Tampa, FL – Hurricane Irma hasn’t reached Cuba yet but it has already left her mark on MiLB. The Florida State League canceled the 2017 Championship Series that pits the winners of the North and South semi-finals in a best of 3. Instead, the league decided to award the winners of the best of 3 semifinals a co-championship.
The Tampa Yankees (85-50) won the North Division by a whopping 14.5 games and were the top seed against Dunedin (72-66) and stormed back from a 5 run deficit in extra innings to take game 1 on the road. Yankee’s first baseman Tim Lynch delivered the big blow with a massive 2 run HR in the 10th inning. Game 2 shifted back to Tampa, pitting Jordan Romero against Yankees top 10 prospect Albert Abreu. Cavan Biggio was the star of game 2, driving in 2 runs in the 4th and then homering in the 7th to seal a 4-1 win, forcing game 3, which was played 30 minutes later. The Jays tacked on insurance in the 8th as Vlad Guerrero, Jr hit a solo HR. Yankees teenage phenom Estevan Florial hit a solo HR for the Yanks lone run.
Game 3, winner take all, saw 2016 1st rounder T.J. Zeuch face off against Erik Swanson. Zeuch missed all of June and July due to injuries, returning in August on an innings limit. He pitched 4 IP giving 1 hit and 1 BB while Erik Swanson dominated the Dunedin lineup, tossing 6 IP with 1 hit allowed, 1 ER, 3 BB, and 6K. Swanson used his mid 90’s fastball to chew through the Jays. His only blemish was a Connor Panas homer.
The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the 5th on a Dalton Blaser line drive HR to RCF. Blaser was just promoted to Tampa for the playoffs after posting a .705 OPS for Staten Island/Charleston. Dunedin tied the game in the top of the 7th when Connor Panas hit his 2nd HR of the game, this one a no-doubter over the RF bleachers, off of Yankees RP Caleb Frare.
The game stayed tied into the 9th. Jordan Foley came out for his 2nd inning of relief. Foley dominated the 8th inning, striking out Bichette and Biggio before retiring Vlad, Jr. In the 9th, it wasn’t the stars, the teenage phenoms, that broke the lead. The Jays, who have rostered 10-12 of the Jays top 30 prospects showed how deep they are and that this team is far more than the duo of Vlad, Jr. and Bo. After striking out Panas, Juan Kelly drew a walk. Foley retired the next hitter, Michael De La Cruz, before allowing a single off of SS Kyle Holder’s glove by Edward Olivares. Jake Thomas, a soft hitting lefty was the next hitter. Foley got quickly ahead of Thomas, painting the black on the outside of the plate with mid 90’s heaters. Thomas made the necessary adjustments with 2 strikes and when Foley tried to go outside for strike 3, Thomas flipped the ball into shallow LF scoring Juan Kelly and giving the Jays a 3-2 lead. D.J. Davis, another lefty, hit a bloop double to LF scoring 2.
With the lead at 3, Zach Jackson, sealed the win with 2 IP but not after making things interesting and allowing a run.
- Connor Panas finished the season with 18 HR. He hit 14 of those in July and August.
- Jake Thomas, 24, was drafted in 27th round of 2015 draft out of SUNY Binghamton
- 2016 3rd rounder, Zach Jackson threw 11 IP in Aug/Sept, allowing 7 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, and 22K
- Vlad Jr hit .385 with 1 HR, Biggio hit .167 with 1 HR, and Bichette hit .091 with 0 HR in the 3 game set. Panas hit .333 with 2 HR while D.J. Davis hit .500
- Estevan Florial hit .400 with 1 HR in the playoffs
- Kyle Holder hit .427 in 21 August games but only .091 in the playoffs
- Palm Beach (74-60) swept Ft. Myers in 2 games to win the Co-Championship