New York-Penn League playoff preview

Spikes take on Jammers, while IronBirds battle ValleyCats

Steven Ramos of State College led the league with a .347 batting average. (Mark Olson/

By Craig Forde / Special to | September 5, 2013 6:00 AM ET

The New York-Penn League playoffs feature teams with a variety postseason experience -- from a recent champion to a pair of clubs making their playoff debuts.

As division winners, the Aberdeen IronBirds and State College Spikes qualified for the postseason for the first time in their respective franchise histories. The Jamestown Jammers stumbled down the stretch, including five losses to the red-hot Spikes over the final week but beat their division rivals on the last day of the season to secure the league's lone Wild Card and their first playoff appearance since 2010.

That was the same year the Tri-City ValleyCats, who repeated as Stedler Division champs this season, picked up their first NYPL title in franchise history.

State College Spikes (48-27, Pinckney Division champion) vs.
Jamestown Jammers (43-32, Wild Card winner)

State College won the season series, 8-2

Game 1 at Jamestown, Sept. 6 at 7:05 p.m. ET
Game 2 at State College, Sept. 7 at 7:35 p.m. ET
Game 3 at State College (if necessary), Sept. 8 at 7:05 p.m. ET

With a balanced attack that dominated for much of the season, the State College Spikes were the only NYPL team to punch their postseason ticket before August expired, clinching their first Pinckney Division title and playoff appearance with a 7-4 win at Auburn on the last day of the month. 

Leading the league in team batting average (.275) and finishing second in runs scored (354), the Spikes' lineup includes two of the six players in the entire circuit who hit .300 or better -- league leader Steven Ramos (.341) and Jimmy Bosco (.300). The offense is also anchored by team MVP David Washington, who had 68 hits, including 27 for extra-bases to contribute to a .441 slugging percentage.

On the pitching end, the Spikes had 17 different pitchers earn at least one victory and 10 pick up a save.

"The team knows how good we are," said reliever Mitch Harris, who finished 4-1 with a save and a 0.81 ERA in 20 appearances. "We play hard and we hate losing. We're looking forward [to the postseason]."

The staff as a whole had a league-leading 2.80 ERA with five shutouts.

The Jammers are not impressed, having pitched a league-best 10 shutouts of their own -- though none have come against State College, which won eight straight against Jamestown during the season.

The two teams played each other six times over the last seven days, including the completion of a suspension from earlier in the season, so there will be no lack of familiarity in this series.

"A few extra games is nothing at all," said Harris. "We're excited to play."

Tri-City ValleyCats (44-32, Stedler Division champion) vs.
Aberdeen IronBirds (40-32, McNamara Division champion)

Aberdeen won the season series, 4-2

Game 1 at Aberdeen, Sept. 6 at 7:05 p.m. ET Watch on MiLB.TV
Game 2 at Tri-City, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. ET
Game 3 at Tri-City (if necessary), Sept. 8 at 5 p.m. ET

For the first time in their 12-year history, the Aberdeen IronBirds are playoff bound after snatching their first McNamara Division title at Ripken Stadium on Monday.

Battle-tested down the stretch, this group, including first year manager Matt Merullo, is proud to be representing a community whose average home attendance of 5,297 per game was second best in the league.

"Knowing we're representing a community that has never been in the playoffs before and has had only one winning season in 12 years, it make us feel good about what we're doing," said Merullo. "We're not just playing for ourselves, we're playing for a lot of people."

The IronBirds pitching and offense don't jump off the page statistically as they sit in the middle of the pack in most major categories, but this is a team that's more concerned with winning.

"I've tried to stress to the guys that your individual stats will take care of themselves when you play as a team," said Merullo. "It sounds cliché, but they've bought into it. Their focus has really been on trying to win ballgames, get to the playoffs and taking it one game at a time."

They will have their hands full playing against the only franchise in the tournament with any recent postseason experience.

Tri-City, who lost to Hudson Valley in the Finals last season, must overcome the recent 50-game suspensions of a trio of players, including Michael Martinez, who led the team with 11 home runs and tied for the team lead with 35 RBIs.

With the opening game of the series at Ripken Stadium on Friday and a patient-yet-passionate fan base ready for some postseason action, Aberdeen will look to head to Tri-City with their first postseason win under their belt.

In brief

Upright pitchers brigade: The Aberdeen pitching staff has done an admirable job keeping the baseball in the ballpark this season, allowing a league-low 12 home runs. The best mark in team history, it's the least amount of long balls allowed by any NYPL pitching staff since the Lowell Spinners gave up 10 in 2000.

Human giant: State College first baseman David Washington became the first New York-Penn League player to reach 50 RBIs since 2010, when five players crossed that plateau. Washington also leads the Spikes with 10 home runs, despite only hitting two since the All-Star break.

Lonely island: For the third time in four seasons, Staten Island suffered a 40-loss season. In fact, it took a 7-3 run down the stretch for the Yankees -- winners of six league titles since the turn of the century -- to help pull themselves over the 30-win mark for the year.

Craig Forde is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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