While Major League Baseball is still trying to determine their champion, the independent leagues around the country have all crowded their champions for the 2018 season. Here is a look at every winning team.
Sugar Land Skeeters Take Home Atlantic League Championship
(Central Islip, N.Y., Sept. 30, 2018) – The Skeeters won the Atlantic League Championship with a 4-1 win over the Long Island Ducks in Game 5 of the Atlantic League Championship Series on Sunday night at Bethpage Ballpark.
It’s the second Atlantic League Championship in the seven-year history of the Skeeters, with their other title coming in 2016, also against the Ducks.
Since the Skeeters joined the Atlantic League in 2012, the Ducks are the only other team to win at least two Atlantic League titles (2012, ‘13), along with the Skeeters.
Skeeters left-hander James Russell, who won the Atlantic League Championship Series Most Valuable Player, tossed a complete game on Sunday night, allowing one run on seven hits while striking out five without a walk.
Sugar Land jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second on a solo home run from Denis Phipps — his first homer of the postseason.
Albert Cordero added to the lead with an RBI single in the third and Matt Chavez followed with an RBI single of his own in the fifth.
Dan Lyons tacked on the only run of the night for the Ducks with a home run in the fifth.
Barrett Barnes finished off the Skeeters’ scoring with an RBI single in the sixth inning. Long Island starter Jake Fisher, who allowed three runs on nine hits over five innings, took the loss.
Under the leadership of first-year manager Pete Incaviglia, the Skeeters finished the 2018 regular season with an 81-45 record, which were the second-most regular-season wins in franchise history. It was also the second-best winning percentage (.643) in franchise history and the Skeeters’ 52 home wins were the most in a single season in team history.
Twelve players from the Skeeters’ 2018 roster had their contracts purchased by Major League Baseball organizations, which is a franchise single-season record. Two additional players had their contracts purchased by Mexican League organizations, giving the Skeeters a franchise-best 14 contracts purchased by other professional baseball organizations. Since the Skeeters joined the Atlantic League in 2012, the most contracts purchased by Major League Baseball organizations in a single season was 13 from the Somerset Patriots in 2017.
SUSSEX COUNTY MINERS – 2018 CAN-AM LEAGUE CHAMPIONS
SEPTEMBER 15 PLAYOFF RECAP
Sussex County 6, Quebec 5 (Sussex County wins championship, 3-1) – Box Score
Photo Courtesy: Dennis Mark/Sussex County Miners
Martin Figueroa launched a walk-off three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to help Sussex County defeat Quebec 6-5 in game four and win the 2018 Can-Am League Championship. The Miners walked-off on the Capitales for the second straight night as they rallied from a 5-3 deficit in their last frame to take home the title.
Sussex County had 13 hits on the night and was led by Figueroa who went 4-for-5 with two home runs, three runs scored and four RBIs. Audy Ciriaco had three hits in five at-bats along with a run scored while Christian Correa drove in a run and went 2-for-3.
Miners pitcher Kevin Grendell tossed 1 2/3 innings of relief and picked-up the victory. Grendell gave up the Nick Van Stratten solo home run in the ninth and a walk in the seven batters he faced.
For Quebec in the losing effort, Van Stratten had a 2-for-4 outing with two runs scored and an RBI.
T-BONES CLAIM 2018 CHAMPIONSHIP IN GAME 4
Kansas City 5, St. Paul 3 – Box Score
With a 5-3 win against the St. Paul Saints in game four of the American Association Finals the Kansas City T-Bones won their first American Association championship in franchise history.
The T-Bones won the best-of-five series 3-1.
On Saturday night, CF Todd Cunningham scored the first run of the game on a sac fly from C Adrian Nieto in the bottom of the fourth inning. In the top of the fifth, the Saints took the lead as SS Joey Wong had an RBI double and scored on a CF Kyle Barrett single later in the inning. 1B Brady Shoemaker also singled home RF Max Murphy in the frame.
In the bottom of the fifth, DH Danny Hayes hit an RBI single to pull the T-Bones back within a run at 3-2. In the sixth, 2B Alay Lago blasted a two-run shot to give Kansas City the lead and 1B Noah Perio Jr. added an RBI ground-rule double in the seventh for insurance.
On the mound, reliever Marcus Crescentini earned the win for working 1.2 innings and and Cody Winiarski picked up the four-out save.
Perio Jr. was named Finals MVP after going 6-for-18 at the plate with three doubles, two home runs and five RBIs in the series. The MVP set the tone for the series, going 3-for-6 with two home runs and four RBIs in game one.
