Like gleeful youngsters in a between-innings base race, eight participants in MiLB.com's first-ever Mascot Mania tournament have touched third with their sights on home as Round of 16 voting wound down and set the stage for an exciting stretch run.
Click here to cast your quarterfinals ballots. Voting ends the night of Monday, June 11.
Phinley, Clearwater's fan-friendly fish, garnered the most votes of any mascot, and that enabled him to take down Durham's vaunted Wool E. Bull in an upset down south.
"I knew going up against a Triple-A team, especially Wool E. Bull, would be tough," said Phinley. "The phan base is in a phrenzy!"
On his quarterfinal match with Savannah's Gnate T. Gnat, the Hawaiian shirt-wearing land shark was laid-back but confident.
"I don't know Gnate personally, but from what I've seen he's a great mascot," Phinley added. "I think I have the momentum -- I'm an apex predator and he's a pesky bug."
Gnate, after buzzing past Corpus Christi's Sammy the Seagull by more than 10 percentage points, would not be shooed.
"Phinley is tough competition, but gnever underestimate the power of a bug," said Gnate. "Game on."
Feelings were friendlier out west, where Orbit of the Albuquerque Isotopes made a late charge to overtake Lake Elsinore's Thunder.
"It's been a long road through a lot of great mascots -- all of them my friends -- to get to the final eight, but I'm confident that with the tremendous support of Isotopes fans, I can bring a Mascot Mania championship to Albuquerque!"
Round Rock's Spike, Orbit's opposition in the quarterfinals, echoed those sentiments.
"I'm honored and humbled by the support," said Spike. "MiLB mascots are the best in the business. It's great to be part of the race with such amazing competition."
Fuzzy feelings were hard to come by in the East, however, where Richmond's Nutzy is pit against State College's Ike the Spike, who both advanced by wide margins.
"After putting Paws in the pound, I just have one thing to say to Nutzy and all of the nuts at the Flying Squirrels: don't lose your heads," warned Ike after a lop-sided win over Pawtucket's favorite pooch.
Nutzy did not scurry from the challenge.
"The last couple of rounds were about bragging rights ... the win over FeRROUS for the Domino Cup [Squirrels exec Chuck Domino is also president of Lehigh Valley] and Slugger the Sea Dogs for Eastern League supremacy," Nutzy noted. "Now that we've come this far, it's time to gather all of our nuts and win this thing."
In the Midwest, Great Lake's Lou E. Loon toppled Crash the River Rascal of West Michigan in the closest Round of 16 contest of all. He'll face Beloit's Snappy D. Turtle after his win over Toledo's Muddy the Mud Hen.
Voting for the four quarterfinal matchups has begun and ends Monday, June 11. Here are the matchups:
Ike the Spike (State College) vs. Nutzy (Richmond)
Snappy D. Turtle (Beloit) vs. Lou E. Loon (Great Lakes)
Phinley (Cleawater) vs. Gnate the Gnat (Savannah)
Orbit (Albuquerque) vs. Spike (Round Rock)