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StarBulletin.com

A season all comes down to a few games


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POSTED: Sunday, September 06, 2009

A little more than four months of spring and summer have passed since I left Oahu in April. The weeks of spring training, nearly 100 games and countless hours spent on our team bus navigating the nooks and crannies of the Midwest have brought me to this.

With just six games left in the Frontier League season, not one team had clinched one of the four berths for our league's postseason playoffs entering the final two series of the year.

Believe it or not, five teams were all within a game or so of each other at the top of the league's standings as of last night. Thankfully, we are one of them.

To say we control our own playoff fate would be less than sufficient. After a 5-2 road trip through Evansville, Ind., and Rockford, Ill., last week, we returned home to face the two teams we were competing with for the West Division title, and the automatic playoff bid that comes with it.

We opened our homestand with a three-game set against the Windy City Thunderbolts, the team we shared the division lead with. The first two games went as scripted on our part, as we pulled off a pair of wins.

We quickly fell behind Windy City and their ace Ross Stout, 4-0, in the opener but showed great determination in rallying to hang five runs on Stout and post the 5-4, come-from-behind victory.

The next night, things weren't quite as dramatic, as we rolled to a 9-3 win behind a strong pitching performance from our right-hander Danny Zeffiro. Saving his best performance of the season for our biggest game of the season, Danny outdueled Windy City's tricky lefty Dustin Pease, working into the seventh inning, allowing just an unearned run while posting five strikeouts.

Danny's win vaulted our team's confidence as we inched ever closer to a postseason berth.

But our luck was not as good in the series finale, as we fell in convincing fashion, to drop into yet another tie for first place, this time with the River City Rascals, who swept Evansville to gain a game on us.

As luck would have it, the Rascals are now in town to face off with us for the division title in the very last series of the season. As our league commissioner stated when he rolled into town the other night, people may think we paid the schedule makers to have it set up this way.

We opened the series with the Rascals on Friday with a hard-fought 7-4 loss to fall a game back of first. With a game separating us from Windy City for the final wild-card spot with two games to play, we can take care of our own business with a couple of wins against the Rascals.

It's hard not to think of it this way, but it is make or break time for us. The culmination of the past four months is only hours away, as we await the second game of the biggest series of the year for the Southern Illinois Miners.

I took Friday night's loss hard, as I always do with setbacks this time of the year, but as my fiancee reminded me on the phone, I'm still getting paid to coach professional baseball and we are right in the mix.

Whatever comes of the next two days of our season, the last two days of our regular season, it has been a great atmosphere to play baseball in for the last few weeks. Playing to win, scoreboard watching, doing the math in our heads to figure out what we would need to do to make the postseason. We've recorded our fair share of wins this season. I'm hoping we can pull off a couple more.

 

Brendan Sagara, who played baseball for Leilehua and Hawaii-Hilo, is pitching coach for the Southern Illinois Miners.