STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- To say that Christopher Salamida has been dominating this season would be an understatement.
The Tri-City southpaw went 10-1 with a 1.06 ERA in the regular season, and opponents hit .189 against him. The 2006 13th round draft pick reeled off a win in eight straight starts between July 13 and Aug. 25, and just once all season did he allow more than one earned run.
Salamida's final outing of the season will be his most important yet, as the 22-year-old will take the hill for Tri-City in winner-take-all Game 3 of the New York Penn League Championship Series. His teammates are thrilled to have him on the mound.
"I'm really excited about giving the ball to Sal in Game Three," said ValleyCats center fielder Aaron Bulkley after Tri-City's 9-2 win in Game 2 of the series. "There hasn't been a time yet this year that he hasn't been solid. He's been a major part of our success this season."
The Yankees, who went 4-2 against the ValleyCats in the regular season, have never faced Salamida. Staten Island manager Gaylen Pitts gave a succinct answer when asked his opinion of Salamida.
"We don't know much about him," he said. "But he had a hell of a year."
Salamida spent the bulk of Wednesday's 9-2 ValleyCats' win in a seat behind home plate, scouting the Staten Island offense.
"I feel like I have the advantage," he said. "I have a few things in my head on how to approach people, and what their players can and can't hit. I'm pumped up and ready."
Still, don't concede the title to the ValleyCats just yet. As has been the case all season, Salamida will be limited to 90 pitches in the outing, and he has not gone past the sixth inning in any start this season. Regardless of how well the Watervliet, N.Y. native pitches, the Yankees will get a crack at Tri-City's bullpen.
And even with all the hype surrounding Salamida, it should not be forgotten that Staten Island will be countering with George Kontos. The Northwestern product went 7-3 with a 2.64 ERA this season, and one of his best starts of the season came against Tri-City. On Aug. 10, Kontos allowed just one hit over six shutout innings as the Yankees cruised to a 10-2 win.
No matter what happens, Game 3 of the NYPL championship is shaping up to be a memorable contest. Perhaps Tri-City manager Greg Lambehn summed it up best.
"This game is going to be incredible to watch and to play in," he said. "I don't think the players will ever forget being a part of it. It's going to be as good a game as you're ever going to see in this league."
While Pitts is quick to give credit to standouts, such as starter Timothy Norton and hot-hitting second baseman Wilmer Pino, he believes that catcher Francisco Cervelli has been one of the team's most overlooked players. Prior to 2006, the 20-year-old Venezuelan backstop had hit just .223 over three Rookie level seasons. This year, Cervelli batted .309 in 42 games, while improving his defense and play-calling abilities.
"For me, he's been the biggest surprise we've had this season," said Pitts. "I don't think anyone could have foreseen how much he would improve. He's really come into his own."
Who'll Stop the Rain?
As anticlimactic and depressing as that scenario would be, it is not without historical precedent. In 1998, relentless rain resulted in Oneonta and Auburn being named co-champions. In 2001, Brooklyn and Williamsport were declared co-winners after that year's terrorist attacks forced the cancellation of the series.
Benjamin Hill is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.