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New York-Penn League playoff preview09/06/2010 11:01 AM ET
By Jed Weisberger / Special to MLB.com
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As the 2010 season winds down, follow along with MiLB.com as the Minors' best teams face off in an attempt to take home their league's crown.
The New York-Penn League playoffs consist of three division winners and a Wild Card. The teams play a best-of-3 semifinal series, followed by a best-of-3 Championship.
The Brooklyn Cyclones took the McNamara Division with a league-best 51-24 record and meet the Jamestown Jammers, who won the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season. Pinckney Division champs the Batavia Muckdogs face the Tri-City ValleyCats, who edged Connecticut by a half-game to snag the Stedler Division.
Brooklyn (McNamara Division champions; 51-24)
Jamestown won the season series, 2-1
Game 1 at Jamestown, Sept. 8 at 7:05 p.m. ET
The Cyclones coasted to the postseason, capturing the McNamara Division crown by 12 games. In contrast, the Jammers needed to win each of their last four games to earn their playoff spot.
"Our balance is excellent," said manager Wally Backman, whose club led the NYPL in both team batting (.283) and pitching (3.05 ERA). "That's been the key for us, with both our hitting and pitching being consistent. We have to keep doing what we're doing."
The Jammers bring similar balance, finishing second in pitching (3.38 ERA) and third in batting (.264). They won two of the only three games played between the teams, July 4-6 at Jamestown, making this an intriguing series.
"I've told our guys all year -- no matter who we play, we have to execute," said Backman. "What makes me feel good is all our guys have worked to get better."
Brooklyn is led offensively by Darrell Ceciliani, who hit .351 (56-for-271) to take the NYPL batting crown. Fellow outfielder Cory Vaughn, the son of former Major Leaguer Greg Vaughn, clubbed a team-record 14 homers and finished second in the league with 56 RBIs.
Jamestown counters with outfielder Marcell Ozuna, the NYPL's leader in home runs (21) and RBIs (60). Ozuna, the cousin of former big leaguer Pablo Ozuna, hit .267 (72-for-270) with 94 strikeouts in 68 games.
The Cyclones will try to keep Ozuna and the rest of the Jammers in check with three of the NYPL's top starters -- ERA champ Yohan Almonte (8-4, 1.91), fellow right-hander A.J. Pinera (2-3, 2.44) and lefty Angel Cuan (5-1, 2.03 ERA).
Both clubs boast excellent closers. Jamestown righty Jordan Conley (1-2, 1.52) led the NYPL with 16 saves, four of which came last week in the pressure of the playoff chase. Brooklyn's Ryan Fraser (3-3, 1.44) recorded five of his 12 saves in the last month.
"We felt from the beginning we had a shot at a Championship," said Backman. "This is where we find out."
Batavia (Pinckney Division champions; 45-29)
Batavia won the season series, 2-1
Game 1 at Tri-City, Sept. 8 at 7 p.m. ET
St. Louis Cardinals brass will tell you Batavia outfielder Nick Longmire was a big reason for the team's success this season.
"They want me to drive in runs," said the 21-year-old native of La Mesa, Calif. "That is my job on this team, to help us win."
Longmire sizzled in June, batting .409 (18-for-44) with 18 RBIs. Pitchers adjusted to his sweet swing, however, and things became a bit more challenging.
"I found just how much I had to adjust," said Longmire. "It's a big part of baseball. It really makes you think out there.
"Our manager [Dann Bilardello] was a big help to me, as well as our batting coach [Roger Lafrancois] and the visiting Cardinals instructors. You learn a lot about yourself."
Longmire learned quickly and hit .303 over his last 18 games to finish at .287 (76-for-265) with nine homers and 55 RBIs, third in the NYPL.
"I worked to finish strong and feel that I had made progress," said Longmire, who batted .333 (27-for-81) with runners in scoring position.
The ValleyCats, who stood third in the Stedler Division for much of the season, earned a playoff berth by winning 20 of their last 33 games.
While Batavia, which was second in team batting at .273, looks to hold an offensive edge, the ValleyCats rated third in pitching (3.43 ERA).
Right-handers Carlos Quevedo (7-3, 3.06) and David Martinez (5-2, 3.02) were both excellent down the stretch for the ValleyCats. In addition, managerial veteran Jim Pankovits has a pair of stellar righties to call on to close -- Jorge De Leon and Michael Ness. De Leon has six of the duo's 13 saves and has allowed just two earned runs in 28 innings.
Infielder Ben Orloff has been the catalyst on offense, batting .307 (73-for-238) with 23 stolen bases.
Batavia's pitching staff is led by right-handers Zach Russell (3-3, 2.93), who held opposing hitters to a league-low .192 average, and Andrew Moss (8-2, 3.35). Following the promotion of Jose Rada (4-1, 1.13) to Class A Quad Cities, righty Keith Butler (0-3, 2.93) recorded five saves, four in the last month.
Lake Monster lapse: Vermont appeared to be the team to beat in the Stedler Division, rolling to a 21-8 start. The club went 15-30 over its final 45 games, however, to finish 36-38. The Lake Monsters had a stretch of 39 games in which they did not win two straight.
Turning the turnstiles: The NYPL enjoyed a total attendance of 1,817,074 in 2010. The Cyclones led the way by drawing 254,441 fans, an average of 7,147 per game. Aberdeen followed with 242,258 (6,548 per game), while Staten Island attracted 209,018, an average of 5,806. Last-place Lowell finished fourth at the gate with 201,512 (5,446 per contest).
Sweet home: Williamsport, which finished a half-game behind Jamestown for the Wild Card, played tough at Bowman Field this season. The Crosscutters were 27-10 at home but just 16-23 on the road.