FLCS Primer: Washington and Schaumburg Battle For the Crown
The Frontier League postseason has reached its final series. With Schaumburg, this year's Central Division Champions, defeating the West Division Champion Florence Y'alls in the Midwestern Conference FLDS and Washington, the Northeast Division Champions, outlasting Équipe Québec, the Atlantic Division Champs, in the Can-Am Conference FLDS, the Frontier League Championship Series is set.
This year's FLCS features a three-time champion in the Schaumburg Boomers and the Washington Wild Things, who are still in search of their first title since joining the league in 2002. The series is a best-of-five format and begins Tuesday, September 21 and runs through Sunday, September 26.
Schaumburg was 51-45 to win the Central Division by eight games over Windy City, who finished in second. The Boomers clinched on Labor Day.
Schaumburg was tied for fourth in the league in the regular season with 86 homers (tied with New Jersey). The Boomers drew the fourth most walks and was sixth in the league in stolen bases (122 with just 26 CS). Schaumburg's pitching staff worked its way to the fourth best ERA in the Frontier League regular season at 4.01 and its seven complete games were the second most in the league behind eight from Southern Illinois. The staff was also third in strikeouts and fourth in fewest walks issued. The Boomers had the second worst fielding percentage in the league at .973 this season, making 91 errors, also second worst (to Windy City's 99).
Leading the way for the staff is Ryan Middendorf, who sported 11 wins and a 3.14 ERA in 19 starts this season. The tandem of he and Kyle Arjona, who tossed 119.2 innings and was 8-6 with a 3.38 ERA this season, lead the rotation for the Boomers. Geoff Bramblett, who came over to Schaumburg in a trade with the Grizzlies, spots a 1.86 ERA in 22 games (eight starts) between the two clubs. He's started three games for Schaumburg down the stretch. Thomas Nicoll had a 2.25 ERA this year out of the pen to lead that group. Nieporte and Dawson are two of the big guns in the lineup, while Braxton Davidson is a big help as well. Davidson is at .285 on the season with 22 home runs and 58 RBI, 10 and 30 of which, respectively, have come with the Boomers since Schaumburg acquired him. Alec Craig's 43 stolen bases were among the best totals in the league while Dawson (25) and Brett Milazzo (20) also took 20 or more bags.
Washington had left-handed pitcher Ryan Hennen win awards for Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Pitcher and Post-Season All Star starting pitcher. Hennen had a league-best 2.12 ERA in the regular season. His 11 wins were tied for the second most in the league. Bralin Jackson probably should've been a Post-Season All Star outfielder with his 19 doubles, seven homers and 68 RBI, but he was not selected to the team.
The Wild Things' 70 errors were the second fewest in the league this season while the pitching staff, led by 2021 Darren Bush Award winner for Coach of the Year, pitching coach Alex Boshers, issued the second fewest walks (268), struck out the fourth most opposing batters (760), had the third-best WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitcher) (1.29) and boasted the second-best ERA in the league at 3.67 (.01 behind first - Evansville's 3.66). The offense was fourth in fewest strikeouts with 659, 5th in OBP (.356), sixth in slugging percentage and fifth in batting average in the league at .274.
Scotty Dubrule had the top batting average on the roster, though he did not qualify for the league leaders in the category with just 51 games played. Dubrule hit .374 in those 51 games and at one point had a league-best 31-game on-base streak. He drove in 21. He had two 15-game hit streaks. Bralin Jackson slashed .323/.356/.450 with his aforementioned 68 RBI while Trevor Casanova was the other qualified hitter at .300 for a batting average or better. Casanova drove in 32. Hector Roa, who will end the year tied for first in franchise history in home runs (57) and first in RBI (260), drove in 59 to go with 12 homers, 14 doubles and four three baggers. Andrew Czech hit 15 home runs while Grant Heyman and Joe Campagna both hit 11. Heyman was the only one other than Jackson and Roa with 50 or more RBI (52).
The pitching staff was paced by Hennen but had several other key contributors throughout the season. Ben Vicini was 9-0 in 24 games as a true rookie from Seton Hill University and had a 2.03 ERA. BJ Sabol hit a rough patch but hasn't been scored on in his last 13 appearances (ranging back to August 10). Daren Osby, who won a Frontier League title in 2018 with Joliet, had a 3.76 ERA in 19 starts. Rob Whalen, a former big leaguer, figures to be a big piece of the staff in the playoff run. In four appearances in the regular season after signing in Washington, Whalen allowed three runs and fanned 18 over 15.1 innings. Jesus Balaguer, Kevin McNorton, Zach Strecker, Boshers, Keven Pimentel, Dan Kubiuk and McKenzie Mills all will need to be solid for Washington to make a run as well. Kubiuk was scored on only three times in 21 innings after coming over from Winnipeg while Strecker set the new league career saves record and finishes with 74 saves. He led the team with 51 appearances in the 96 games.
