(GAME DATE — Oct. 28, 2022) — The Chicago Pit Bulls (106-56) have won their third consecutive Bull Cup championship, achieving a feat that has not been done since the former New York Minutemen went back-to-back-to-back from 1997 to 1999.
The Pit Bulls, who went into the playoffs as the favorite and predicted to face the equally potent offense of the Nevada Speeders, eventually faced the wild-card entry California Tidals (89-73) in the championship series. The underdog Tidals took the Pit Bulls all the way to Game 7 after coming back from a 3-1 series disadvantage.
California indeed proved a tough opponent for Chicago, taking Game 5 by a lopsided 10-5 score, then downing the Pit Bulls 7-3 in Game 6 to force the deciding 7th game. The Tidals outscored Chicago 39-35 during the series, and saw solid offense all through their lineup, with five players earning 10 or more hits against Chicago pitchers.
But in the end, it was the Chicago power hitting that saw them through at the end, with two-time Triple Crown winner and probable repeat LL MVP John Rambo homering in each of the first 4 games, before adding a 5th in the deciding Game 7. His playoff performance earned him the series MVP nod as well.
The Pit Bulls relied on deft bull pen handling, making use of opener and followers for many games, limiting the batters faced and going to fresh arms whenever things looked shaky for them. It’s a strategy that did not always work, but was flawlessly executed in Game 7, opened by Morgan Marley, who threw 1.1 IP, allowing just a hit and a run before handing over the mound duties to James Andree, a capable lefty who weathered 4 California runs, just 2 of which were earned, and 7 hits, but got sufficient run support to get the W.
California defense was frenetic and solid most of the series, accumulating OF assists in Games 1 and 7, as well as several double plays throughout the set of seven.
GM Scott Davis was pleased with the 3rd championship, but acknowledged California was one of the toughest teams his squad had faced in the postseason, and noting that they were difficult to prepare for as they had played no inter-league games against the Tidals during the regular season, and several trades during the preceding year had put very capable former Chicago players in the Tidals lineup.
Ben Bunker, the Tidals GM, was said to be ecstatic and surprised at his team’s placing in the finals. It became clear that the team would be a playoff contender not long after the All Star Game. Though it would mark the Tidals third consecutive postseason appearance, they were once again going to be going as a wild card entry, overshadowed by the more dominant Nevada Speeders (107-55), who had spent the 2022 season battling with Chicago for the best record.
The Speeders did indeed win a record number of games in 2022, but were shell-shocked at being swept out of the MLCS by California, marking the second season in a row they failed to break through the MLCS.
The Pit Bulls and the Tidals can now focus on 2023, with Chicago of course aiming to become the first team to four-peat, and the Tidals hoping to make Bull Cup finals appearances a lasting trend and perhaps gather a third franchise championship trophy.