09/08/2007 2:32 AM ET
FSL Championship Series preview
Clearwater seeks first title since 1993 as it faces Brevard County
By Benjamin Hill / MLB.com
Brevard County vs. Clearwater
Manatees (76-63) vs. Threshers (85-56)
(Best-of-five series begins Saturday, Sept. 8)
The Manatees dropped Game 1 of their best-of-three semifinal series against St. Lucie, and entered the ninth inning of Game 2 trailing, 6-5. They rallied for a dramatic victory in that contest, then coasted to a 13-2 romp over the defending champions in Game 3 and are in the Finals for the first time since 2001.
The Threshers also dropped Game 1 of their series against Sarasota, but pulled two straight one-run victories.
The Threshers won the season series, 5-3, and outscored the Manatees, 46-42. Clearwater won three of four at home in May and the teams split a four-game set in Brevard County in late June.
Clearwater hit .288 and posted a 4.22 ERA, while Brevard County batted .262 and compiled a 4.83 ERA.
Brevard County: SS Yohannis Perez hit .462 in four games and led the team with six RBIs. ... 3B Mat Gamel played in seven games and hit .310 with five runs scored. ... OF Cole Gillespie hit .308 over all eight
contests and posted a .455 on-base percentage. ... LHP Brae Wright will start in the series, but has not yet faced the Threshers. ... LHP Rafael Lluberes allowed only one earned run over 9 2/3 innings, spanning two appearances (one start). ... RHP Mike McClendon started one game and yielded two runs over 4 2/3 innings.
Clearwater: No player on the active roster played all eight games against Brevard County. ... 1B Clay Harris hit just .185 over seven games, but led the team with seven RBIs. ... OF Jeremy Slayden pounded Manatees'
pitching over four games, hitting .600 (9-for-15) with six RBIs and five runs scored. ... C Lou Marson hit .250, but drew a team-high five walks. ... RHP Andrew Carpenter made one start against Brevard County and picked up a win, allowing two runs on four hits while striking out eight
over eight innings. ... RHP Andrew Cruse, who will
get a start in the series, has never faced the Manatees. ... RHP William Savage did not allow an earned run over three appearances, spanning six innings.
ON THE MOUND
Manatees hurlers compiled a 3.12 ERA in the series
against the Mets. ... LHP David Welch started Game 1 and yielded five runs -- two earned -- over 5 1/3 innings. ... McClendon struggled in Game 2, yielding six runs -- four earned -- on nine hits over 4 1/3 frames. ... Wright turned in the best performance of the series,
surrendering two runs over 7 2/3 innings en route to picking up his first win as a member of the Manatees. ... RHP Ryan Patrick was the only reliever to appear in more than one game. The 24-year-old hurled 2 1/3 scoreless innings in two appearances.
In Carpenter, the Threshers have the Florida State League's best pitcher. He went 17-6 with a 3.20 ERA over 27 regular-season appearances and threw six strong innings against Sarasota on Thursday. ... RHP Brett Harker converted 13 of 14 save opportunities, despite posting a 6.69 ERA. ... RHP J.J Trujillo held opponents to a .161 average over 12 relief appearances.
AT THE PLATE
Gamel excelled against St. Lucie in the division series. The Florida native hit .357 (5-for-14) with four runs scored and three RBIs, and his walk-off single in Game 2 kept the Manatees' season alive. ... Gillespie collected four hits in nine at-bats, including a homer and a triple. ... All 10 players who came to the plate
in the three-game series collected at least one hit, but the Manatees did not run often. After swiping 146 bases in the
regular season, they stole just two against St. Lucie.
Slayden hit more home runs (14) and collected more RBIs (73) than any player currently on the roster. ... 2B Brad Harman hit 13 homers and drove in 62 runs while hitting .281. ... stole 10 bases in 14 chances and scored 53 runs over 82 games.
Brevard County has never won an outright championship (they were declared co-champions in 2001 after the finals were cancelled due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks). Clearwater is in the postseason for the first time since 1999 (when they were still known as the Phillies). They won their lone championship in 1993.
SERIES COULD TURN ON
Carpenter is about as close to a sure victory as there is in the FSL. If the Manatees can find a way to break through against the right-hander, it will decisively shift the momentum in their favor.
A long time has passed since the last time these clubs met, and many players have come and gone in that time. Therefore, it is difficult to put too much stock in the Threshers' season-series victory over the Manatees.
However, the Manatees played sub-.500 ball in the second half, while the Threshers compiled the league's best record. Clearwater in 4.
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.