|AUBURN The Auburn Doubledays have completed a regular season for the ages. They set the franchise record in wins (56), led the league in hitting, pitching, and fielding, and conquered the Pinckney Division by a whopping 18 games. Still, their work is not done. For the season to be considered an unqualified success, Auburn still has four more wins to put together. The Doubledays head to Williamsport tonight to begin their best-of-three New York-Penn League semifinal playoff series against the Crosscutters. Game-time is 7:05. Games two and three (if necessary) will be at Falcon Park this weekend.
Either Oneonta or Brooklyn would await Auburn should it reach the finals. It was Oneonta that eliminated the Doubledays in the semifinals of last season's playoffs. A dominating year naturally leads to raised postseason expectations, and anything less than the league championship would be a letdown for this talented group. "Anytime you have a year like we've had, there is more pressure to win," said Auburn catcher Paul Richmond, "but it's more of a pressure we put on ourselves. We've done so much, and for us not to win it all, we'd feel disappointed more than anything." Auburn took two of three in Williamsport earlier this season.
The Doubledays and Crosscutters sport the two best staffs in the league. Auburn edged out Williamsport, 2.52-2.64, for the team ERA title, and tonight's two starters finished 1-2 in the individual ERA race. Kurt Isenberg (7-2) takes the mound for the Doubledays. The lefthander struck out 57 to go along with his pace-setting 1.63 ERA. Williamsport counters with Yoann Torrealba, who went 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA on the season. Tom Mastny (8-0, 2.68 ERA, 68 strikeouts) will start game two for Auburn against Paul Maholm (2-1, 1.83 ERA). Josh Banks (7-2), who led the league with 81 strikeouts, will start game three for the Doubledays if there is one. Auburn's bullpen is one of the deepest and most talented in the league, which is a good thing considering that many of Auburn's starters are straight out of college and will likely be on pitch counts throughout the playoffs in order to protect their arms. Bubbie Buzachero (1-1, 1.54, 13 saves), Shaun Marcum (1-0, 1.32, eight saves, 47 strikeouts in 34 innings), and Davis Romero (4-1, 2.38, 53 strikeouts in 41 innings) are just a few of the arms that Auburn manager Dennis Holmberg can turn to.Williamsport's relief corps is led by Jonathan Schneider (six saves) and Joshua Sharpless (five saves).
Here is where the Doubledays hold a sizable advantage over the Crosscutters - and just about everyone else in the NY-P League. Auburn finished miles ahead of Williamsport in batting average (.283 to .265), runs (454 to 354), and homers (56 to 20). Spearheading Auburn's attack is clean-up hitting first baseman Vito Chiaravalloti, who's fresh off winning the league's first triple crown in 31 years. Chiavaralloti (.351, 12 homers, 67 RBIs) is hardly the only bat to fear in the Auburn lineup, however. The Doubledays have three other regulars - Carlo Cota, Erik Kratz, and Mike Galloway - hitting above .300. Ryan Roberts (eight homers) and A.J. Porfirio (seven homers) provide added pop. The Crosscutters are a bit lacking in the power department - Andrew Chance leads the team with four homers - but they have some solid contact hitters. Nyjer Morgan batted .343 and was the lone threat to Chiaravalloti's triple crown quest. Morgan also swiped 26 bases. Anthony Boccino batted .326 to finish fifth in the league in the category.
The CITIZEN 5 September 2003