Championship Series: Game One or Two Tickets to Appleton

Welcome to Grand Chute, Wisconsin, and Fox Cities Stadium, the home of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers:

Tonight is game one of the Midwest League championship series. The TinCaps are in search of the second title in four years (and the second in the 20-year franchise history), while the Timber Rattlers are in search of their first title under their current name. The Appleton-based franchise, which has been around since 1962, has been known as the Timber Rattlers since 1995. The last team here to win a Midwest League title was the Appleton Foxes, who did it in 1984 under manager Sal Rende.

Here’s a mix of calls and sound bites that I’ve put together to recap the season up to this point. I hope you enjoy it:

Both teams used five games to get to this round, with Fort Wayne defeating Lansing, 2 games to 0, and then taking down Lake County, 2 games to 1. Wisconsin went to a third game in its first series, toppling Burlington 2 games to 1, and then swept Clinton, 2 games to 0, to earn its first berth in the championship series since 2005.

There are a lot of numbers you can look at for this series (Chris Mehring, the broadcaster for the Timber Rattlers, has looked at nearly all of them on his blog), but one that stands out to me is how strong the pitching has been for Wisconsin in the postseason. In the five games the Rattlers have played in the playoffs, they’ve allowed only five earned runs, and seven in total. That’s pretty strong pitching. Their starter today, though, Jacob Barnes, gave up three of those earned runs in his lone playoff pitching performance, which was the Timber Rattlers first playoff game. So Fort Wayne has that going for it, which is nice.

There is, of course, a wild card of sorts for the TinCaps: the return of Joe Ross. The first-round pick of the Padres in the 2011 draft takes the hill for Fort Wayne for the first time since May 4th. He was scheduled to start on May 10th against South Bend at Parkview Field and was in the bullpen before the game taking his warmup tosses, when he felt some shoulder soreness and was placed on the disabled list the next day. Colin Rea made the start in his place, and remained in the rotation for the rest of the regular season.

Ross finished the season (July 25-August 28) with the Eugene Emeralds of the Northwest League, where he made eight starts to the tune of an 0-2 record with a 2.03 ERA. So how will he fare tonight? Only time will tell. He does face a powerful Timber Rattlers lineup, which hit 107 home runs during the regular season. That was second most to Quad Cities’ 109, and it made Wisconsin one of five teams of the 16 in the Midwest League to hit more than 100. The TinCaps hit 64 during the regular season.

Despite what any numbers may say, good or bad, TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin says he and his guys are looking forward to this series:

“We’ve got a lot of confidence. Guys are happy to be here. We want to get the big prize, which is a championship. We’re going to face a team in Wisconsin that has been pretty good all year round. We faced them three times this year, so we’ll try to find as much information on them as we can because it’s been a long time.”

The TinCaps went 2-1 against Wisconsin during their three-game series at Parkview Field during the regular season.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, you can hear from Valentin as he previews the series:

Here’s what the pitching rotation looks like for the rest of the series:

Thursday, September 13 at Wisconsin – 1:05 PM – RHP Colin Rea vs. RHP Chad Pierce

Friday, September 14 OFF (Travel day)

Saturday, September 15 at Parkview Field – 7:05 PM – LHP Frank Garces vs. David Goforth (Postgame fireworks)

(if necessary) Sunday, September 16 at Parkview Field – 5:05 PM – RHP James Needy vs. RHP Chad Thompson

(if necessary) Monday, September 17 at Parkview Field – 7:05 PM – RHP Matt Wisler vs. RHP Mark Williams

I hope you can join me tonight on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com. If you’d like you can head over to Parkview Field, where the gates will open at 7:00, for a viewing party where the game will be shown on the video board and the radio call played on the speakers. First pitch is set for 7:35.

MUSICAL GUEST

You’ve got to give me a little creative license here…Over the last 36 hours or so, I’ve created a new song in my head. It really only goes with the chorus of the song because “paradise” has the same number of syllables as “Appleton”. That said, Eddie Money, take it away with, “Two Tickets to Appleton”:

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

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