The fifth regular season of the California Winter League has come to an end, making way for the postseason. The playoffs will have a new feel this year as the league has been expanded to ten teams.
Thursday will be a play-in round, with the 7th seeded Bombers playing the 10th seeded Coyotes and the 8th seeded Power squaring off against the 9th seeded Snowbirds.
Coachella Valley Snowbirds (5-9-1) @ Palm Springs Power (5-9-1)
10:00 AM @ Palm Springs Stadium
The first playoff game of the 2014 postseason will see the defending CWL champion Snowbirds take on the fan-favorite Power. Both teams come in with identical records and sport similar numbers. The Snowbirds have relied more on their pitching throughout the season while the Power have benefited from slightly better offensive production.
The Snowbirds have been led offensively by regular shortstop Andre Oliver. Oliver leads the team in several offensive categories including average (.385) slugging (.462) and on base percentage (.529). The Snowbirds can also boast about one of the best defensive catchers in the league in Ryan Breen, who has consistently been able to shut down opponents’ running games.
When the Snowbirds do get on base, look for them to run. They swiped 44 bags in just 49 tries on the season, which is far more than the Power’s 18 this season.
The pitching for the Snowbirds is what they have ridden to many of their victories. They offer depth that few teams have. First, there is Will Scott who is listed as an outfielder, but also pitches well enough to lead the Snowbirds with a 2.00 ERA. Wacey Sorenson is a familiar face to the CWL, having played last season and now leading the Snowbirds in innings pitched and ranking second in ERA at 2.84.
The Power have used more of an offensive approach to tally their victories this season, led by slugging third baseman Travis Clark. Clark is the active leader in average (.333) hits (11) and total bases (13) for the Power. The Power also offer some of the more obvious contrasts in the CWL. They have one of the lower fielding percentages in the league (.908) yet boast arguably the best defensive player in the league, Justin Cureton.
The Power do have the advantage in the big-hit department as they will come in to the matchup out-slugging their opponents.
On the pitching side, the Power have turned to their horse Heath Gray many times to eat up innings. Gray led the power in innings pitched (22) and strikeouts (22). However, if the Power are in a tight spot, look for them to call on Cole Brocker who has been used very effectively out of the pen. In his 13.2 innings pitched he has posted a microscopic .66 ERA to go along with his .185 average that hitters have posted against him.
The first time these two teams met this season the Snowbirds threw three pitchers. Will Scott, Dillon Ryan and Timothy Vonder Haar combined to no-hit the Power in a 6-0 victory.
Palm Desert Coyotes (2-10-3) @ British Columbia Bombers (5-8-2)
1:00 PM @ Palm Springs Stadium
In the back end of the playoff doubleheader, the Palm Desert Coyotes will try to ride the momentum of their win on the final day of the season against the resurgent British Columbia Bombers. Both teams have gained a reputation as some of the more consistent defenses in the CWL. Of the two squads the Coyotes have had the most success historically in the postseason advancing to the Championship game in 2011when they fell to the Canada A’s.
The Palm Desert Coyotes come into the playoffs as the 10 seed and in dead last in the standings. Still, they have drawn the team in which they have the most success against in the CWL. The Coyotes have struggled mightily with their pitching posting a league-high 7.43 ERA as a team. Those numbers have been affected by some mild fatigue in those arms as former Mariners farm hand Zach Sterling has been limited to just 6.2 innings, but pitched well in his start on the final day of the season.
The Coyotes have also had their issues with the bats, hitting just .234 as a team and striking out 123 times. However, there are bright spots such as outfielders Josh Ray and Zach Mosbarger, who have provided the Coyotes with a nice on- two punch in the lineup. Ray has provided the power for the Coyotes slugging two home runs, two triples and two doubles. Mosbarger has had issues drawing walks, but has been one of the more consistent hitters in the league coming into the playoffs with a clip of .395.
The British Columbia Bombers are a team that wins with its offense. Throw in strong arms like Chris Rice and Jon Adams and it’s clear why the Bombers have bounced back from a poor start.
Their bats are solid, posting a .280 average as a team and are led by Tim Leary and Derek Hagy who are both hitting .444. Leary has shown some flashes of power and will be coming into the postseason as one of the hottest hitters. Hagy has shown less pop but a more disciplined eye at the plate as he has struck just once during the regular season while collecting six walks.
Christopher Rice has logged the most innings (17) for the Bombers using a plus slider to strike out a team high 31 batters. While Rice has received most of his work as a starter, Jon Adams has worked exclusively from the pen and posted an excellent strikeout to walk ratio of 16 (SO) to just 6 (BB).
*Coyotes lead season series 1-0-1
The teams met for the first time on January 25th and saw the Coyotes collect their first win of the season on a walk-off win. The Coyotes scored three times in the bottom of the seventh to pull out an 8-7 victory.
It was another close contest on February 6th, with the Bombers this time coming back on the Coyotes. In the bottom of the seventh the Bombers plated two runs to force a 7-7 tie.