Curve hoping for a repeat of 2010
Tonight: Altoona at Trenton, Game 1, Eastern League Championship Series, 7 p.m.
Pitchers: Curve LHP Brandon Waddell (3-3, 3.55) vs. Thunder RHP Dillon Tate (1-2, 3.24)
Notable: Remaining order for Curve’s rotation in the series: RHP J.T. Brubaker, RHP Mitch Keller, RHP Alex McRae, RHP Austin Coley
By Cory Giger
The Curve are hoping history repeats itself when they face Trenton in the Eastern League Championship Series.
Seven years ago, the best team in Curve history knocked off Trenton for the franchise’s only EL title. Starting tonight, Altoona will try to take down a Thunder club that has had an incredible season, with more wins (92) than any other team in all the minor leagues.
With regards to history repeating itself, a slew of Curve players who already have won minor league championships hope to be back on top when all is said and done this week.
Twelve players who will be active in this series against Trenton also were active in the playoffs for last year’s Bradenton team that won a high-A Florida State League title. They are: Kevin Kramer, Wyatt Mathisen, Pablo Reyes, Michael Suchy, Jerrick Suiter, Tanner Anderson, J.T. Brubaker, Austin Coley, Yeudy Garcia, Mitch Keller, Sean Keselica and Tate Scioneaux.
“We’ve got a group of guys that knows how to win and on last year’s team that won it together,” Scioneaux, the closer, said. “We’ve got a good bunch of guys that know how to win together and know how to play in the playoffs together.”
Going back two years to low-A West Virginia’s South Atlantic League title, six current Curve players celebrated a championship: Anderson, Brubaker, Scioneaux, Brandon Waddell, Mitchell Tolman and Casey Hughston.
“It feels like they know what to expect,” manager Michael Ryan said of his players’ understanding of playoff baseball. “They know what they have to do. … They’re very well prepared, and they know what they’re in for, instead of the ghost look or not knowing what they’re about to go through.”
The Curve showed no signs of jitters in their first-round series sweep against Bowie. The Baysox went 14-5 against Altoona during the regular season, but they had no chance against the Curve pitching staff, which allowed just five runs in the three games against the EL’s best offense.
“It’s awesome that we can do it with the same people and really enjoy it together,” reliever Anderson said of this year’s success. “Going to the playoffs really brings you together. Even though you’re a full season in and you expect to be together as a team, going to the playoffs is huge.”
As the players on this year’s team learned, getting to the postseason is much different than it was at Bradenton or the lower levels.
“This year’s a little different because we played a full season with no halves,” third baseman Mathisen said. “So it was a little different having to grind out a whole season to win the division instead of it being only 70 games.”
Beating Bowie was one thing, but taking down Trenton figures to be a major challenge. The Thunder’s pitching staff was even better than Altoona’s this year, posting a fantastic 2.83 team ERA, and they even threw a no-hitter in one game during their 3-1 series victory over Binghamton last week.
Trenton went 8-5 against the Curve, but five of those wins were by just one run, and Altoona played the Thunder tough all season.
“There’s some teams that you play well against and you have that thing over them kind of during the season, and then there’s others you struggle with,” Trenton manager Bobby Mitchell said during a visit to Altoona last month.
“(The Curve are) a very well-prepared team also. I know Mike does a great job preparing the team, and I’m sure the organization does, too.”
The Pirates most certainly care about winning in the minor leagues, and they’ve got the talent at the Double-A level to do so.
“Having guys that have won it before and know what it takes, it’s a huge advantage,” first baseman Suiter said.
“We’ve been through it, been through the ups and downs of a season together. The core group of guys that were together in Bradenton last year, with us being together for so long, knowing how to pick each other up, what guys need that kick in the butt or that hug, with us being so close it’s a huge advantage.”