The Brandon Cloverleafs and Brandon Marlins felt they were a good matchup for each other in the Manitoba Senior Baseball League final, and they’ve lived up to the hype with the Cloverleafs winning three of the first five tightly-contested games.
Bragging rights and the league title will be decided this weekend with Game 6 set for today at 7 p.m. and Game 7, if necessary, going Sunday at 7 p.m. at Andrews Field, and both teams are expecting tough games to determine the league champion.
“It’s not easy on the heart, but at the same time we knew we were getting into a tight series with the Marlins,” Cloverleafs head coach Ryan Potter said.
“They have a very good ball club and all year we were very close all season long. One point separated us in the regular-season standings and only one game difference in the five games in the regular season. They’re a team we match up very well with and it’s been fun having to compete every night like this.”
The Marlins won three of the teams’ five regular-season meetings, but the Cloverleafs have turned the table in the final by taking three of the first five. Four of the games were decided by three runs or less and, although all the games are played at Andrews Field, the home side has won every contest.
Jeff Wiebe, the Marlins’ head coach, hopes that trend continues today, and he isn’t too worried about trailing in the best-of-seven series. He has his two best pitchers — Paul Thompson and Sam McNeice — healthy and ready to start the games on the weekend, which he believes will cut down the Cloverleafs’ offence.
The Marlins gave up nine and eight runs in their last two games.
“The guys who are pitching are healthy and on their regular rest, so as long as we score some runs, I’m confident that we’ll have the ability to be in both of those games,” he said. “Both games that got out of hand, we had pitchers coming in on short rest. You can tell by the velocity that they weren’t throwing as hard as they normally are.
“I think the run scoring will go down these next couple games. I can’t see into the future, but what I expect is a closer and low-scoring game.”
This the first time the Marlins have been in the MSBL final since 2009, when they fell in six games to the Cloverleafs. Wiebe will be happy with a championship or second place if his team plays well.
Potter, however, has his eyes firmly set on the Cloverleafs’ sixth title in nine years. He’s not sure who will start on the mound this weekend, but if the team keeps swinging hot bats then Potter believes the Cloverleafs will celebrate a another championship.
“I think we need to play good defence,” he said. “That’s been the biggest fault in this whole series is we made some mistakes and allowed them to have runs that aren’t earned. I think if we make them earn their runs, then our pitching has been really good and our offence is starting to come around.
“We’re starting to hit the ball like we did all year. The first few games in the series we weren’t hitting the ball real well, but the last couple games we started to have better at-bats and hit the ball better. If we can improve our defence a bit and continue to play offensively the way we are then we’ll be fine.”