The following is an abridged version of the York Daily Record’s preview of the Atlantic League Championship Series. For the complete version, please check out www.ydr.com.
York knows just how valuable it can be to sign a young, unheralded player from another independent league and see them deliver MVP-type seasons. Scott Grimes seemed to keep scoring runs last season, in York’s first championship season.
Long Island has experienced the same type of push from two young players this season, winning a league-best 78 games (York won 73) in the regular season and sweeping the first- and second-half Liberty Division titles.
Mike Loree, 25, had never pitched above Class A until this year. The former Villanova right-hander went 6-9 with a 6.09 ERA for Newark in 2010. Registering a breakout year under the guidance of Long Island pitching coach Steve Foucault this season, Loree went 14-5 with a 1.98 ERA. He struck out 131 and walked 28 batters.
He earned a late-season minor league deal from the Pittsburgh Pirates, appearing with Double-A Altoona for four games and posting a 1.17 ERA. He returned to the Ducks for the postseason, in the same fashion York’s Val Majewski left the Texas Rangers organization to return to the Revs.
Loree lasted six innings, allowed two runs on eight hits in his only start in the divisional series against Southern Maryland.
Loree will undoubtedly win the league’s pitcher of the year honors when it’s announced later this week.
Outfielder Kraig Binick, 26, topped out his affiliated career with three games at Double-A Bowie in 2009. His first season in independent baseball was nothing special. He batted .289 for Sussex of the Can-Am League last season.
Binick batted a league-high .343 and recorded a league-high on-base percentage of .429 for Long Island this season. He struck out just 35 times in 373 at-bats.
He also batted a team-high .500 (6-for-12) in the divisional playoffs.
The hit man: No batter has been better in the playoffs than York’s Vince Harrison. The third baseman batted .556 (10-for-18) in the divisional series.
Statistical standouts: The championship series will feature the top two hitting clubs in the league in the regular season. (Long Island batted .294; York batted .290.) York and Long Island also ranked in the top three in both pitching and fielding. The series will also feature the top five hitters (Long Island’s Binick and Matt Esquivel; York’s Chris Nowak, Harrison and Ramon Castro) in the regular season.
Never out of it: The Long Island Ducks lineup has provided some tense moments for York this season. Long Island has twice rallied from five-run deficits to beat the Revs. The only other time York has suffered a meltdown of that magnitude came when the Revs squandered a six-run lead against the Road Warriors this year.
Home with the family to be: Revs’ ace Corey Thurman is not expected to travel with the team to Long Island. Thurman pitched in the biggest game of his four-year stay with the Revs in Game 5 of the divisional series, holding Lancaster to one run on three hits. Needing to rest at least three days before his next start, Thurman would not be available to pitch again (assuming there are no rainouts) until Game 3 of the league championship series, scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. start Friday at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
The rest days came at an opportune time as Thurman and his wife, Angela, are expecting the couple’s first child. The baby’s due date was Tuesday. With Thurman unavailable to pitch in the first two games in Long Island, the Revs did not expect him to travel with the team, and he could stay in York awaiting the big day.