NLA Baseball - Flyers win the Semis28.09.2017
Across most of the world, autumn means that the days slowly get shorter, there is a crispness to the air and the leaves change colour. With the sun still thinking it's summer, it can be absolutely beautiful. In Switzerland, it just rains. All the time. It also means it's finally time for the playoffs! Because they finished the season in 1st place, the Therwil Flyers were rewarded with a week off, while the teams seeded 3-6 played wildcard games. The Luzern Eagles emerged victorious from their game, giving them the right to challenge the reigning champions. The first two games of the series were played in Therwil, while games 3 and 4 were in Lucerne. All advanced metrics are provided by Swiss-Statscast. A special thank you also goes to Philippe Kleiber for his game-ball sponsoring.
Like all games involving Swiss pitching, this game featured a matchup of national team pitchers. Lukas Croton for the Flyers, and Stefan Haltmeier for the Eagles. Croton started quickly, setting the Eagles down in order with the help of left fielder Stefan Koller, who made a brilliant running catch to rob a double. This quick inning gave the Flyers a chance to jump on top early. The league's leading offense did just that. Five batters in, the home team had already grabbed a 4-0 lead. Koller led off with a single, which brought one of the best contact hitters in the league - Taka "Aaron" Oshima - to the plate. Oshima however, wanted to be more than a contact hitter, he got a fastball down the middle and deposited it 475 feet away over the center field fence into someone's garden."I don't think I've ever hit a ball that hard or far before" Oshima said after the game, "Statcast showed an exit velocity of 118.2 mph. That's Judge territory. I can't wait for Adi to get back from vacation to tell him that he's not the only power hitter on the Flyers anymore." After a walk to Tyler "I'm a big boy" Krobetzky, David Castillo roped a triple into the right field corner, scoring Krobetzky all the way from first. After a well deserved break to bring out the oxygen masks to help the runners recover, Rafael Eigenmann brought the 4th run home with a sac fly. Enjoying an immediate lead, Croton went to work on the Eagles line-up, not allowing a hit until the 5th inning while picking up four strikeouts. The Flyers offense continued to tack on more runs. In the 2nd, Krobetzky - another one of the Flyers best contact hitters - absolutely crushed a pitch to center field. Using every bit of power in his body, Krobetzky just managed to get it to sneak over the wall for a two-run home run that travelled an estimated 350 feet. Then in the 3rd, the Flyers brought home their 7th run of the game on an RBI double off the bat of Javier Rodriguez. It wasn't until the rains came that the Eagles managed to claw their way back into the game. With reliever Koller on the mound, the guests from Lucerne managed to string together a few hits that combined with a Flyers error led to a four-run 6th inning. Another error in the 7th allowed them to close to within 7-5. Finally, in the 7th and 8th, the Flyers bats woke up and answered with a combined five runs to push the lead back to 7. The big hit in both innings were RBI singles by Sebastian Zwyer that gave the home team some breathing room. After giving up runs early in his outing, Koller settled down nicely and closed out the victory by a score of 12-6 for the Flyers, giving them a 1-0 series lead.
A half hour later, the 2nd game of the series commenced. On the mound were Adam Greenberg for the Eagles and Mr. Moriarty for the Flyers. This time it was the Eagles who jumped out to a quick lead. A couple hit by pitches and an outfield error gave them a 2-0 lead in the 1st. A three-run home run in the 3rd then gave them a 5-0 lead while the Flyers still struggled to score. After spotting the Eagles their lead, Moriarty bore down and didn't allow another run in his eight innings of work, giving his offense time to get back in the game. His refusal to give up more runs included wriggling his way out of an inning where he gave up a leadoff triple and getting some help from his defense, when Javier Rodriguez threw out a runner at home plate. The Flyers offense slowly got back into the game, grinding out at bats and closing the gap. RBI doubles from Castillo, Koller and Krobetzky managed to get the Flyers within a single run by the end of the 4th inning. Then in the 5th, a couple Eagles errors allowed the Flyers to take a one-run lead. The score stayed this way until the 8th, when Edwin Hernandez lined a two-run single up the middle to score some insurance runs. They would not be enough however, as the Eagles rallied for four runs in the 9th off of the Flyers closer to take the lead. A 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th then sealed the loss for the Flyers and tied up the series at one game apiece.
A week later, the Flyers travelled to Lucerne. Returning from vacation to help the Flyers were Adrian "Lettuce" Kaufmann and Hide "the brother with power" Oshima. The return of Kaufmann finally gave the Flyers the power-bat they had missed the week before, while Oshima added another shut-down arm to the pitching staff. Not allowing themselves to dwell on their loss the week before, the Flyers came out strong, wanting to grab control of the series. While lefty Oshima baffled Eagles hitters for the first five innings, the Flyers offense was not held in check one bit by Eagles' pitcher Haltmeier. After the top of the 6th inning, they were already up 11-0. The Eagles managed to score six runs in the 6th to close the gap. But Koller came on in relief to shut the door and the Flyers offense would not be denied as they continued to pile on run after run. Everyone contributed to the tune of 19 hits. Krobetzky made his case to be allowed to call himself a power hitter by finally accepting his fear of large farm buildings and declaring war on the barn behind the right field fence. He managed to conquer his fear, smacking two home runs high off the roof of the barn. Wanting to help his teammate with his fears, Sven Leemann did what he does best and lined an opposite field home run off the barn too. Completing the group of home-run hitters, were Rafael Eigenmann and Kaufmann, who continued to show everyone why he is the most feared home-run threat in the country. Though they did hit home runs, they did not manage to hit the barn, leading to much discussion if their status as power hitters should be revoked. Koller added four hits of his own, while Castillo had three, and Rodriguez had two. All this lead to a final score of 24-8 in favour of the Flyers, giving them a 2-1 lead in the series.
The 4th game of the series started out just like game two. The Flyers grabbed a quick 1-0 lead on four straight singles in the 1st. But then Mr. Moriarty, on the mound for the Flyers ran into some early trouble. Infield singles, a triple and some errors gave the Eagles a 5-1 advantage once the 2nd inning ended. Once again he got stronger as the game went on, not allowing another run and striking out a total of 15. Being down four runs in a playoff game is not great, but with Moriarty dominating, the Flyers offense had plenty of time to get back in the game. Still, it wasn't until the 6th when the Flyers started to creep closer. Leemann scored on a passed ball, and then one inning later drove in a run with an RBI double to get the Flyers to within two runs. Then in the 8th, the Flyers got a rally going and tied the game. Eigenmann singled to make it 5-4 and then Koller hit a sac fly to the tie the game at five. Neither team scored in the 9th, though the Eagles managed to get the winning run to 3rd base before Moriarty ended the inning. Then, in the 10th, Krobetzky lead off with a single for the Flyers. A sac bunt moved him over before Koller singled him home to give the Flyers the lead. Going back out for his 10th inning of work, Moriarty didn't give the Eagles a chance to tie it, not allowing a base runner and ending the game and the series with a strikeout.
The Flyers move on to the Finals and await the winner of the series between the Challengers and Barracudas. The Finals start on October 7th at 14:00 in Therwil.