Thursday’s celebration was fit for champions. Eastern League Division champions to be exact.
Reading clinched their first division title in 15 years with a 2-1 thriller over Binghamton. But it took a little longer than the team had hoped.
“Any time you can do something that hasn’t been done in 15 years it’s a good thing,” Manager Dusty Wathan said. “I’m proud to be the manager here in Reading and I’m proud to be here for four years… I think it’s a special place and hopefully a couple more celebrations are to come.”
After clinching a playoff berth Monday, J.P. Crawford, who has never celebrated “big league” style, was eager to celebrate winning the division title Tuesday, just 24 hours after the team’s poolside playoff celebration. But Binghamton bats spoiled the fun for the Fightins, who were out-scored 23-10 between Tuesday and Wednesday’s losses, making the team wait for its next celebration.
Finally, in front of a crowd of 6,373 fans in their 2015 regular season home finale, the Fightins could celebrate like champions.
Thanks to a two-run single by the “Broadway” Charlie Wagner Unsung Hero Award recipient, Harold Martinez, Reading overcame a one-run deficit that led to the exciting victory over their biggest Eastern League competition.
“I’m very grateful,” Martinez said “This is something I’ve always prayed for, to be able to win the division and to make it to the playoffs in the minor leagues… It’s been a lot of fun and this is a special group of guys. We’re just all very excited and humbled about winning the division.”
It was not easy, though. The Fightins registered just three hits in the win as they faced a rare knuckleball pitcher, Mickey Jannis, who threw seven innings and struck out seven batters.
“A lot of these young guys have never faced a knuckleball guy before,” Wathan said. “But I thought we did a good job sticking to our plan and sticking with our at-bats, and it ended up coming up at the end and getting a big hit from the unsung hero.”
Ethan Martin also had a successful night against Binghamton, throwing a no-hitter through five innings before he was relieved by Ryan O’Sullivan to start the sixth. Due to pitch count restrictions Martin was taken out early despite having the no-hitter.
The Fightins will face Binghamton again in the first round of the playoffs next week, as Reading hosts games three, four and five of the series, starting Friday, September 11.
“Being home is very important,” Martinez said. “We feel like we have the best home field advantage in the league.”