Yankees hope to get over hump of BML semifinals
After plenty of success in the Tri-County ranks in recent years, the Northern Yankees transitioned to the Blue Mountain League a year ago with much of the same triumph. In their inaugural BML season, the Yankees were one of the final four teams standing in last year's playoffs.
But a 1-0 series lead in the semifinals against Limeport quickly diminished to a 3-1 series defeat in a matter of days, leaving an uneasy feeling in the Yankees' stomachs.
A year later, the Yankees are ready to put that behind them and are on the verge of an appearance in the championship series. Their series with the MetLife Orioles is at two games apiece with a winner-take-all situation scheduled for Tuesday night, which came after press deadline.
"I know they had a really good run winning a couple of championships in the Tri-County League," said Yankees infielder Nick Rabasco, a Parkland High School graduate. "A lot of the veterans and our coaches really wanted to prove to everyone else that we could win in this league, too. That would be huge if we can get to the finals."
The winner faces either Limeport or Northampton, which are also in a Game 5 situation on Tuesday night.
The Yankees led the series 1-0 and, most recently, 2-1 as of Saturday. They haven't trailed in either of their postseason series. But Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Orioles has the Yankees in an unfamiliar position in which they either win or go home.
The Yankees understand how critical it is to get their bats on track sooner rather than later. Neither team has scored more than four runs in any of the four games, and each outing has been decided by two runs or less.
"We have to pick the bats up," first baseman Jay Maletz said. "We've gotten great efforts from our pitchers all series long. They've been one, two, or three-run ballgames. Really as a team, we haven't come through offensively. We can break out offensively tomorrow [Tuesday] and give us a good four-, five-, or six-run game."
Grabbing momentum early on figures to be just as important.
"They're really a tough team to put away," Rabasco said. "They've had some great pitching. I think we're going to need to come out and jump on them early. I think we're going to need to get a lead early and not play from behind, especially in a seven-inning game."
The Orioles, who finished the regular season 23-10-3, earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs as the No. 2 seed. The Yankees finished 1.5 games out of securing a bye themselves.
But while a week off would have been beneficial, there can be some value in staying on the field.
"If you get a bye you get a week off, and it's kind of tough not playing," Rabasco said. "We got to play that first series [2-0 series win against the Dodgers] and play a couple of games there."
The Yankees aren't looking ahead just yet, but they understand what one more victory brings to this already rich and storied franchise.
"These playoff games are definitely a step up in terms of the competitiveness of the games," Rabasco said. "It was tough last year; we really wanted to win. I think with that bad taste in our mouth from last year, it just gives us motivation this year that we don't want to let that happen again."
"It would be nice for the coaching staff," Maletz said. "They have worked really hard the entire year. It would be nice for the players. Everyone wants to win a championship, no matter what league it is or how old you are."