09/07/2007 3:41 PM ET
New York-Penn League playoff preview
Auburn meets Oneonta in a first-round series
By Evan Mohl / MLB.com
Auburn vs. Oneonta
Doubledays (47-28) vs. Tigers (44-31) *
(Best-of-three series begins Sunday, Sept. 9)
* One game remains in the regular season
The Auburn Doubledays and Oneonta Tigers only faced off three times in the regular season, but on Sunday, the two clubs will take their hacks at each other in the best-of-three playoff series. It should be a classic matchup of hitting against pitching. The Doubledays were third in the league in ERA while the Tigers offense ranked first in runs scored.
The series also has another dimension of experience against inexperience. This will be manager Dennis Holmberg's sixth straight postseason appearance with Auburn while Oneonta rookie manager Andy Barkett will be making his first. The Doubledays do have a few returning players from last year's playoff squad, while Oneonta hasn't been to the postseason since 2005.
The Doubledays and the Tigers only played three games against each other this season, which unfortunately, isn't much of a sample size to evaluate the matchup. The two clubs played their sole series about a month ago in Auburn, and Oneonta took two out of three. Two of the games were decided by two runs or less.
The Auburn pitching did a pretty good job containing Oneonta's high-powered offense. The Doubledays staff compiled an ERA of 3.13 over 23 innings pitched. The Tigers hurlers, on the other hand, struggled in two of three games as they racked up an atrocious 6.14 ERA.
Auburn: C J.P. Arencibia hit a team-best .429 in his seven at-bats against the Tigers. He also smashed a home run and drove in four runs. ... OF Ben Zeskind tied for the team lead in RBIs with four, while batting .273. Zeskind, however, did strike out three times in three games. ... OF Baron Frost was also good against the Tigers as he hit .400 with two RBIs and one long ball. ... Auburn pitchers were one of the few NYPL staffs to have some success against a powerful Oneonta offense. ... Luis Perez struck out eight batters in 5 1/3 innings of work. The southpaw earned the win, allowing just two runs. ... Joe Wice, another Auburn lefty, went four innings and gave up just one run in his start against the Tigers. ... Reliever Cody Crowell did have a single blemish on his scorecard in his two innings of work.
Oneonta: Oneonta hit .267 against Auburn, which is right on line with their .265 season average. 3B Ron Borquin led all Tigers hitters with a .500 batting average and four runs scored. Borquin had five hits, two of which went for extra bases. ... Utility-man Kody Kaiser also did well in his 12 at-bats against the Doubledays. The switch-hitter had four hits and tied for the team lead in RBIs with three. ... 1B Chris Carlson also drove in three runs, but hit just .200. ... Sean Finefrock took a no-hitter into the fifth inning against Auburn in his lone start. The righty ended up surrendering two earned runs over 6 1/3 innings pitched. ... Chris Homer pitched two innings of relief, giving up just one walk and picking up a win. ... Noah Krol was perfect in his one save opportunity.
Game 1: Sunday, Sept. 9 - Auburn at Oneonta
Brett Cecil (1-0, 1.27 ERA) vs. Mark Brackman (4-4, 4.05 ERA)
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 10 - Oneonta at Auburn
Guillermo Moscoso (8-2, 2.37 ERA) vs. Kyle Walter (1-5, 6.00 ERA)
Game 3: Tuesday, Sept. 11 - Oneonta at Auburn (if necessary)
Sean Finefrock (3-5, 5.88 ERA) or Alfredo Figaro (4-2, 3.38 ERA) vs. Luis Perez (3-3, 3.70 ERA) or Marc Rzepczynski (5-0, 2.76 ERA)
ON THE MOUND
Auburn's pitching was rock solid throughout the season. Its staff doesn't have any one pitcher that blows you away with their ability, but the staff is consistent and throws strikes. They ranked third in the NYPL in ERA (3.43) and first in punchouts (632). Brett Cecil was the most dominant pitcher for the Doubledays. In 13 starts, the southpaw compiled an impressive 1.27 ERA. However, his inability to keep his pitch count down forced Cecil out of most games early before he could get a decision -- he averaged under four innings a start. Still, in 49 2/3 innings pitched, Cecil struck out 56 batters while only walking 11. ... Marc Rzepczynski (2007 draft pick) has been a great addition to the starting rotation. The lefty is 4-0 with a 2.42 ERA. Rzepczynski has fanned 48 batters in 44 2/3 innings. ... Joe Wice took over the closer's role in August and has done fairly well for himself. Yet another Auburn lefty, Wice is 6-for-6 in save opportunities.