JOLIET CROWNED 2018 FRONTIER LEAGUE CHAMPS
Joliet, IL — The Joliet Slammers presented by ATI Physical Therapy are Frontier League Champions after taking game 5 from Washington by a score of 4-2. Washington jumped on the scoreboard early with a run in the first, but the Slammers quickly scored 2 in the top of the second on a triple by Trenton Hill and single by Chaz Meadows. London Lindley and Danny Zardon would score 2 more runs for the Slammers in the top of the 3rd.
Cody Clark, who came on in relief in the 4th inning pitched 5 1/3 innings, retiring all 16 batters he faced, including 8 strikeouts. Clark was named the Frontier League Championship Series MVP.
United Shore Pro Baseball League
Beavers Repeat as USPBL Champions
UTICA, Mich. – Thomas Roulis doubled and drove in two runs, while left-handed pitcher Kevin Matthews (5-0) threw 5.2 strong innings, striking out eight, to lead the Birmingham Bloomfield Beavers (27-21) to their second straight United Shore Professional Baseball League Championship, defeating the Eastside Diamond Hoppers (25-24), 9-3, on Sunday in front of a lively crowd at Jimmy John’s Field.
Ryan Smith and Nicholas Campana each went 2-for-4 with one RBI for the Beavers. LHP Gerry Salisbury tossed 2.1 scoreless innings in relief, including getting out of a bases loaded jam in the top of the sixth inning with Birmingham Bloomfield leading 4-2.
he Beavers are the first USPBL team to repeat as champions and have won 2 of 3 titles since the league started in 2016.
Gunnar Buhner drove in two of the three runs for the Diamond Hoppers.
PACIFICS WIN 2018 PACIFIC ASSOCIATION CHAMPIONSHIP
Angel Ventura Shuts Out Stompers in Dominant Performance
The San Rafael Pacifics, born in controversy and now for sale, last night in Sonoma won their fourth championship in their seven years of existence. They did so on the strong right arm of a 25-year-old from the Dominican Republic, Angel Ventura, who threw a bravura complete game two-hit shutout to cap an up-and-down season that may prove to be the team’s last.
“I can’t even begin to describe the range of emotions I’m feeling right now,” said Pacifics President and General Manager Mike Shapiro during the post-game celebration, champagne still dripping down his face. “This season was a struggle on so many different fronts, but if this is the end for us, we walk away on top and proud of all we’ve accomplished.”
There were brilliant performances by a team, that when whole and healthy, may have been the best in Pacifics and, for that matter, league history. It was a team with the league’s best pitching staff, batting average, and fielding percentage; lefty Jared Koenig (11-1, 3.53, 1-0, 0.00 in playoffs) set the single season and single game strikeout record; complete player Javion Randle led the league in hitting with a .402 average; and acrobatic shortstop Rando Moreno, led the league in doubles.
Both the Stompers and the Pacifics won their semi-final games at home on Saturday night to tee up a championship game match-up between two managers, Matt Kavanaugh and Zack Pace, who’d been teammates with the Pacifics and longstanding good friends.
“I’m really happy for Zack and the job he did in his rookie year as a manager,” said Kavanaugh prior to the game. ”I wish him every bit of luck tonight, but expect he’ll have to settle for finishing in second.”
After playing his two aces, Koenig and Max Beatty (9-3, 3.93), on Saturday, Kavanaugh turned to Ventura (4-0, 2.88) who joined the club on August 5th after eight affiliated minor league seasons in the Brewers organization, reaching AAA the past two seasons.
Not having pitched competitively since his May release, Ventura built his arm strength and stamina over 5 starts that featured 35 strikeouts in 25 innings pitched. He dazzled in his tune-up start last week against Vallejo, tossing 6 innings of no-hit ball with 11 strikeouts.
“Ventura was ready to go,” said Kavanaugh. We kept him on a pitch count last Tuesday even though he had a no-no going. That game meant nothing other than to get him set for the championship game.”
And ready he was. From the first pitch thrown, Ventura was simply dominant. Mixing a riding 95 mph fastball regularly spotted on inside corner paint with a hellish, late breaking slider Ventura struck out 15 Stompers, 8 in a row at one point, and coasted with seven 1-2-3 innings. He allowed two seeing-eye ground ball hits and walked only one.
“I’ve never seen a performance like that before, especially considering it was in a championship game,” said Kavanaugh. “I had Beatty, Herr, and Damon ready to come out of the bullpen if needed, but Ventura gave them the night off.”
Sonoma sent out right hander Tyler Sharp (5-2, 3.22 ERA) who’d shut out the Pacifics on August 1st. Traded mid-season from Napa to Sonoma, Sharp entered the game with just one loss for Sonoma in nine starts.
Coming into the championship game, Sonoma’s pitching staff had not allowed a run in their last 21 innings.
