CLINTON — It was a struggle, but the Clinton LumberKings made it into the Midwest League playoffs.
Despite losing seven games in a row down the stretch, and winning just three of their final 12 games in the second half, the LumberKings held on to earn the final playoff spot in the Western Division.
While one might think that a team that didn’t play .500 baseball in either half of the season would have little chance against the team with the fifth-best overall record in the entire league, the LumberKings aren’t thinking that way.
“We have a good shot at going deep in the playoffs,” catcher Tyler Marlette said.
Clinton opens the best-of-three first round against Beloit, an affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. The Snappers won the West title in the first half and have a 77-63 record overall this season. But, Clinton has had its share of success against them.
“I think it’s going to be a good matchup,” Clinton manager Eddie Menchaca said. “In a lot of ways we’re similar. It’s just a matter of whose going to execute when it counts.”
Before getting swept in a four-game series at Beloit in late August, Clinton led the season series 8-5. They were 7-3 against the Snappers at Ashford University Field, where the playoffs open with a 6:30 p.m. game today. Victor Sanchez (6-6, 2.78 ERA) gets the start for Clinton.
“We played them well all year,” Menchaca said. “It’s just that last series — we had some stuff that just happened, guys were trying to fit in to different roles.”
Statistically, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the clubs.
Clinton led the Midwest League with a .268 batting average (Beloit hit .254), but Beloit hit a league-best 120 home runs (to Clinton’s 72). Beloit has a slight edge, 658-629, in runs scored and both teams ranked in the bottom five in stolen bases, where Clinton holds a 106-97 advantage.