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For the entire season, the Jamestown Jammers have mashed.
They've battered, bashed, clobbered, pulverized and walloped their way to 49 victories. Perhaps it's a stroke of luck that some of the best power hitters in the league are in the Jammers' lineup, or perhaps it's fantastic scouting by the Florida Marlins. Whatever the case, the numbers don't lie.
Jamestown batted .282 as a team over the course of the season, hitting 74 homers (the next closest team was Tri-City with 52) and scoring 420 runs. There was never a doubt that they were the best hitting team, and until a string where they lost six of seven games before the All-Star Break, that was verified by their first-place standing in the Pinckney Division.
It just so happens the team that overtook Jamestown's lead by season's end is the same one the Jammers will face for the 2008 New York-Penn League Championship: the Batavia Muckdogs. The same Muckdogs who won eight consecutive games from July 26-Aug. 2 and nabbed seven more straight victories from Aug. 15-24 to cut into what was a five-game deficit. Despite losing twice to Jamestown in the final week of the season, the Muckdogs swept State College to finish with a better winning percentage and win the division crown.
Given Batavia's ramped comeback and same divisional housing, the two can certainly be considered rivals, were they not before. What makes this matchup so intriguing, aside from the battle between Jamestown's offense and Batavia's talented pitching staff (which held the third-lowest regular season ERA at 3.30) is that neither team has won a championship in its respective history.
Jamestown, in existence since 1994, has yet to win even a division title (after getting the Wild Card this year). Batavia's franchise, founded in 1931, underwent a somewhat Philadelphia-like drought for much of its existence -- which makes sense because the Phillies used to be the Muckdogs' parent club (1987-2006) before Batavia switched to the Cardinals in 2007. Regardless of its parent club, in 51 years of affiliated baseball, the Muckdogs have never raised a championship banner.
Jamestown Jammers (49-29) vs. Batavia Muckdogs (48-29)
Perhaps the most telling aspect of the NYPL semifinals was the manner in which the Jammers swept the highest seed in the playoffs -- the Staten Island Yankees. Not only did Jamestown prove it can beat a difficult pitching staff, but they also held Staten Island to one run in the second game. In the first game, the Jammers asserted their offensive authority, pounding out 10 runs on 14 hits to outslug the Yanks. It will be that combination of superior pitching and phenomenal hitting that will make it difficult for Batavia to overcome in a three-game set.
The Muckdogs aren't without impressive talents of their own, however -- perhaps the most formidable is closer Adam Reifer. Even Jamestown manager Darin Everson had high praise for Reifer when he managed him in the NYPL All-Star Game, saying he electrified the club with his performance in the ninth inning, helping lead to the National League's come-from-behind victory. While Reifer could be an ace in the hole, Batavia's pitching staff will need to do what it's been doing all season against the most powerful offense in the NYPL to give him the opportunity.
Unlike both first-round series of the playoffs, the championship bout will feature a pair of division rivals who have played one another 10 times during the regular season. In 10 games, the Wild Card-winning Jammers bested the Muckdogs, 6-4. Not only did the Jammers' prolific offense average five runs a game against Batavia over the course of the season, but its pitching staff performed more than admirably, tossing its way to a 3.18 ERA (almost a full run lower than Batavia's 4.06 series ERA). The Muckdogs' offense underperformed, notching just 32 runs in 10 contests -- roughly 1.5 runs below its season average of 4.8.
RF Shane Peterson had the most impressive numbers against Jamestown in the regular season, compiling 13 hits in 32 at-bats (.409) with a double, a triple, four RBIs and a run scored. C Charles Cutler had nine hits in the season series, while CF Frederick Parejo also had nine. SS Colt Sedbrook lead the team in RBIs against the Jammers with six. RHP Miguel Tapia, who was 4-2 with a 3.86 ERA during the regular season, salivated whenever Jamestown popped up on the schedule. Tapia was 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA against the Jammers in two starts with seven strikeouts in 10 innings. Oddly enough, arguably the Muckdogs' best pitcher, righty Arquimedes Nieto performed terribly in two games (one start) against the Jammers, allowing 14 runs -- 12 earned -- on 15 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out two en route to an 0-1 record and 19.06 ERA.
Jamestown's leader in doubles during the season, OF Jeremy Synan didn't relent during the season series against Batavia, swatting a trio of two-baggers. He also notched a team-high 15 hits and nine runs scored. 3B Paul Gran also had a fair amount of success against the Jammers, collecting 12 hits (including a triple and a home run) in 35 at-bats, scoring six runs and knocking in four. The NYPL's leading hitter, C Miguel Fermin didn't overpower the Muckdogs with his offensive talents in the season series. He recorded seven hits in 28 at-bats (playing in eight of the 10 games), but did hit the most home runs of any Jammer, three, to go along with 11 RBIs. RHP Tom Koehler went 2-0 against Batavia in the regular season with a 1.10 ERA. In 16 1/3 innings, he allowed two earned runs on 13 hits, struck out 21 -- just under a third of Jamestown's strikeouts of Batavia hitters -- and walked six.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Muckdogs: Backstop Charles Cutler tied for the team in hits in the semifinal series against Lowell with five. He recorded one extra-base hit (a double), scored four runs and batted in one. His .571 on-base percentage led the team through the first round of games. OF Shane Peterson also collected five hits, including a double, and batted in three runs while scoring twice. OF Chris Swauger led the team in the series with five RBIs. RHP Adam Veres was the hero Wednesday night in the clinching victory for the Muckdogs. Veres allowed a run on two hits, striking out seven over a career-high seven innings and has now surrendered just two earned runs over his last 16 innings, making him one of the hottest hurlers in the series. Closer Adam Reifer allowed a ninth-inning home run in the first game of the series that sent the game to extra innings, but rebounded nicely in the finale, recording a one-inning save and striking out two, though allowing a run to make it 3-2.
Jamestown: Jammers manager Darin Everson made sure catcher Miguel Fermin would be well-rested for the upcoming championship series by sitting him in game 2 against Staten Island. Turns out the decision paid off and then some as Fermin's backup, Robert Taylor, went deep in the 4-1 victory. An energized Fermin could spell trouble for the Muckdogs as the league's leader in average (.347) and home runs (17) hasn't put one out of the park yet in the postseason. In fact, Taylor was the only Jammer to do so as it was really their pitching staff that carried the load against the Yankees. RHP Elih Villanueva started the clinching game for the Jammers and tossed six innings of one-run ball, striking out 10 and walking one. Lefty Daniel Jennings was the other starter and had a modest outing (five innings, four earned runs, three walks, seven strikeouts) but kept the Jammers in the game long enough to hold on for the 10-7 victory. 1B Ernie Banks is the hottest Jammer, going 4-for-5 in the first game and collecting three RBIs and three runs in the series.
Nick Cammarota 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.