The New York - Penn League championship begins tonight with the State College Spikes and the Hudson Valley Renegades. The Spikes and Renegades had the best records this season with the Spikes edging the Renegades out by one game. The Renegades won the season series 2-1, winning the series in State College. In both their histories, the Renegades have two championships (1999 and 2012) and the Spikes have one (2014). For those unfamiliar with the format it is a best of three set, with the home field advantage going in games 2 and if necessary three - in this year's case State College has home field advantage. Let's examine the 2016 NYPL Championship.
Both teams were three and four respectively in hitting this season with the Renegades at .255 and the Spikes at .254. Overall in terms of on-base percentage and slugging percentage, the Spikes edge out the Renegades ..335 to .329 and .362 to .343. The Renegades have been led by the first basemen Nathaniel Lowe. He has been the leader of the offense and the go to man when Hudson Valley has needed a big hit. He exhibited that this past week in game two against the Lowell Spinners with a game winning two run home run in the bottom of the sixth to give the Renegades a 5-3 lead and head off to the championship. For the season Lowe is hitting .300/.382/.437 with four home runs and 40 runs batted in. Most importantly for the Renegades is how hot he has been in his last ten games, hitting .444 and has a 12 game hitting streak going into the NYPL championship.
Jeremy Martinez and Tommy Edman have led the way for State College this season. Martinez, a catcher and fourth round selection in this past years draft, is hitting .325/.419/.433 with 84 total bases. Also, he has caught 17 of 20 base runners, an 85 % success rate. Edman, sixth round selection out of Stanford in the 2016 draft, is hitting ..286/.400/.427 with 19 stolen bases, leading the Spikes this season.
Pitching has been the key to both teams' successes, but none more than Hudson Valley. The Renegades lead the NYPL with a 2.56 ERA. A few weeks ago I profiled the Renegades team and had this about the staff:
"The pitching staff has been the backbone of the 2016 Renegades and will carry them into the playoffs in a few weeks. Travis Ott, Spencer Moran, and Jose Alonzo have been the top pitchers this season, but really the entire staff has been excellent. Ott leads the team in innings pitched with 54.2 and only has a 0.49 ERA. Last night Ott threw five shutout innings to earn a win over the Connecticut Tigers. Also, Ott leads the team with 56 strikeouts. Moran has had a solid season, he is 4-1 with a 2.06 ERA. He has a 31-21 strikeout to walk ratio and opponents are only hitting .190 against him. Jose Alonzo leads the Renegades in saves this season with three, but he has made four starts as well. Alonzo has a 20-5 strikeout to walk ratio with opponents hitting .198 against him."
There is little doubt how important pitching is, especially in a short series and the Renegades have the advantage in that department. Carson Cross has been the most consistent starter on the staff for State College, with a 3.24 ERA and a 5-6 record. In 80.2 innings, Cross has 27 walks and 53 strikeouts. Cross threw five shutout innings in game three against Staten Island, helping to lead the way for the Spikes. Connor Jones is a potential weapon out of the bullpen for State College against the Renegades. Jones has been used out of the bullpen after a heavy workload at Virginia before being drafted in the 2nd round this past June. Jones contributed two shutout innings in a game two loss.
Pitching matchups have not been announced, but here is how I would match it up if I had a say:
Game 1 - SC: Bryan Dobzanski vs. HV: Travis Ott
Game 2 - HV: Spencer Moran vs. SC: Jordan Hicks
Game 3 ( if nec.) - HV: Adrian Navas vs. Carson Cross
Prediction: Renegades in 3.