Majors Prepare for First Round Clash Against Jackfish
London Majors BaseballGreg Bowman
The London Majors’ season ended with an even 18-18 record, giving them the 5th spot in the IBL, setting up a four/five matchup against the Welland Jackfish in the opening round of the Jack & Lynne Dominico Cup Playoffs.
Over the 36 games this season, the Majors had very different looking lineups and, as a result, very different looking results.
After the first quarter of the season, London won just two games. They picked up their first win in their third game, with newcomer Ismael Pena hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Brantford Red Sox - his first as a Major, for their first win. Despite the 2-7 start, the Majors were getting runs across the plate. Through the first nine games of the season, London averaged roughly 5.6 runs per game. It was the pitching that became their downfall, subsequently giving up just under 10 runs per game.
Into the second quarter of the season, the Majors started to manufacture some more wins. The month of June saw them pull together consecutive wins for the first time all season. London went 5-4 in the second quarter of the season, with three of their four losses coming to powerhouses Kitchener or Barrie. On five occasions, Majors pitching held their opponents to under four runs, with either Juliandry Higuera or Migel Burgos starting on the mound in all five of those games.
At the midway point of the season, the Majors looked as if they were turning a corner. The month of June saw them go 9-6, including a five-game win streak. That led into a Canada Day game that impressed all who were on hand, with a 15-3 drubbing of the defending-champion Barrie Baycats.
The back half of the season had the toughest stretch of the Majors’ schedule. In just over two week’s time, the Majors had to play the Barrie Baycats and the Kitchener Panthers twice each - both teams who finished #1 and #2 respectively at season’s end. The stretch, which saw London go on a four-game slide, looked like it may be detrimental to the team. While the Majors did sneak one win each against the Panthers and Baycats, they did lose to the lowly Brantford Red Sox, which was a particularly devastating loss considering the Sox won just five games all year.
Coming out of the four-game losing streak, London finished the season strong, winning five of their last seven games. They won important games down the stretch against teams they struggled against throughout the year, and brought themselves up to the .500 mark to finish the season.
Matchup Against the Jackfish
The London Majors will be the Welland Jackfish’s first-ever IBL playoff opponent. Welland’s inaugural season saw them finish 19-17, with similar highs and lows that London had.
The Jackfish started their year winning three of their first four games, including one against the Majors. After their first matchup against London, Welland began to get into their rhythm of the season, trading winning streaks for losing streaks. In fact, there were just two games all season (first game excluded) that were not a part of a winning or losing streak. In other words, their wins and losses came in bunches.
The Majors and Jackfish met five times during the regular season, with Welland taking the season-series three games to two. The Jackfish dominated the Majors when they did win, outscoring them 41-23.
Who to Watch - London
Miguel Burgos started pitching for the Majors at the start of June, and was roughed up in his first two starts, giving up six and five runs to Guelph and Barrie, respectively. The Venezuelan turned things around once he got adjusted on his new team, rattling off wins in his next four starts, giving up no earned runs in any of them. He finished the season with a 5-4 record, a 2.96 ERA, 63.2 innings pitched with 67 strikeouts - tied for seventh-most in the IBL.
Juliandry Higuera joined the Majors earlier in the season, and quickly became among the top pitchers in the IBL. Higuera finished the season as the IBL’s strikeout leader, fanning 97 batters in 81.1 innings of action. He had a 5-4 record with a 3.54 ERA, but was a workhorse for London, pitching at least five innings in every one of his starts during the regular season, including two complete games.
When Burgos and Higuera gave London a quality start, and the offence did their part, it was smooth sailing from there. Jon Fitzsimmons quickly became the go-to man in the bullpen for Roop Chanderdat, baffling every batter he faced in the IBL. The relief pitcher finished with an ERA of zero in his 21.1 innings of action over 11 games (in only Friday night games), while also picking up two saves. The London native gave up just 11 hits all season, striking out 34 batters and seldom fell behind in any count.
On offence, the Majors rely on speed to get them around the base paths. Mid-season additions of Yuki Yasuda, Carlos Arteaga and Myles Miller are all capable of turning singles into doubles, and doubles into triples. The trio combined for 19 of the Majors’ 35 stolen bases this year, and all have batting averages of at least .300. Cleveland Brownlee is always a threat at the plate, with the slugger recording 11 home runs (second in IBL) and 29 RBI during the regular season despite batting .232. He, and the man before him in the lineup, Ismael Pena, will be looked at to drive runs home, with a combined 59 RBI between the two during the regular season.
Who to Watch - Welland
The Jackfish have two solidified starting pitchers on their roster. Former Brantford Red Sox pitcher, Euclides Leyer, went 7-2 in 10 starts this season with a miniscule 2.57 ERA. He was tied for the second-most wins in the league, and has the second-best ERA. He is also in the top 10 in strikeouts, with 67 Ks in 63 innings pitched. Leyer is joined by Matthew Clingersmith in the Jackfish’s starting rotation. The 6’6 right-hander went 6-1 in eight starts, posting a 2.60 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 55.1 innings of work.
At the plate, the Jackfish will be looking to Andrew Mercier, who led his team with 22 RBI during the regular season, with a .274 average. Along with Mercier, DeAndre Asbury-Heath will be another player to watch at the plate for the Jackfish. The outfielder led Welland with four home runs in the regular season, bringing in 21 RBI while sporting a .271 average.
The Jackfish will likely do most of their damage on the basepaths, with Welland stealing 120 bases this season - 76 more than the next closest team. Wilson Soriano and Caleb Feurerstake both stole 22 bags each in the regular season, while nine Jackfish players had at least five stolen bases.
Game 1 of the best-of-seven series between the Welland Jackfish and the London Majors will be on Tuesday evening in Welland.
Full series schedule:
Game 1: Tuesday, August 6th - 7:30pm, Welland Stadium
Game 2: Thursday, August 8th - 7:30pm, Welland Stadium
Game 3: Friday, August 9th - 7:35pm, Labatt Park
Game 4: Sunday, August 11th - 1:05pm, Labatt Park
Game 5: Tuesday, August 13th - 7:30pm, Welland Stadium*
Game 6: Wednesday, August 14th - 7:35pm, Labatt Park*
Game 7: Thursday, August 15th - 7:30pm, Welland Stadium *