 51-21. But that didn’t make the challenge any easier, as the Mid-West Conference series opponents, Sarnia Shock, took Peoria to the full three games of the first series.
But Peoria rallied, winning four straight playoff games, first finishing the Sarnia series with a 9-1 win in game 2, and an extra-innings 5-4 win to take the conference championship, then facing off against Desert Conference champions Tucson, going 5-4 in the opening game before hoisting the cup after their 7-2 knockout win tonight.
Series MVP Jon Guillot (3B) was huge for the Mosquitos as he homered in the opening game against the Rattlers, then went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in game 2. Guillot finished the postseason batting .471 and holding an OPS of 1.668, capping a solid season in which he played in each of the teams 72 scheduled games and led the Calf League in homers with 11.
LHP Philip Lont contributed 7 solid innings in the finale, earning his only win of the postseason. He had earlier held Sarnia to one hit over 6 innings, collecting 16 K’s, but was left with a no decision as reliever Matt Rehkopf later took the loss in what had been a scoreless game for 11 innings, in game one against the Shock. Rehkopf redeemed himself in the final game against Tucson as he shutdown the Rattlers’ rally attempt, allowing no runs and just a single hit and a pair of walks over the last two innings.
Dutchman Lont has had a string of outstanding years in the minors, from his A-level debut in 2015, going 2-0 with an 0.42 ERA over four games then going 7-2 with a 1.49 ERA at AA-ball after a promotion, and then a 9-3 season to follow in 2016, with 135 K’s and a 2.45 ERA. This season, Lont set the single-season K/9 record for the Calf League at 14.1.
Peoria’s success overshadowed what had been a great outing for Tucson’s 2B Joel Nodland, who was singular in his effort to cut the Mosquitos lead, going 3-for-4 on the day and parking a 2-run shot over the left-center wall. It was a small redemption for Nodland, who had a miserable year overall, batting .148 in 9 regular season games, after starting the year at Short Season A. His postseason with Tucson suggests that his down season is merely a blip, as he recovered to hit .571 in the playoffs.
Several Peoria players expect call-ups now that their A-level season is done, as their parent club Chicago battles for a wildcard in the Lake League West.
Manager Roland Denham, who has been with the club since it’s beginning in 2004, and who has amassed a record of 530-394 (.574) since that time, is in the last year of his current contract. Chicago has not indicated whether they will renew the his contract for 2018.