Over the past week, the Florida State League Playoffs were in full swing. Although the Palm Beach Cardinals were eliminated early on, there were still some exciting moments. In the final game of the season, a player with a last name familiar for Cardinals’ fans brought some heroics of his own as the Charlotte Stone Crabs won the Championship in dramatic fashion.
Southern Division Championship Series
September 8: Charlotte Stone Crabs (TB) 14 at Palm Beach Cardinals 1
In the Cardinals’ only home game of the Division Championship Series, they were trampled by the Stone Crabs. In spite of their last-place finish in the second half, Charlotte came out swinging and was too much for the underpowered Cardinals.
Corey Littrell earned the game one start to avoid pitching Luke Weaver on short rest, but he wasn’t up to his usual standards as he gave up five runs on 13 hits over 5 1/3 innings. The rest of the pitching staff didn’t fare any better as Cody Schumacher, Nick Lomascolo, and Harley Holt were shelled for nine runs over just 3 2/3 innings.
While the pitching struggled to contain an explosive Charlotte lineup, the Cardinals’ offense stumbled its way to just one run. Left fielder Mason Katz was the only player to reach base twice, going 1-for-2 with a double, a walk, and Palm Beach’s only RBI.
September 9: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6, Palm Beach Cardinals 4
With ace Luke Weaver on the mound for game two of the series, the Cardinals hoped to turn things around and live to see another day. Unfortunately, the Stone Crabs offense showed up again and Weaver’s effort simply wasn’t enough. The young starter allowed four runs on just five hits over six innings while striking out five.
A stellar performance by Luke Voit, who was 3-for-5 with three doubles, a run scored, and two RBI, helped power the Cardinals offense, but it simply wasn’t enough. Kevin Herget allowed two more runs in the eighth, sealing Palm Beach’s loss and ultimately ending the Cardinals’ playoff run early – at just two games.
Northern Division Championship Series
September 8: Daytona Tortugas (CIN) 3, Clearwater Threshers (PHI) 0
In the first game of the Northern Division Championship Series, the Daytona Tortugas stomped the Threshers as starter Amir Garrett provided an outstanding performance. Garrett allowed just a single hit over seven innings, while striking out 12. His counterpart, the Threshers Ricardo Pinto, did not fare so well, giving up three runs over six innings.
Tortugas third baseman Taylor Sparks led the way with a solo home run in the sixth, and the Threshers lost their only away game of the season.
September 9: Daytona Tortugas 2 at Clearwater Threshers 1
The second game of the series was tight, but the Tortugas narrowly edged the Threshers on the strength of their pitching, earning the right to advance to the League Championship Series.
Daytona starter Nick Travieso provided seven strong innings, giving up just one run on six hits and a walk. John Richy pitched well for the Threshers, giving up just one earned run over 6 ? innings, but an error by first baseman Rhys Hoskins led to an unearned run that ultimately cost Clearwater their season.
Shortstop Blake Trahan had the best night for the Tortugas offensively, going 2-for-3 with a couple of singles. Ultimately, the Threshers were unable to keep up with Daytona’s impressive pitching and the Tortugas advanced to the League Championship Series.
League Championship Series
September 10: Charlotte Stone Crabs 1 at Daytona Tortugas 0
The first game of the League Championship Series was a pitchers’ duel that the Stone Crabs Chih-Wei Hu won with eight scoreless innings and nine strikeouts. Jackson Stevens did his best for the Tortugas, but a run in the second inning ultimately marred an otherwise solid seven inning start.
Charlotte left fielder Granden Goetzman had a great offensive performance, going 2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk. Jordan Harrison of the Stone Crabs tossed a perfect ninth inning with one strikeout to earn the save and secure the victory.
September 11: Charlotte Stone Crabs 6 at Daytona Tortugas 1
After a close game in the series opener, the Stone Crabs turned on the offense. Shortstop Pat Blair led the way by going 2-for-4 with a double, a run scored, and three RBI, and left fielder Granden Goetzman contributed three hits of his own.
On the mound for Charlotte, Buddy Borden tossed seven innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out eight. Meanwhile, Seth Varner struggled for the Tortugas, allowing eight hits and four runs (just one earned) over five innings as Daytona dropped the second game of the series.
September 12: Daytona Tortugas 6 at Charlotte Stone Crabs 1
In the third game of the series with their backs against the wall, the Tortugas turned the table on the Stone Crabs with a 6-1 victory of their own. Starter Jake Paulson gave up just two hits and two walks over seven innings to earn the victory.
Right fielder Sebastian Elizalde provided the bulk of Daytona’s offense, going 3-for-4 with a triple, a home run, two runs scored, and four RBI. Hunter Wood didn’t pitch poorly for the Stone Crabs, giving up two runs over five innings, but the bullpen surrendered an additional four runs to keep Charlotte out of the game.
September 13: Charlotte Stone Crabs 3, Daytona Tortugas 2 (13 innings)
Unable to sweep the Tortugas the night before, the Stone Crabs managed to eke out an extra inning victory, walking off in the 13th for their first-ever Florida State League Championship.
After jumping to an early 2-0 lead in the first, Brent Honeywell gave up Charlotte’s early league, allowing two runs over six innings. From there, the two bullpens went at it, trading zeroes all the way through the thirteenth inning, when second baseman Kean Wong -- Kolten’s younger brother -- walked with the bases loaded to give the Charlotte Stone Crabs the win and the Championship.
Thus endeth the 2015 Florida State League season, with the Charlotte Stone Crabs crowned the champions for the first time in team history. The Palm Beach Cardinals had a good run, making it to the first round of the playoffs on the strength of their pitching and second half performance, but ultimately were unable to overcome the injuries and promotions to make it all the way.
Regardless, the season was entertaining, with good stretch runs and some fantastic pitching for the Beach Birds, and there’s always next year. At least that’s what Cubs fans tell me.
Follow Chris Greene on Twitter @PBCBeat.
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