HOW THEY GOT HERE:
Schaumburg defeated Florence 3 games to 1 in the Midwestern Conference FLDS
Game 1 - SCH def. FLO 5-1 (at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg, IL)
Kyle Arjona spun seven innings of one-run ball and allowed six hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in his Schaumburg playoff debut to help pace the Boomers to a series lead of 1-0. Jack Snyder picked up a two-inning save while the Boomers got RBI from Quincy Nieporte, Braxton Davidson, Brett Milazzo, Angelo Gumbs and Nick Oddo in the victory. Jared Cheek suffered the loss for Florence, yielding three runs (two earned) on four hits in five innings of work. He fanned seven. Nieporte had two hits as did Gumbs, while Davidson led the charge with three hits, including a double, Schaumburg's only extra-base-hit of the contest.
Game 2 - FLO def. SCH 4-3 (at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg, IL)
Luis Pintor's two-run double in the seventh proved to be the difference as Florence tied the series at a game apiece in game 2 at Wintrust Field. It was one of six hits for Florence, who won despite being outhit in the second game of the series. No Y'all had a multi-hit performance, while Quincy Nieporte had the only one for Schaumburg (2-for-3). Matt McGarry, Chase Dawson and Clint Hardy all doubled in the loss for the Boomers while Dawson, Nieporte and Alberto Schmidt notched a singular RBI each. Schaumburg led 3-2 after five innings. Geoff Bramblett allowed four hits and two runs over 5.1 innings in his start but didn't get a decision. Schaumburg scored all three of its runs off Johnathon Tripp before he gave way to Alex Wagner, who picked up the win after working a scoreless sixth inning. Darrell Thompson suffered the loss after yielding the Pintor two-run double.
Game 3 - SCH def. FLO 12-2 (at Y'alls Ballpark in Florence, KY)
It was all Boomers in Game 3 as Schaumburg got itself to one win away from the FLCS with a dominant victory, 12-2. Schaumburg pounded out 16 hits and led 9-0 before Florence got on the board. Quincy Nieporte had three hits, scored twice and drove in a run with a solo homer, his first of the postseason. Angelo Gumbs and Nick Oddo also homered in the victory. Gumbs drove in two, as did Oddo, Luke Becker and Matt Bottcher. Clint Hardy had three hits along with Gumbs and Nieporte. Bottcher had two and walked twice. Ryan Middendorf was excellent as well. He went the distance and allowed four hits and two earned runs while he walked two and fanned seven. Edgar Martinez suffered the loss for Florence while Frank Valentino also gave up six runs.
Game 4 - SCH def. FLO 7-5 (at Y'alls Ballpark in Florence, KY)
Schaumburg scored three times in the first before Florence fought back over the next three innings to take a 4-3 lead that turned out to be short-lived. Schaumburg notched two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and an insurance tally in the eighth en route to the win. Braxton Davidson, Angelo Gumbs and Matt Bottcher each had two hits while Davidson and Clint Hardy each drove in two. Both guys hit a home run in the Schaumburg win. Andrew Dean allowed four runs over 2.1 innings of work before the Boomers used four pitchers to get through the rest of the contest. Thomas Nicoll earned the save.
Overall - Schaumburg was paced by Matt Bottcher (4-for-7), Quincy Nieporte (8-for-16), Angelo Gumbs (8-for-16) and Braxton Davidson (6-for-16) in the series offensively. Nick Oddo added four hits, Clint Hardy five and Chase Dawson four. The Boomers hit five home runs and walked 11 times to 32 punchouts. Schaumburg hit .315 as a team in the four games. On the mound, Jack Snyder, Thomas Nicoll and Jake Joyce were not scored on. The first two there pitched in two games with Snyder totaling four innings, a reliever high for the Boomers in the series. No pitcher allowed more than four runs (Andrew Dean) and the staff combined to fan 35 hitters and walk only 10 in 36 innings of work.
