By Madison Hricik
It’s a battle on I-81! No. 2 Staunton will host No.3 Harrisonburg after a late victory last night to kick off the second of two rounds in the South. With the two so evenly matched, let’s take a look at what makes this series so competitive.
The Braves had a late season surge over the past few weeks to climb back into playoff contention and earned the No. 2 seed in the south. Staunton comes into the playoffs with a 19-20 record, going 6-4 in the last 10 games.
If Braves fans are looking for a strong batter, Grant Painter has been the main player. Going a perfect 1.000 this week, Painter has seen two runs and three RBIs this week in five at-bats. Ryan McCarty also has a lot of confidence heading into Game 1, going .545 at bat this week with five runs and an RBI.
On the pitcher’s side, Jalon Long went six innings with five strikeouts for a 1.50 ERA on the game Friday— earning the win. The Staunton relief pitchers have done well throughout the week as well, with Jack Masloff and Andrew Imbierowicz both earning a 0.00 ERA.
Harrisonburg has been bouncing in and out of the number two and three seed all season long in the South. However, the team still has the momentum they need to go the distance in the playoffs if they continue to click.
Conor Hartigan leads the team this week at bat with a .438 batting average and five runs and two RBIs. Jordan Sweeney comes in just behind Hartigan with a .364 batting average, two runs, six RBIs and a homer. The two have brought on the energy to ignite the Turks’ offense, and with a few more batters starting to heat up, the lineup is on the verge of becoming quite dangerous.
Leading the defense, Ben Sieracki earned a 0.00 ERA through five innings with four strikeouts over two games. Will Mercer also had a 0.00 ERA this week in his four innings pitched and four strikeouts.
This series is likely to be another tight race — and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a game or two go into extra innings to decide a winner. Both teams have strong starting pitchers and bullpen depth to back them up. On the offense, bats could truly come alive during this series. Don’t be shocked if there’s a pitcher’s battle in one game, then a home run derby the next.
Based on current trends, it’s likely that this series will go three games, with Harrisonburg being crowned the winner. Game 3’s final score could most likely be down to the last out, with the Turks holding on 7-6. Get ready for a nailbiter!