NLA Baseball - Flyers in the Finals05.10.2018
The Flyers finished the regular season in unfamiliar territory: 3rd place. Nevertheless, the goal of making the playoffs was reached. Waiting in the semi-finals were the Luzern Eagles, who had taken three of the four games between the teams during the regular season. Both teams came into the series confident of success; the Eagles having already beaten the Flyers multiple times this year and the Flyers trusting that their playoff-tested veterans would step up once the playoffs started. Due to a religious holiday, the first two games were played as a double-header in Luzern. As always, advanced metrics are provided by Swiss-Statcast (and are totally not made up).
The first game of the series was a one-sided affair. The Eagles jumped out in front in the 1st inning on a home run over the short right field fence by Adam Greenberg off Flyers starter Stefan Koller. The Flyers answered right back in the 2nd with a solo home run by David Castillo to halve the deficit. However, that was all the offense the Flyers would manage in the game as Eagles pitcher Yannick Brot dominated the entire game. He gave up only 4 hits and kept the Flyers off-balance all day. The Eagles added a few more runs on another home run by Greenberg and a solo shot off the bat of Michael Gonzalez. Taka Oshima relieved Koller in the 4th and tried to give his team a chance to come back, but the offense never woke up and the Eagles took the opener by a score of 6-1.
After a short break, it was on to the 2nd game of the day. Although it was a new game, one would not have been able to tell by watching the Flyers. They picked up right where they left off on offense in the first game, looking listless and once again failing to score runs. This time it was Greenberg on the mound for the Eagles. He went 8 inning s, scattering 8 hits without giving up a run. On the mound for the Flyers was Chris "Fountain" Horne. For most of the game he matched Greenberg pitch for pitch. Keeping the score knotted at 0 through the 5th. Then in the 6th, the game got out of hand. Five hits and some uncharacteristic misplays by the Flyers' defence combined to let the Eagles score six runs before the final out of the inning was recorded. Horne wouldn't give up another run, but the damage was done and the Flyers offense never backed him up. With their 2nd loss of the day, this one by a score of 6-0, the Flyers drove home staring a 2-0 deficit in the face.
A week later the Flyers took the field in front of their hometown fans, eager to get back into the series. On the mound were the Oshima brothers; first Hide and then Taka, who had to take over pitching duties in the 5th after Hide decided to bunt with his fingers instead of his bat. The Eagles took a quick 1-0 lead in the 1st on a walk and single to once again put the Flyers under pressure. This time though, the Flyers finally responded. In the 3rd, Adi "Toothpick" Kaufmann led off with a walk to get things going. Hide Oshima followed by getting hit by a pitch and Javi Rodriguez singled to left to load the bases. Back-to-back walks to David Castillo and Rafi "Ice Tea" Eigenmann scored two and gave the Flyers their first lead of the series. They continued to add insurance runs, scoring single runs in the 4th and 5th innings, before pushing across four runs in the 6th to take an 8-2 lead. Offensive contributions came from up and down the lineup: Rodriguez and Koller picked up sac flies, Taka Oshima had a run scoring single and Sven "Sticks" Leemann had a big two-RBI double. With the offense finally doing their part, Taka Oshima relieved his brother on the mound and took home the win. The Eagles managed to push across another three runs in the 9th, but could not get any closer and the Flyers took the game by a score of 8-6.
Trying to stay alive and force a deciding 5th game, the Flyers sent Horne to the mound once again to face Eagles lefty Greenberg. The Eagles threatened right away in the 1st, getting their leadoff hitter to third base with no outs. Horne however managed to strand him right there and keep the game tied at zero. It wasn't until the 3rd inning that the first run was scored. Hide Oshima led off with a walk and was sacrificed over to second by Kaufmann. After Greenberg got the 2nd out of the inning, Javi Rodriguez stepped to the plate. He lined a single to center field to score Oshima and give the Flyers the lead. The Eagles quickly threatened again in the next half inning, putting runners on the corners with 1 out. Horne then once again worked his way out of a jam by getting a beautiful 3-6-3 double play turned by the Oshima brothers. Fired up, the Flyers bats got right back to work. Eigenmann led off with a booming double to left center and was bunted over to third by Koller. After Micha "Cucumber" Kratz walked, Hide Oshima laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score Eigenmann and give the Flyers a 2-0 lead. Both pitchers continued to dominate during the middle innings before the Eagles once again threatened in the 7th. Faced with runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs, Horne worked his magic by striking out the next two hitters and getting a groundball to preserve his teams narrow lead. While the Flyers battled but couldn't break through again offensively, the Eagles finally managed to scrape a run across in the 8th. So, the Flyers headed into the 9th with a one run lead. That was all Horne needed as he closed out his complete game win with two strikeouts. Horne was masterful all day, only giving up three hits while striking out 11 and sending the series to a deciding game 5.
Nothing beats a deciding 5th game for a chance to play in the finals. Once again, Hide Oshima toed the rubber for the Flyers, facing off against Eagles lefty Yannick Brot who was making his third start of the series. The Flyers struck first on a big fly off the bat of Leemann. With two runners on, he got himself a fastball out over the plate and deposited it on the roof of a barn 425 feet to right center field, to give the Flyers a quick 3-0 lead early in the game. The Flyers would continue to build on their lead throughout the game. After Koller picked up an RBI single, Kaufmann and his legendary 32 inch bat took over the game for the Flyers. With the score 4-2, he smacked a 380 foot solo shot to left to give his team some breathing room. A couple innings later the Flyers loaded the bases and forced the Eagles to go to the bullpen. After bases loaded walks to Koller and Horne forced in two runs and gave the Flyers a 7-2 lead, Kaufmann once again stepped to the plate. His 32 inch toothpick of a bat connected hard with a fastball. It landed 440 feet away over the left field fence for a game-breaking grand slam and an 11-2 lead for the Flyers. On a side note, all three Flyers home runs on the day were clocked with an exit velocity over 116 mph. With a big lead, Flyers' pitcher "Tadenori" (this is how the Oshima brothers refer to themselves in their combined form) pounded the strike zone and dominated the Eagles hitters for a combined complete game win. A swinging strike out ended the game and sent the Flyers to another finals!
Box score will be added once it is uploaded
The Finals will be played against the Zürich Challengers. Games 1 and 2 are at 14:00 on Saturday and Sunday, October 6th and 7th, in Therwil at K1 Ballpark. We hope to see you there.