Washington defeated Équipe Québec 3 games to 2 in the Can-Am Conference FLDS
Game 1 - ÉQ def. WSH 9-0 (at Wild Things Park in Washington, PA)
It was all Équipe Québec in the series opener as the visitors and Atlantic Champs bested Washington 9-0. Washington had only two hits in the loss: one from Scotty Dubrule and one from Andrew Czech. David Glaude and Jeffry Parra both homered for Équipe Québec, which saw every starter get at least one hit. LP Pelletier, Connor Panas, Jonathan Lacroix and Jesse Hodges (2) joined Parra and Glaude (2) in the RBI department. Rob Whalen suffered the loss for Washington after allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits in four frames. He walked three and fanned two. McKenzie Mills allowed two runs and Dan Kubiuk allowed one in relief while Ben Vicini pitched two scoreless innings. Jared Mortensen pitched seven shutout frames for Équipe Québec before Marshall Shill and Nick Horvath combined to finish the shutout.
Game 2 - WSH def. ÉQ 4-3 (at Wild Things Park in Washington, PA)
The visitors struck first again and took a 2-0 lead before Washington scored in the fourth inning to get on the board in the series on a Hector Roa RBI single. Gift Ngoepe homered to extend Équipe Québec's lead in the seventh inning to 3-1 before Grant Heyman tied the contest in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-run homer. After BJ Sabol pitched his second shutout inning in his pro playoff debut, Nick Ward lifted a walk-off double to left center to score Joe Campagna, who had failed to get a sac bunt down but reached and then went to third on a failed back pick attempt from Jeffry Parra that got past first and up the line. Sabol got the win while Andrew Case suffered the loss. Ryan Hennen tossed 6.1 innings of three-run ball (two earned) in the start for Washington. He yielded six hits and fanned six.
Game 3 - ÉQ def. WSH 3-2 (at Stade Canac in Québec City, Québec, Canada)
Washington scored the first two runs of the game in the fourth after Miguel Cienfuegos and Daren Osby were filthy through three innings of work. Grant Heyman singled home a fourth-inning run and a double play off Hector Roa's bat brought home the second for the Things. Équipe Québec got a two-run single from Jesse Hodges on a 3-2 pitch against Osby in the fifth and then took the lead in the sixth on a run-scoring base hit by Jeffry Parra. Osby ended up suffering a tough-luck loss as Washington was unable to tie the game late against the combo of Cienfuegos, Andrew Case and Evan Rutckyj, who earned the save. Cienfuegos allowed two runs on four hits with three punchouts in seven innings while Osby worked 7.1 frames with six hits, three runs and eight strikeouts. Bralin Jackson hit two missiles for doubles in the game, one of which was a book-rule two-bagger.
Game 4 - WSH def. ÉQ 5-3 (at Stade Quillorama in Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada)
Équipe Québec tallied the game's first run against Alex Boshers in the third inning of the contest and threatened for more after a fielder's choice throw home from Andrew Czech was late getting there to try and nab Jonathan Lacroix trying to score. Ruben Castro picked up an RBI on the play before the bases were loaded with one out after an infield single but Équipe Québec didn't get any more thanks to good work by Boshers on the bump. Nick Ward softly lined a ball to left for a two-run single in the fifth to give Washington a 2-1 lead before Andrew Czech deposited a two-strike pitch to right to score Bralin Jackson in the sixth making it 3-1. Boshers' day ended after five innings. He allowed four hits and one run with four strikeouts and didn't walk a batter. Ben Vicini yielded two runs in the sixth to the hosts to tie the game on RBI hits from Gift Ngoepe and Connor Panas. Ultimately, it was Tristan Peterson's two-run double up the third-base and left-field line that gave Washington the difference-making pair of runs. BJ Sabol earned a victory after going two innings plus. Zach Strecker gave up a soft hit but got two fielder's choices to end the game and get the save. Evan Rutckyj took the loss.
Game 5 - WSH def. ÉQ 4-0 (at Stade Canac in Québec City, Québec, Canada)
Washington scored four times in the fourth inning with the first six hitters of the frame all reaching base. The first five reached via singles. Bralin Jackson was the third to do so and drove in two with his liner to left. Grant Heyman knocked in a run before Hector Roa grounded a ball at Jesse Hodges at third for an RBI and reached when Hodges couldn't field it cleanly. Washington didn't get any more in the frame and loaded the bases again later in the game but couldn't score. Meanwhile in a redemption performance, former big leaguer Rob Whalen was dominant. In all, Whalen allowed five hits but didn't walk or hit a batter over eight shutout innings. He fanned 11, a new career high, passing his 10 punchouts on July 23, 2013 while he was with the Kingsport Mets against the Elizabethton Twins in rookie ball. BJ Sabol finished the game by punching out the side in his fourth-straight appearance in the series. Trevor Casanova and Bralin Jackson each had two hits in the victory.