But Sharp wasn’t all that sharp this evening, routinely missing the strike zone with his fastball and showing no command of his slider or curve.
The bottom of the order got to Sharp in the 2nd when Ricky Gingras and Wes Wallace flared back-to-back one out singles. Kyle Ulanday took a walk on four straight balls to load the bases before the struggling Sharp also walked Aaron Brill, driving in a run.
Sitting on a fastball, DonAndre Clark got beat inside but put enough barrel on the ball to flip it into center field for an RBI single, scoring Wallace. With the bases still loaded and only one out, Rando Moreno took another four-pitch walk, extending the lead to 3-0.
Pace was forced to go to his stacked, all-hands-on-deck bullpen earlier than expected.
Lefty Kenny Matthews (4-2, 3.85 ERA) first had to face the powerful Jake Taylor with the bases loaded and one out. On a 1-1 count Taylor stung a line drive into deep left center for a sacrifice fly, scoring Brill and giving the Pacifics an early 4-0 lead.
Immediately, Ventura made his statement as to who was in control of this game, retiring the first ten hitters he faced, eight of whom he struck out consecutively.
Sonoma found their first crack in Ventura’s momentum after back-to-back one out singles by Kam Stewart and Rob DeAngelis in the bottom of the 4th. Digging deep, Ventura struck out Kenny Meimerstorf with a high-riding fastball and got Brock Hartley to fly out to Dempster in right to end the threat.
That would be all Sonoma could muster for the rest of the evening. Ventura then retired six more in a row, before issuing a two out walk to Stewart in the bottom of the 6th, but got a groundout to end that inning.
Kyle Ulanday slammed a no-doubt solo homerun to left center field in the 6th and Brent Gillespie padded the lead in the top of the 7th with a solo homer of his own, a towering moonshot to right center field, finishing the scoring at 6-0.
Ventura easily set down the last ten Stompers, striking out four of them, including the last two to place an exclamation point on one of the most dominating pitching performances ever seen.
“I’ve been around the game of baseball a long time,” said Shapiro. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone, at any level, pitch with such complete command of all his pitches and combine exceptional velocity with such filthy breaking stuff. I am in utter amazement over what Angel did tonight, particularly considering the stage he was on.”
“He was insane tonight,” said Pacifics pitcher Max Beatty. “Easily the best pitching performance I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
The 2018 championship season has now ended and the future for this franchise remains uncertain. No matter what becomes of the team, there will be a trunk full of fond memories. We will recall the wonderful people who made it all happen – the team’s owners, all the front office staffers and interns over the years, our great fans and sponsors and host families…our marvelous players who gave us so many thrills.
Bakersfield Train Robbers are 2018 Pecos League Champions
8/4/2018- The Bakersfield Train Robbers defeated the Alpine Cowboys 2 games to 1 to win the 2018 Pecos League Championship.
PUERTO RICO ISLANDERS WIN 2018 EPBL CHAMPIONSHIP
PLATTSBURGH, NY – The Puerto Rico Islanders have defeated the New York Bucks in the final two games of the series to become the 2018 Empire League Champions.
After falling behind in the series (1-0), The Islanders sent right hander Kurtis Hultz to the mound to face off against Tanner Klein. Kurtis tossed 5.2 solid innings getting out of several jams after allowing 8 total walks and 2 total hits.. He strike out 2 batters and allow 2 earned runs.
It was another nail biter as the Islanders were up 3-2 in the 9th inning when the Bucks outfielder Trey Hannam hit a double off the wall with a runner on first base to score him and tie the game.
In the bottom of the inning the Islanders would have a runner reach first and would steal second on the very next pitch. With two outs there was a ground ball to the Bucks second baseman in which he made a good throw to first base but the first baseman could not handle it and ball ended up getting passed him allowing the runner to score from second base and a walk-off win for the Islanders.
The Walk off was the 4th straight walk off of the best playoffs in EPBL history to push it the 3rd and final game to be played right after.
In Game 3, The Islander took an early lead and never looked back. Manager Tony Rodriguez sent pitcher Axel Cruz to the mound and was solid going over 5 innings pitched striking out over 5 batters. Cruz, who is normally a reliever was the last available pitcher for the Islanders.
The Islanders exploded in the 5th inning tied at 1 with a 5 run inning. Bucks starter and relief pitchers walked several of the Islanders and a couple of mistakes turned into a big inning for the Islanders
The Islanders never looked back as they would go on to defeat the New York Bucks 7-2 and take the 2018 Empire League Championship.
Congratulations to all the teams who won a ring this year! The grind was (hopefully) worth it!
*All pictures and write-ups credited to the corresponding leagues’ official websites.