It may have taken some late-season drama, but the Vancouver Canadians' hunt for a three-peat is still alive. The Canadians clinched a spot in the playoffs on the second-to-last day of the regular season with a little help from their upcoming opponent, Everett, as well as from the Northwest League tiebreaking procedures.
The South Division held a similar scenario with Salem-Keizer clinching both the first- and second-half titles. Because of that, Boise squeaked by Hillsboro to secure their 2013 playoff spot.
Everett AquaSox (44-32, North Division first- and second-half champion) vs.
Vancouver Canadians (39-37, North Division Wild Card)
Everett won the season series, 8-4
Game 1 at Vancouver, Sept. 3 at 10:05 p.m. ET
Game 2 at Everett, Sept. 4 at 10:05 p.m. ET
Game 3 at Everett (if necessary), Sept. 5 at 10:05 p.m. ET
The Canadians will pursue the league's first three-peat since Boise's run of dominance from 1993-95, but the road to success will not be an easy one. Head to head, Vancouver and Everett match up very well.
In the season series, Everett was outscored by Vancouver, 70-61, despite claiming more victories. The Canadians also held the edge in batting average, hitting .283 as a team against AquaSox pitching. Still, despite the numbers, Everett enjoyed the most success of any North Division team, claiming the first- and second-half titles.
"I think we have real good chemistry on our team, and we have a lot of talent," said AquaSox manager Rob Mummau. "I think that's the big reason why we've had the success we've had."
Mummau is well aware that regular-season success doesn't necessarily transfer into a league championship, and it's a long road ahead. Everett is chasing its first title since 2010 and will have to go through the league's reigning back-to-back champion to earn it. Regardless, Mummau said the experience of the playoffs will highly benefit the young players.
"Winning at the Minor League level transfers to winning at the Major League level," he said. "Anytime you can get them in a championship atmosphere, get them in a pressure situation, and have some success, that should transfer over to the big leagues once they get there."
Right-hander Tom Robson, who went 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA in seven Northwest League outings, will start Game 1 for the Canadians.
Salem-Keizer Volcanoes (47-29, South Division first- and second-half champion) vs.
Boise Hawks (41-35, South Division Wild Card)
Boise won the season series, 7-5
Game 1 at Boise, Sept. 3 at 9:45 ET
Game 2 at Salem-Keizer Sept. 4 at 9:35 p.m. ET
Game 3 at Salem-Keizer (if necessary), Sept. 5 at 9:35 p.m. ET
The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes left little doubt regarding who was the most dominant team in the league after claiming the league's best record and the South Division's first- and second-half titles. Boise, however, got the best of the Volcanoes in the regular-season series.
Salem-Keizer is in search of its first title since 2009, and Boise hasn't celebrated a championship since 2004.
The Volcanoes have competed all season with a very talented lineup, allowing manager Gary Davenport to frequently mix up the lineup. The tactic has not only worked with regards to keeping opponents guessing, but also has allowed him to keep fresh legs on the field all season long.
"At this time of year it's who's hot is going to be who gets to play, and that's what I've done the whole year," Davenport said. "The pleasure of coaching this team this year is that I always felt I could put anybody in and they would do a good job, so they've made it easy on me this year."
The Hawks did find ways to rough up Salem-Keizer's pitching staff, though, as the Volcanoes posted a 6.28 ERA this season against Boise. Davenport cautioned against taking anything in the playoffs for granted, despite having such success in the regular season.
"Boise has a really good team, and they really swing the bats well, so it's been a good test -- our pitching against their hitting," Davenport said. "We have really good games with these guys."
Oh, so close: The Hillsboro Hops narrowly missed out on the playoffs in their inaugural season. They posted a better second-half record than Boise. However, because Salem-Keizer claimed both the first- and second-half titles, Boise won the tiebreak scenario by posting the second-best overall record, 41-35 vs. 34-42.
Schepel says no: Hillsboro Hops righty Kyle Schepel threw the Hops' first-ever no-hitter, notching a complete-game in a 5-0 win over Boise on Saturday. It's his second no-hitter of the season as he also threw a seven-inning no-no for Class A South Bend on April 14.
He said it: "I really don't go into the season with expectations. Mine are just that each player gets better and that we play as a team. It's that kids learn the game, and they go about their business in a professional manner, and they're good teammates. I think we've accomplished that as a team this season." -- Everett manager Rob Mummau.