Overall - Washington was paced offensively by Andrew Czech's five hits in 16 trips, while Trevor Casanova and Bralin Jackson each had four hits in the series. Three more players, Hector Roa, Nick Ward and Grant Heyman, each had three hits in the series victory, but Washington managed just a .174 team batting average in the series with one home run and seven doubles. Washington's hitters walked 18 times and fanned 36 times. BJ Sabol led the way in the pen with four appearances and didn't yield a run in 5.2 innings. He fanned eight and walked two and didn't allow a hit. Sabol, who wasn't with the Things (IL) during the playoff run in 2018, was in the midst of his first four pro playoff appearances in the series. He picked up two wins from the pen. Zach Strecker faced just three batters in his lone appearance but got a save, while Rob Whalen ended up with 12 innings and 13 punchouts to a 3.75 ERA and a 1-1 record in his two starts. Daren Osby, Ryan Hennen and Alex Boshers all turned in good starts for the Things, the new Can-Am Conference champs.
FACTOIDS AND NUGGETS:
-Schaumburg will be looking for its fourth championship since joining the Frontier League in 2012. The Boomers won in 2013 in their second season in four games over Lake Erie after defeating Florence (sweep) in the FLDS. Schaumburg followed that up with a title in 2014 to go back-to-back. The Boomers beat Lake Erie in the wild card before ousting Southern Illinois (2-1) in the divisional round and River City (3-1) in the Championship Series. Schaumburg added its third title in 2017 by defeating Florence, who had ousted Washington, three games to one in the FLCS. Schaumburg knocked out Evansville in four games in that season's FLDS round.
-Washington has never won a Frontier League title since joining the league in 2002 and despite three FLCS appearances. In the team's inaugural season in 2002, the Things lost to Richmond in four games as the Roosters took the crown after Washington bested Kalamazoo in the first round 2-0. Washington then beat Gateway in a sweep in 2007's first round before falling in five games to Windy City in the FLCS. The Things last appeared in the FLCS in 2018, falling in five games to the Joliet Slammers.
-This is the third time the Frontier League playoffs have included both the Boomers and Wild Things (2014, 2017 and 2021) but the two have never met in the postseason. It's the first head-to-head meeting this season for the two. Schaumburg leads the all-time series 39-36.
-Tom Vaeth is in his first season as the skipper of the Wild Things. He has won three titles as a coach (hitting coach) with the American Association's Winnipeg Goldeyes (2012, 2016, 2017). Jamie Bennett has been with the Boomers at the helm since the inaugural Boomers' season in 2012, so he owns all three titles as manager.
^ Records and ERA for pitchers are playoff stats, pitchers and game times are subject to change
* denotes if necessary games
Game 1 (at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg, IL) - Tuesday, September 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. CT
Probables: LHP Ryan Hennen (WSH) (0-0, 2.84 ERA) vs RHP Kyle Arjona (SCH) (1-0, 1.28 ERA)
Game 2 (at Wintrust Field in Schaumburg, IL) - Wednesday, September 22 at 7:30 p.m. ET / 6:30 p.m. CT
Probables: RHP Daren Osby (WSH) (0-1, 3.68 ERA) vs RHP Geoff Bramblett (SCH) (0-0, 3.37 ERA)
Game 3 (at Wild Things Park in Washington, PA) - Friday, September 24 at 7:05 p.m. ET / 6:05 p.m. CT
Probables: RHP Ryan Middendorf (SCH) (1-0, 2.00 ERA) vs RHP Alex Boshers (WSH) (0-0, 1.80 ERA)
Game 4* (at Wild Things Park in Washington, PA) - Saturday, September 25 at 7:05 p.m. ET / 6:05 p.m. CT
Probables: TBA vs RHP Rob Whalen (WSH) (1-1, 3.75 ERA)
Game 5* (at Wild Things Park in Washington, PA) - Sunday, September 26 at 5:35 p.m. ET / 4:35 p.m. CT
Probables: TBA vs TBA
HOW TO WATCH/ATTEND
All of the games will be broadcast on Frontier League TV by the Wild Things Baseball Network with Washington voice Kyle Dawson, while the first two will also be broadcast via the Schaumburg Boomers' FLTV feed with long-time Frontier League broadcaster and Voice of the Boomers Tim Calderwood. Frontier League TV is available on the league's app, which is available on the Apple and Google Play stores and at frontierleaguetv.com. There is a subscription requirement. The home feed on FLTV is multiple cameras. The Wild Things Baseball Network is a single-camera, static shot on the road with audio overlayed and a full scorebug available.
Tickets are available for both locations at the team's respective ticket websites. For the games in Washington, fans can head to wildthingstickets.com to secure their seats for just $5 per ticket. Parking is still free.