Oneonta's pitching wasn't anything spectacular this season as the Tigers ranked ninth in ERA in the 14-team league. However, it was good enough to keep Oneonta in most games so the offense could go to work. Guillermo Moscoso was the staff ace and may have been the best pitcher in the NYPL. Moscoso mowed down opponents with ease as he ranked in the top five in nearly every single pitching category. Moscoso was fourth in ERA (2.37), tied for second in wins (eight), tied for first in complete games (two), second in innings pitched (79 2/3) and was one of two pitchers to throw a shutout in the league. ... Closer Noah Krol was excellent at the end of games as he led the circuit in saves with 17. Krol fanned 38 batters in just 27 2/3 innings. ... Alfredo Figaro was Oneonta's second-best starter. The righty was 4-2 with a 3.38 ERA in 11 games started.
AT THE PLATE
Auburn has a do-or-die approach at the plate, which has pros and cons. The Doubledays led the NYPL in home runs (54) and strikeouts (657). They ranked second in runs scored (370), but just ninth in batting average (.254). All-Star OF Benjamin Zeskind was Auburn's most consistent hitter. He finished the year hitting .301 and tied for the team lead in homers with eight. ... 1B Manny Rodriguez, another Auburn All-Star, led the team in RBIs with 45 and also hit eight roundtrippers. Rodriguez batted .290, and his 80 hits ranked fifth on the circuit. ... 2B Darin Mastroianni was the table-setter all season for the Doubledays as he got on base and scored runs. He hit .280, and his 49 runs not only led the team, but also tied for third in league.
During the season, Oneonta's offense was one of the best in the NYPL. The Tigers never seemed to have trouble scoring as they led the circuit in runs with 370. ... 1B Chris Carlson was one of the best power hitters in the league this season. He ranked in the top five in almost every slugging category including: second in RBIs (51), tied for second in homers (10), fourth in slugging (.502) and second in doubles (21). ... 2B Justin Henry was the man on base when Carlson drove in most of his runs. Henry finished the season third in the league in batting average (.339), second in hits (84) and tied for fourth in runs scored (49). ... Casper Wells was also a huge part of the Oneonta offense. The former pitcher led the NYPL in triples (11) and extra-base hits (38).
This is the sixth consecutive year that Auburn has reached the postseason under manager Dennis Holmberg. However, the Doubledays have yet to win a league title and have only made it out of the first round once since 2002. The last time the Doubledays won a championship was in 1998. This is Oneonta's fourth postseason appearance since 1999 and first under rookie manager Andy Barkett. The Tigers have never won a New York-Penn League title and have lost two straight opening-round series.
SERIES COULD TURN ON
In a long series, the law of averages tends to apply, but in a short series like this one, anything can happen. In this best-of-three matchup, Oneonta will be able to hide its lack of pitching depth. Auburn will have to face the Tigers' top two pitchers in Guillermo Moscoso and Alfredo Figaro. If those two can shut down the Doubledays offense for just one outing each, Oneonta will waltz into the next round. Also, Auburn's defense committed 101 errors in 75 games this season. The Doubledays can't afford to give a high-octane offense like Oneonta's extra chances or additional baserunners.
This is a pick-your-poison series. Oneonta has a great offense, but Auburn's pitching has been near the top of the league all season. The old adage says pitching almost always trumps hitting. In addition, Auburn has been one of the hottest teams in the circuit lately with just four losses since Aug. 22. The Doubledays have another edge in experience with a couple of returning players on the team from last year's playoff squad, and this season being manager Holmberg's sixth straight postseason appearance. Auburn in three.
Evan Mohl is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.