Saturday fans questioned whether the Fightins would take the field after high water surrounded the First Energy Stadium for much of the afternoon. But the skies cleared just in time for the 7:35 first pitch of game three of the Eastern League Semifinals.
It was worth the wait.
Reading clinched a place in the 2015 Eastern League Division Championships with a 4-2 win over Binghamton to take the series 3-0.
The Fightins took game one and two of the semifinal series with ease after battling the same team in their last home-series of the regular season, where they clinched both a playoff spot and the division championship against the B- Mets.
With a two-game lead over their Eastern League opponents, the Reading Fightins came into Saturday’s game hoping to clinch another milestone in front of “the best crowd in baseball.”
Reading first baseman Brock Stassi said the win over the B-Mets was fitting, as the team has beaten the Eastern League opponent to earn the three biggest milestones in recent Fightins history.
“We partied pretty hard the other two [celebrations], but we are moving on and our season is continuing so it’s definitely special,” Stassi said. “It’s awesome to bring this to the city of Reading and the baseballtown fans who have been with us all year.”
Nick Williams, who has been with the team just over a month, has been exceptional for the Fightins, hitting .320 in 22 games as the leadoff hitter. Saturday, Williams hit a two-run homer to give Reading an early 4-0 lead.
Williams was traded to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal and said he is excited to be playing in a place like Reading, on the way to his first “real championship.” The centerfielder said winning a ring in rookie ball was much different compared to what the Fightins have a chance to accomplish.
“We’re that much closer to getting a ring,” Williams said. “Coming here, getting traded, and coming to a winning team. It’s been great. This one’s for the books right here.”
J.P Crawford went 1-for-2 with a solo homerun and was walked three times. Additionally, the shortstop made a dazzling play in the fifth inning after botching a routine groundball. After fumbling a grounder hit by Amed Rosario who made it safely to first, starting pitcher BenLively struck out Victor Cruzado, as Rosario headed to second base. Catcher Andrew Knapp fired the ball to Crawford who leaped over the runner to apply the tag.
Lively threw five innings allowing two earned runs off four hits. He struck out six batters and allowed one walk. He nearly earned his first homerun of the season in style, with a long ball to center with the bases loaded. Binghamton’s Joe Benson denied the pitcher a big hit with a running grab.
The right-handed pitcher is known to don a scuba suit for messy clubhouse celebrations (he wore it under his uniform for the entire game when the Fightins clinched a playoff spot.) Saturday, Lively did not wear his suit, but was ready for another celebration.
All season, the Fightins have worn down starting pitchers in the early innings. Manager Dusty Wathan attributes that as one of their greatest weapons as a team. Saturday, however, the Fightins out-did themselves, forcing Binghamton starting pitcher Gabriel Ynoa, who spoiled the Fightins first attempt to clinch the division back on September 1st, out of the game after just 2 1/3 innings. The right-hander faced 16 batters through two innings, throwing 71 pitches before being relieved early in the third.
The Bowie Baysocks beat Altoona in game four of the Eastern League Western Semifinals, with a 3-0 decision to take the series 3-1. The Fightins will play the Baysocks in the division championship series, scheduled to begin Tuesday at First Energy Stadium.