For the first time since 2008, the Washington Wild Things are in the Frontier League Championship Series. The team is making its third-overall appearance in the FLCS, with the two previous trips resulting in tough losses in 2002 and 2007. This season, Washington captured its first East Division Championship since 2007, and became the first team since River City in 2011 to have the league’s MVP and Pitcher of the Year in the same season, when center fielder James Harris was named MVP and left hander Thomas Dorminy was named Pitcher of the Year.
The Wild Things are here largely in part to the league’s highest run-scoring offense, which also finished in the top five in six other major offensive categories. Three Wild Things finished with batting averages in the top 20 of the league: Hector Roa (.309), James Harris (.305) and Roman Collins (.298). Four Things had four players hit 20 or more doubles. Four had double-digit home runs and five had 50 or more RBI. Only 26 players in the entire league can say that. The team also boasts one of the league’s best relief pitchers in two-time all-star Zach Strecker on top of having Dorminy and several other pitchers who have had successful seasons.
The Wild Things come to the FLCS off an FLDS sweep of the Evansville Otters. It was the first playoff series sweep in the League since 2015, when Traverse City defeated River City to win the title in the FLCS. The series win was Washington’s first playoff series win since 2007, when the Wild Things swept the Gateway Grizzlies to advance to the FLCS. Hector Roa, Carter McEachern, Roman Collins and Reydel Medina all had four hits in the FLDS against the Otters, while Roman Collins led the unit with five RBI. Hector Roa and McEachern both had three. Thomas Dorminy pitched game one at Bosse Field and allowed one unearned run over seven innings, while Chase Cunningham earned a quality start in game two and Michael Austin tossed six scoreless in game three with seven strikeouts. Strecker appeared in all three games and did not allow a run in three total innings of work.
Led by six All Stars and several others who played at that level, the Wild Things look to capture their first Frontier League Championship in their first ever playoff meeting with the Joliet Slammers, whom the Wild Things defeated seven times in 12 tries this season. In six games at Wild Things Park between the two teams this season, Washington was 4-2. In the six played at Route 66 Stadium, Washington was 3-3.
The Joliet Slammers presented by ATI Physical Therapy will return to the Frontier League Championship for the first time since their inaugural 2011 championship season. In their first season the Slammers were able to capture the league championship by defeating the River City Rascals. It is ironic that this season it was the Rascals who the Slammers defeated to advance to the championship.
Great starting pitching, defense, and timely hitting are the keys to postseason success and that is exactly what Jeff Isom’s squad was able to accomplish this past week against the Rascals. After a heartbreaking loss in Game 1 the Slammers now had to take 3 of 4 with the final 3 games being on the road with weather causing some havoc along the way. Game two featured not one but two rain delays as Joliet evened up the series at one win a piece before heading down to Missouri.
Slammers’ third-basemen Danny Zardon provided the thump with 2 big home runs. A 2-run go-ahead home run in Game 4 to take the lead late and even the series and set up the decisive Game 5. Slammers had struck early for a 1-0 lead and their ace Liam O’Sullivan pitching a gem. In an elimination game every pitch and every play is critical. Zardon was able to take some weight off of his team’s backs by slugging a 3 run home run to make it 4-0 as the Slammers would tack on some more insurance and capture the series win to advance to the Championship Series.
When you see a team remain loose through the grind of a baseball season and the pressure of the postseason it starts at the top. Slammers’ manager Jeff Isom was given the Roger Hanners Award for Manager of the Year. Isom received this honor in 2016 as manager of Joliet as well as in 2002 as Manager of Washington. Isom wants his guys to be loose, come to him whenever they need to, and most of all have fun. The viral internet video of the “Baby Shark” dance has taken over the Slammers dugout as the Slammers and Slammers fans have come together for some fun antics. If you give to the game the game will give back to you and Isom has been able to supply the support and opportunity for these ballplayers to succeed.
The head-to-head against Washington this season has favored the East Division champion Wild Things who edged Joliet this season winning four of six. Washington pitching has held Slammers batters to just a .187 batting average, while Joliet pitchers posted a 3.83 ERA and held Washington batters to a .242 batting average. Joliet’s Justin Garcia has had great success against the Wild Things hitting .273 with four home runs and 9 runs batted in.
The Slammers look to gear up against the Wild Things who have been dominant all season long and their professional wrestling inspired energy has resulted in a “Glorious” season thus far. Joliet has remained consistent and put together a franchise best midseason 10 game winning streak to put them into the playoff picture. A energetic and red hot Slammers ballclub gears up for what should be a classic as Joliet looks to win their 2nd franchise Frontier League Championship.
The 2018 Frontier League Championship will open up with this best of 5 series kicks off on Tuesday at 6:05 CST at Wild Things Park in Washington, PA. The series will shift to Joliet for Game 3 at 7:05 pm CST and if necessary Game 4 on Saturday at 6:05 pm CST. If the series goes to a Game 5 that will be held on Monday in Washington at 6:05 pm CST.